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Knut Hamsun: Dreamer & Dissenterby Ingar Sletten Kolloen
"The smell of power is more seductive than musk and more damaging than secondhand smoke. Initially, Hamsun's life story had been merely disgusting; it now grows grimly dismal as he falls in with the quislings, jockeys for political position, and supports the German occupation of his country even when it begins its reign of terror there, arresting gentiles as well as Jews. His public utterances weren't nutty the way Ezra Pound's were, and they had a weight in his country whose heft the American poet could only imagine." William H. Gass, Harper's Magazine (Read the entire Harper's Magazine review)
Synopses & Reviews
Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun (18591952), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920, was a man both brilliant and controversial. Lauded for his literary achievements by Hemingway, Gide, Hesse, and others, he also provoked outrage for his open collaboration with the Fascists during the German occupation of Norway and for his insistent refusal to renounce his Nazi sympathies.
This gripping biography of Hamsun, now available for the first time in English, offers a nuanced account of this morally ambiguous man. Drawing on Hamsuns extraordinary private archives and on his psychoanalysts notes, Ingar Sletten Kolloen delves deeply into Hamsuns personal life and character. In vivid and telling detail, he describes Hamsuns early years in a peasant farming family, his tempestuous and jealousy-racked second marriage, his erratic relationship with his children, and his infamous love affair with Nazi Germany, the roots of which Kolloen traces to Hamsuns earliest days. Much like the characters he created in novels such as Hunger, Growth of the Soil, Mysteries, and Pan, Hamsun was irrational, eccentric, strange, and compelling—a man uncomfortable in his own time.
"The second best-known modern Norwegian writer after Ibsen — who remained a lifelong bugbear — Knut Hamsun (1859 — 1952) is an author of immense psychological insight and massive personal contradictions: surely one of the most controversial winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. This somewhat rigid biography by a Norwegian journalist and editor gets to the heart of the last word of its subtitle early and often. Growing up in poverty that left the seeds for a giant inferiority complex, strong anti-British sentiments and a more moderate dislike for the United States, Hamsun was a restless obstreperous, Nietzschean and an often alienating husband and father (though he remained married to the same woman — a much-younger actress, later a writer of children's and poetry books — for more than 40 years). Hamsun's reputation is tarnished by his embrace of Nazi ideology. Yet, in not untypical fashion, his outlandish meeting with Hitler left the Nazi leader quaking. Praised by the likes of Henry Miller, Thomas Mann and Isaac Bashevis Singer, Knut Hamsun is given his due, although at something of an academic distance, in this unsentimental portrait. 20 b&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Ingar Sletten Kolloen won the Norwegian Readers Award 2004 for this biography. He has worked as publisher, journalist, commentator, and editor for a number of newspapers. He lives in Norway.
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