My Thoughts on Knut Hamsun


In Norway, Knut Hamsun the author is forever in the shadow of Knut Hamsun the “Nazi-sympathizer”.

Although a singular literary voice, this seems unimportant to the Norwegian elites in light of his heresy. During the war, Hamsun urged the Norwegian resistance fighters to join forces with the German occupiers. In 1945, shortly after Hitler’s suicide, Hamsun wrote an obituary in the country’s largest newspaper, praising him. He also, amusingly, gave his Nobel Prize to Goebbles as a gift.

After the war, Hamsun was placed in house arrest at his home in Grimstad. He was then forced to stay at a psychiatric instituion, where he was declared ‘not insane’ after an examination. In 1948 he was forced to pay a fine of 325 000 Norwegian Crowns, a hefty sum that almost bankrupted him.

He wrote his final book Paa gjengrodde Stier (On Overgrown Paths) in 1949 at the age of 90.

Knut Hamsun is my favorite author, and his novel Pan is my favorite book, so I might be biased; but I don’t see how his sympathy for National Socialism or fondness of Hitler is important in any other context than as another curious trait of an ageing, eccentric man. I don’t see how erecting a statue of him should be considered controversial in any way. He is perhaps our greatest writer, and indeed one of the most celebrated in the world. It is time, I think, to stop making such a big deal out of this. All men are flawed, all men have virtues.

I wonder if his reputation would be equally as bad more than 60 years after his death had he expressed fondness of Communism instead of Nazism.

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