Hungry for Accolades

I’ve found that The Writer’s Almanac is a lot easier to enjoy when you separate the content from Garrison Keillor’s soporific mumble. From today’s entry:

It’s the birthday of novelist Knut Hamsun, born Knut Pedersen in Lom, Norway (1859). Author of Hunger (1890) and The Growth of the Soil (1917), he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920. He said, “Language must resound with all the harmonies of music. The writer must always, at all times, find the tremulous word which captures the thing and is able to draw a sob from my soul by its very rightness. A word can be transformed into a color, light, a smell. It is the writer’s task to use it in such a way that it serves, never fails, can never be ignored.”

Any Hamsun fans out there? I confess to being completely ignorant of his work, so I’m wondering if I should be running to my local bookseller or not. (I assume that’s a “yes,” but pls. elaborate for my personal edification.)

Like most Nobel Laureates, his Banquet Speech is worth a look, if you please. Extract:

It is as well perhaps that this is not the first time I have been swept off my feet. In the days of my blessed youth there were such occasions; in what young person’s life do they not occur? No, the only young people to whom this feeling is strange are those young conservatives who were born old, who do not know the meaning of being carried away. No worse fate can befall a young man or woman than becoming prematurely entrenched in prudence and negation. Heaven knows that there are plenty of opportunities in later life, too, for being carried away. What of it? We remain what we are and, no doubt, it is all very good for us!


  1. Mysteries is, if memory serves, strange and good: alienated guy, lonely landscape, eccentric locals, etc.

    Unfortunately, Hamsun–somebody please correct me if I’m wrong–became a Nazi sympathizer in his later years, which led to the decline of his reputation.

  2. He did indeed become a Nazi. But “Hunger” remains a must read for anyone serious about literature. In its own way, it served as a template for the down-and-out (albeit masculine) confessional. Personally, I’ve been waiting for the quintessential female take on Hamsun’s themes.

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