Growth of the Soil

Growth of the Soil

eBook - 2009
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Annotation Knut Hamsun's novel The Growth of the Soil won the Norwegian writer a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920. English translator W.W. Worster summed up the novel with these words: "It is the life story of a man in the wilds, the genesis and gradual development of a homestead, the unit of humanity, in the unfilled, uncleared tracts that still remain in the Norwegian Highlands." "It is an epic of earth; the history of a microcosm. Its dominant note is one of patient strength and simplicity; the mainstay of its working is the tacit, stern, yet loving alliance between Nature and the Man who faces her himself, trusting to himself and her for the physical means of life, and the spiritual contentment with life which she must grant if he be worthy." "Modern man faces Nature only by proxy, or as proxy, through others or for others, and the intimacy is lost. In the wilds the contact is direct and immediate; it is the foothold upon earth, the touch of the soil itself, that gives strength." "The story is epic in its magnitude, in its calm, steady progress and unhurrying rhythm, in its vast and intimate humanity. The author looks upon his characters with a great, all-tolerant sympathy, aloof yet kindly, as a god. A more objective work of fiction it would be hard to find--certainly in what used to be called 'the neurasthenic North.'"
Publisher: Waiheke Island : Floating Press, ©2009.
ISBN: 9781775411031
Characteristics: 1 online resource (723 pages)


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Oct 31, 2017

This book, published in Norwegian, when Hamsun was at the peak of his powers, earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920. The writing is mostly spare, sometimes poetic. It's the story of two generations of Isak's family, who comes alone from nowhere with almost nothing to create the first homestead in an isolated area above the Arctic Circle. Over 30 or 40 yrs, he finds a housekeeper, whom he later marries, and has children who grow up. A handful of other men move into the area, though none live higher on the mountain than Isak. Life is difficult for all, though each handles it in different ways. Some try to get rich, some focus on relationships. While Hamsun doesn't phrase it this way, gender roles are problematic. Most men arrive alone, then must find women to keep house and help in the fields. Those who cannot find themselves mired in poverty and overwork. Those who can either fight with the women, or fall in love. Some women end up with more children than they can manage, and resort to infanticide. A few people end up emigrating to America in hopes of improving life. While Hamsun writes about events at least a generation or two in his past, his book is deeply researched. My family is mostly Norwegian, and I've read a lot of Norwegian history. Life on the Norwegian frontier was very difficult, though it had its compensations. This 2007 translation, true to the original, remains a difficult read. Recommended reading nonetheless, especially for those with interest in the time and place.

Mar 12, 2014

The "description" of this book (as of 3/12/14) talks about Gettysburg, Pickett's Charge, Little Round Top, etc. Who knew the Norwegians had a Civil War with exactly the same battleground names?!! :-)

Dec 22, 2013

I don't think this summary is in the right record...

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