cover image Selected Letters 1: 1879-1898

Selected Letters 1: 1879-1898

Knut Hamsun. Norvik Press, $38.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-870041-13-3

As a young man, Norwegian Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), winner of the 1920 Nobel Prize for literature, sojourned in America, where he worked and traveled widely. In this first volume of his correspondence, he feelingly describes his disdain for this ``philistine land,''p. 99 its people and its customsp.87 . He directs barbs at feministsp.92 , American Indiansp.89 and the entire North. (He decries the South's defeat in the Civil War, writing that the U.S. lost its chance for ``a gracefully guided cultural aristocracy'' and was instead stuck with ``hard-fisted democracy.''p.63-64 ) Once back home, his letters describe his neurasthenic sensitivities and discuss his desire to create a new literature, one that would break away from conventions and explore psychological motivations and experiences, ``the mimosa of thought, the fine fragments of feeling.'' Unfortunately, we read too little of this and too much of Hamsun the ambitious, arrogant, dour young man, largely interested in enlisting financial support from would-be patrons and campaigning to get his works published. Such material is tedious fare for the general reader and, particularly at the hefty price tag, will find an enthusiastic audience only among students of Scandinavian literature. (Nov.)