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© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Knut Hamsun: Selected full-text books and articles

Knut Hamsun Remembers America: Essays and Stories, 1885-1949 By Richard Nelson Current; Richard Nelson Current University of Missouri Press, 2003
Knut Hamsun By White, Edmund The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 16, No. 3, Fall 1996
A History of Norwegian Literature By Harald Beyer New York University Press, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Information on Hamsun begins on p. 271
A History of Norwegian Literature By 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 By 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 By 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 By Elias Bredsdorff; Brita Mortensen; Ronald Popperwell Ejnar Munksgaard, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Information on Hamsun begins on p. 228
Cyclopedia of World Authors By 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." By Rees, Ellen Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 31, No. 1, Winter 1994
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.