Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Growth of the Soil (1917) by Knut Hamsun

A powerful look from August Strindberg

The Growth of the Soil (1917)
by Knut Hamsun

  This actually is the second Hamsun novel on the 1001 Books list- the other is Hunger, his 1891 proto-existentialist work about a guy who is fucking starving to death in Oslo.  Hamsun won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920, and this book supposedly put him over the top, although I feel like when a Scandinavian wins the Nobel Prize for Literature you have to take into account that the voters are all Swedish.

 The Growth of the Soil is about the slow growth of a farming community in the foothills of Norway near the Swedish border.  The Growth of the Soil has a prosaic quality- simple people living simple lives, at least that's how it appears for a hundred or so pages before Hamsun drops a little infanticide into the mix and everything gets dark real quick.  As it turns out, infanticide is not such a big deal in Norway/Scandinavia, and the perpetrator gets out after a five year prison sentence, much the better for time behind bars (oh the Scandinavians and their social welfare ideas!)

 Gradually, Hamsun develops a second generation of character and then BOOM another infanticide.  Since I'm a fan of Icelandic author Haldor Laxness, The Growth of the Soil struck a responsive chord.  Specifically, it reminds me of Laxness' Independent People(1934-35.)  In fact, I think it's appropriate to say that Laxness must have read The Growth of the Soil and derived inspiration from it.

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