The Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun's erratic behavior during the 1930s and early 1940s, when he publicly endorsed the German war effort, has tarnished the reputation of his Nobel Prize-winning novel Growth of the Soil (1917) and in some circles stigmatized it as "reactionary," "antimodern" and even "proto-fascist" text. Placing Hamsun within an international context and drawing on both critical theory and revisionist scholarship into the back-to-the-land movement, I find instead that contemporary land and life reformers' conflicted attempts to map out "alternative modernities" are mirrored in Growth of the Soil's fraught negotiation with modern technology, producing a complex dialectic of critique and affirmation that cannot simply be dismissed as backward-looking. Rather than directly prefiguring the political mobilization of retrograde anxieties in the mass movements of the 1930s, Hamsun's "agricultural book" signifies ambiguously within a heterogeneous space of conflicting discourses and practices directed against and towards the modern world.


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pp. 1-27
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