Friday, November 30, 2012

My Way or Norway, or; Tied Up in Knuts

Knut Hamsun is considered one of Norway's most important writers. He's not read very widely in the US despite Hemingway's claim that "Hamsun taught me to write." But Hamsun was a hugely prolific author and one of only 11 Norwegian Literature Nobel laureates. His books are spare, taught, with deep characters and lush Nordic atmospheres. It sounds oxymoronic but he is really worth reading to understand what I mean.

Just this last week the UBC coincidentally acquired several of the few novels of Hamsun's translated into English from different customers throughout the week. Get a foothold in Norwegian literature with Hamsun, or discover a new writer. There are many points of entry and no two of his novels are alike.

Here are the ones in stock this week:

A perennial Hamsun favorite; considered his masterpiece by the Nobel committee. Chock full of Norwegian landscape it is the story of man in nature told through a village of homesteaders at the turn of the 20th century.

A masterpiece of existentialist literature. A man wanders the streets of Oslo starving himself in order to fuel his experience and creativity. Haunting, creepy, like staring into the gaping maw of an Edvard Munch painting or reading a depressing Kafka story turned grotesquely realistic.

One of those heartbraking love stories where the poor young man is in love with the wealthy girl, but she is expected to marry into her own social caste while he works desperately to make something of himself.

A mysterious stranger moves into a shack near a village. He lives a solitary life with his dog until a village girl wanders by. They fall in love but neither knows the other's feelings. A bittersweet modernist fable.

Protagonist Ove is a drunk, a womanizer, an incorrigible. His interactions in the microcosmic world of his Norwegian fishing village occupy this slim, humorous novella.

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