|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.