Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun (kənōōt´ häm´sŏŏn), 1859–1952, Norwegian author, a pioneer in the development of the modern novel. Virtually without formal education, in his youth he led a wandering life, and on his second visit to the United States (1886–88) worked as a streetcar conductor, lecturer, peddler, clerk, and harvest hand. His first book, From the Cultural Life of Modern America (1889) was published on his return to Norway. The theme of the wanderer is prominent in many of his novels, including the naturalistic Hunger (1890, tr. 1899), which aroused a furor of criticism and gained him a large audience. Among his many other novels are the highly regarded Mysteries (1892, tr. 1927), the lyrically beautiful Pan (1894), the class-conscious romance Victoria (1898, tr. 1923), and Growth of the Soil (1917, tr. 1921), his most successful 20th-century novel, which sets simple agrarian values against those of the new industrial society. His last novel was published in 1936. Hamsun also wrote numerous short stories, six plays, and two volumes of poetry. He was awarded the 1920 Nobel Prize in Literature. His largely autobiographical work reflects an intense love of nature and an interest in the unconscious, and he often evinces concern for the material condition of the individual and its effect on his spirit. During World War II Hamsun supported the Nazi invasion of Norway. In 1946 he was declared by psychiatrists to be permanently mentally disabled; he was fined $87,000 for economic collaboration with the enemy.

See his memoir, On Overgrown Paths (1949, tr. 1967); H. Naess and J. McFarlane, ed., Knut Hamsen: Selected Letters 1879–1898 (2 vol., 1990); biography by R. Ferguson (1987); studies by H. Naess (1984), M. Humpal (1998), and S. Lyngstad (2005).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Knut Hamsun Remembers America: Essays and Stories, 1885-1949
Richard Nelson Current; Richard Nelson Current.
University of Missouri Press, 2003
Knut Hamsun
White, Edmund.
The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 16, No. 3, Fall 1996
Six Scandinavian Novelists: Lie, Jacobsen, Heidenstam, Selma Lagerlof, Hamsun, Sigrid Undset
Alrik Gustafson.
Biblo and Tannen, 1969
A History of Norwegian Literature
Harald Beyer.
New York University Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Information on Hamsun begins on p. 271
A History of Norwegian Literature
Harald S. Naess.
University of Nebraska Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "Knut Hamsun" p. 184
105 Greatest Living Authors Present the World's Best Stories, Humor, Drama, Biography, History, Essays, Poetry
Whit Burnett.
Dial Press, 1950
Librarian’s tip: "The Wonderful New Machine" from Hamsun's novel "Growth of the Soil" p. 852
The Nobel Prize Winners in Literature
Annie Russell Marble.
D. Appleton, 1925
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XIII "Knut Hamsun and His Novels of Norwegian Life"
An Introduction to Scandinavian Literature: From the Earliest Time to Our Day
Elias Bredsdorff; Brita Mortensen; Ronald Popperwell.
Ejnar Munksgaard, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Information on Hamsun begins on p. 228
Cyclopedia of World Authors
Frank N. Magill; Dayton Kohler.
Harper & Row, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Information on Hamsun begins on p. 476
The Riddle Solved: Cora Sandel's "En Gate."
Rees, Ellen.
Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 31, No. 1, Winter 1994
The First Moderns: Profiles in the Origins of Twentieth-Century Thought
William R. Everdell.
University of Chicago Press, 1998
The Reader's Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia of World Literature and the Arts
William Rose Benét.
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1948
The American Spirit in Europe: A Survey of Transatlantic Influences
Halvdan Koht.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949
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