Knut Pedersen Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
ph_0111200552-Hamsun.jpg Knut Hamsun. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Born Knut Pedersen on August 4, 1859, Knut Hamsun (HAHM-suhn) was raised one hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle in a land that demanded much of its inhabitants. It was a barren, cruel, lonely environment, which Hamsun, paradoxically, loved so much that fully one-third of his fiction is set there, and all his works reflect the spirit of that forbidding landscape. Hamsun’s characters are solitary figures, cut off physically, financially, spiritually, or socially from the rest of humankind, and Hamsun’s world is a recalcitrant place, improved only by small increments and at great cost to the reformers. His portrayals of both people and places are living re-creations, accounts which even at their bleakest betray a basic optimism that relies on simple values, on humankind’s inevitable, unseverable connection to the land as a source of hope. This vision emerged slowly over the first thirty years of Hamsun’s career as a writer, which began in 1890 with the publication of Hunger, but by 1920, the year he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for Growth of the Soil, he was already recognized as a major European writer. Because the award accelerated the translation of his works into English and other languages, by 1940 his fiction was acclaimed worldwide.{$S[A]Pedersen, Knut;Hamsun, Knut}

Hamsun’s career can be divided into stages. The first, and perhaps the most important, is the earliest, lasting roughly from 1888 to 1898, or from the beginning of Hunger to the publication of Victoria. During this period Hamsun’s vision and his peculiar style grew to maturity. He established his characteristic themes of isolation and of the necessity for hard work, and he built an audience for himself in his native Scandinavia. During the second period, from 1898 to 1917 and the publication of Growth of the Soil, Hamsun’s outcast hero evolved into a wanderer who, instead of being shut out from society, retires from it, seeking peace in the countryside, away from the impersonality and materialism of the modern world. This new thrust softens Hamsun’s sense of isolation without actually compromising it. The novels are more optimistic, as Hamsun at least admits the possibility of a better life, hard though that life may be. Basically, Hamsun establishes himself as a social novelist who attacks industrialism and posits that only a return to the land will save humankind from destroying itself.

Hamsun shifted...

(The entire section is 1008 words.)

Knut Pedersen Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Knut Hamsun was born Knut Pedersen on August 4, 1859, at the farm Garmotræet in the district of Lom, Norway. His father, Peder Pedersen, was a tailor and small farmer, and Hamsun’s mother, Tora, was also of peasant stock. In 1863, Pedersen moved with his family to Hamarøy in Nordland, Norway, where he settled on his brother-in-law’s farm, Hamsund, from which Hamsun later took the name by which he is known.

Hamsun’s earliest childhood years were happy ones. The happiness came to an end, however, when at the age of nine he was sent to live with his maternal uncle, a wealthy landowner and merchant. Hamsun’s parents were not happy with this arrangement either; it was only when heavy financial pressure was brought to bear on them that they agreed to it. The uncle needed Hamsun’s labor, and the boy had many experiences at his uncle’s home that later were of use to him in his art, although he was harshly treated.

Hamsun was released from working for his uncle in 1873 and began a long career of odd jobs. He first clerked in several country stores, after which he became an itinerant peddler, then a shoemaker’s apprentice, and even a sheriff’s deputy. He also worked as a country schoolmaster, a position for which he was qualified by his native intelligence and masterful penmanship.

Hamsun did not read widely during this period of his life, but he had become familiar with the peasant tales of his countryman Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and in 1877, when Hamsun was only eighteen years old, he published his first book, a naïve love story titled Den gådefulde (the riddle). This youthful work is significant only as the first version of what was to become one of Hamsun’s most persistent motifs—namely, a relationship between a lower-class man and an upper-class woman. In the beautiful and lyric novel Victoria, this motif became the main theme.

The year 1878 saw the publication of another youthful tale, Bjørger. Hamsun’s early writings enabled him to obtain the support of a wealthy merchant, and he was able to concentrate fully on the task of becoming a poet of note. To this end, he produced a manuscript and traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he offered it to Scandinavia’s best-known publisher, Hegel of Gyldendal. To his dismay, his manuscript was rejected, and he spent a difficult winter in the city of Kristiania (now Oslo), Norway. The experiences of this winter, as well as later, similar ones, provided him with the material for his novel Hunger, which in 1890 gave him his breakthrough as a writer.

Prior to the publication of Hunger, however, Hamsun spent several years in the United States. During two separate stays, he again worked at a variety of jobs, but in addition he read widely in both European and American literature. He also lectured to Norwegian immigrants on literary and cultural topics. In 1888, after his final return from the United States, he lived in Copenhagen, where he anonymously published the first chapter of Hunger in a periodical. This made him a talked-about figure in literary circles even though his identity was known by but a few. The following year, he gave a series of lectures about the United States in Copenhagen’s Student Society; these lectures were published as Fra det moderne Amerikas aandsliv later in the same year.

After the publication of Hunger, a groundbreaking psychological novel, Hamsun wrote an article in 1890 in which he outlined the basic principles employed in its composition. This article, titled “Fra det ubevidste sjæleliv” (“From the Unconscious Life of the Mind”), became the genesis of a series of lectures Hamsun presented in a number of Norwegian cities and towns during the year 1891. In these lectures, Hamsun attacked earlier Norwegian literature for being concerned with social conditions rather than with the mental life of the exceptional...

(The entire section is 1618 words.)

Knut Pedersen Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Knut Hamsun (HAHM-suhn) was born Knut Pedersen on August 4, 1859, at the farm Garmotræet in the district of Lom, Norway. His father, Peder Pedersen, and mother, Tora Pedersen, were both of peasant stock. In 1863, Pedersen and his family moved to Hamarøy in Nordland, Norway, where they settled on a farm called Hamsund, from which Hamsun later took the name by which he is known. Hamsun’s early childhood was a happy time. At the age of nine, however, he was sent to live with his uncle, who owned Hamsund and to whom his parents were indebted. The boy worked hard and was harshly treated, but at the age of fourteen he was released and began working odd jobs.

The young Hamsun was familiar with both the popular writing of his time and some of its more valuable literature. Dreaming about becoming a writer, he published two short books while yet in his teens and was able to obtain the support of a wealthy merchant. He produced another manuscript and traveled to Copenhagen but was unable to find a publisher. He spent a difficult winter in the city of Christiania (now Oslo), Norway, and later spent several years in the United States, where he worked in a variety of jobs, read widely, and lectured to his compatriots on cultural and literary topics.

Hamsun’s difficult times provided him with the material for his novel Sult (1890; Hunger, 1899), the work that was his literary breakthrough. Some lectures on the state of literature, delivered in 1891, further contributed to his fame; Hamsun argued in favor of the new psychological novel, of which Hunger was a groundbreaking example.

The 1890’s were very productive years for Hamsun. He wrote such significant novels as Mysterier (1892; Mysteries, 1927), Pan (1894;...

(The entire section is 733 words.)