Though Knut Pedersen was born in Gudbrandsdal in the heart of Norway, his family moved to a small farm above the Arctic Circle in Nordland when he was only four years old. A dozen of his novels are set in this remote and exotic region of midnight summer sun and endless winter nights; part of the action takes place there in another seven of his works. In the late 1870s, when he published his first short novel, he added “Hamsund, ” the name of his uncle's farm, to his name, which a printer's error later shortened to “Hamsun, ” now the name of Norway's greatest novelist. Author of thirty-three books and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920, Hamsun had little schooling; nor did his early odd jobs seem to point to a brilliant literary career. He was only eighteen when he published his first book, Den Gaadefulde, a naïve love story. His next novels met with little acclaim, although they do contain touches that adumbrate his later masterpieces.
In 1882 he borrowed some money and sailed to America, where he hoped that his fortunes would improve. He tried to earn money as a journalist and a public lecturer in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but he found that the Norwegian immigrant population had little interest in learning about their own literary contemporaries. Unlike his famous countryman Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who visited America's leading cultural centers and met intellectuals and writers, Hamsun's American experience convinced him that this raw, young country would never produce literature of any cultural or artistic value. The only American writer he admired was Mark Twain. In 1884 he fell ill with what was misdiagnosed as “galloping consumption” and returned to Norway to die. Two years later he returned to America in hope of earning enough to enable him to settle in Norway and pursue his literary career. In 1888 he established himself in Copenhagen, where he began to be recognized as a writer of great promise. Lectures he gave