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Knut Hamsun

The Dark Side of Literary Brilliance

by Monika Zagar

Publication Year: 2009

Published by: University of Washington Press

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pp. vii-viii

A book like this is always a team project and a work of love that starts at home. I wish first to thank my family and friends for their many years of support and love. Above all, it would have been impossible to write this book without the steady, loving, and insightful support given by my husband, Al, and the teenage inquisitiveness of my daughter, Lena. Their comments, as well as their presence, reminded me that academic research needs ...

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pp. 3-18

In December of 1947, Knut Hamsun (1859 –1952) , the critically acclaimed Norwegian novelist and Nobel laureate, was convicted by a municipal court in Norway of being a member of the Nasjonal Samling (NS) party and thus of supporting the Nazi occupation. He was fined the large sum of 425,000 kroner, an amount that was later substantially reduced upon appeal. The extraordinary mix, in one man, of brilliant art and repugnant politics has produced a ...

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1. Discourses of Race and Primitivism in Scandinavia

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pp. 19-50

Beginning in the late eighteenth century and increasingly over the course of the nineteenth century, a great deal of scientific research in Europe focused obsessively on race and biological degeneration. The topic of degeneration had by the middle of the century become a central concern not only in race biology but also in medical pathology, psychiatry, and criminology, as Nancy Stepan writes in her article ...

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2. Hamsun’s Women as Scapegoats for Modernity’s Sins

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pp. 51-82

Karl Evang, the Norwegian doctor and advocate for socialism, speculated as to whether eugenics research would lead to an erosion of women’s rights and the reinforcement of the patriarchal family as the core social unit (see chapter 1). It is hard to evaluate whether or not deliberately misogynistic goals were behind some of the arguments in the eugenics debate, but Evang touched on what might rightly be called a backlash against the social ...

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3. Imagining the Indians

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pp. 83-110

In this letter to his former employer, Kristofer Janson, Hamsun, with his characteristically blunt arrogance, dismisses Native Americans as “half-apes” and “animals.” Such an attitude was neither better nor worse than that of many European visitors to the United States in the late nineteenth century. Hamsun chose to stress the negative aspects of the idea of the Noble Savage, a conception that Philip Deloria aptly describes as “a flexible ...

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4. Imagining Black and White

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pp. 111-135

In the above quote from an 1891 article, “ Røde, sorte og hvide ” ( The red, black and white), Knut Hamsun renders his condescending judgment of former African slaves, now African Americans. His attitude was not unlike that of many of his contemporaries. More often than not, experts and lay people alike considered Africans the lowest of the low on the evolutionary scale. Hamsun could not muster a positive word about them. In his play Livet ivold ...

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5. A Taste of the Orient

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pp. 136-159

Although European Orientalism contained a range of varied images, from those of wilderness to others of high intellectual achievement, for Hamsun the Orient meant primarily a place of contemplative tranquility uncluttered with material trifles. Many Western artists reacted to the perceived shallowness of Western materialism during the last decades of the nineteenth century by turning to Eastern philosophy, religion, and culture for ...

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6. Imagining the Sly Magic “Lapps”

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pp. 160-180

Norwegian travelers to the United States, permanent immigrant s or temporary visitors like Hamsun, carried with them certain mental models about other peoples. These models originated primarily in attitudes toward the Sami, the indigenous inhabitants of Scandinavia, and toward the Jews who settled in Scandinavia from the mid-nineteenth century onward. Those, in turn, were undergirded with attitudes toward the exotic peoples found in ...

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7. Imagining Degeneration and Revolution

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pp. 181-210

Hamsun wrote this statement in 1914, in a strident article addressed to Christen Collin, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Kristiania. It was part of a rather lengthy exchange of opinions in a series of newspaper polemics. At the beginning of World War I, Hamsun was firmly on Germany’s side. He framed this particular article, as well as the other articles in the debate, in terms of a simplistic dichotomy between Germany ...

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8. The Rhetoric of Defense in Hamsun’s Paa gjengrodde stier

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pp. 211-231

In a civil t rial in December 1947, the Grimstad municipal court convicted Knut Hamsun for his membership in the NS party.1 The charges had been filed by Erstatningsdirektoratet (the Directorate for Compensations) to claim compensation from Hamsun for his part in the damage done to the country by the NS party. The three-judge jury passed its verdict on December 19, with a 2-to-1 vote. Though Hamsun was spared imprisonment, he was ...

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pp. 232-236

While putting the finishing touches on this manuscript, I encountered a Web site created by National Alliance and its National Vanguard Magazine, which featured “Knut Hamsun and the Cause of Europe,” an article by Mark Deavin, a British historian of neo-Nazi leanings. I was struck by an odd sense of déjà vu. Deavin’s is a well-researched, if brief, paper that uses much the same argument that I do, albeit to a radically different purpose. ...


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pp. 237-311


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pp. 313-329


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pp. 331-343

E-ISBN-13: 9780295800561
E-ISBN-10: 0295800569
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295989464
Print-ISBN-10: 0295989467

Publication Year: 2009