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[240] Growth of the Soil – Knut Hamsun

Soil

“The long, long road over the moors and up into the forest—who trod it into being first of all? Man, a human being, the first that came here. There was no path before he came.” [4]

Growth of the Soil is about man and nature, blood and soil–specifically how a man named Isak cultivates a patch of land and builds a gigantic farm that is eventually subjected to state tax and regulation. Laborious and industrious, Isak builds up his farm from scratch, with help from the later-arrived Inger, with whom he starts a family. Each chapter focuses on addition to the farm and occasionally new homesteaders move in, some good, hard-working people who build patiently from the ground up, as well as others not so fortuitous, with ulterior motives, who try to make the easy buck and build from the top down, and thus, end in frustration if not ruin.

There was no knowing the place again, after what it had been at first: sawmill, grain mill, buildings of all sorts and kinds—the wilderness was peopled country now. And there was more to come. But Inger was perhaps the strangest of all; so altered she was, and good and clever again. [178]

His altered wife, who had been living away in the city for 8 years, upon return, has become a bane to the self-sufficient man who is contented with his hard labor. Even if the old helper Oline is lying and manipulating, the rural woman is in the same league as Isak who appreciate traditional values and resist changes. Hamsun’s characters are all double sided, who possess inevitable vices but are not evil, not without a capacity for mercy and tenderness.

At roughly trisecting points of the book are passing quotations read like “so life went on day by day, without any great event.” [139] These remarks are indicative of the insouciant pace of the novel, which can be trying at times. The story is rich in obscure symbolism , but lacks dramatic force, begging for very tedious reading. The subject matter is weighty and complex (i.e. social justice), with strong undertones of political liberalism. Coverage on trial for infanticide is disturbing .The overall reading pace is slow and ponderous. While it’s book worth reading, the wisdom as proclaimed by those who sing praises that the book exudes doesn’t impress enough to register in my mind. I’m still underwhelmed.

435 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] In 1920, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He insisted that the main object of modern literature ought to be the intricacies of the human mind

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11 Responses

  1. “Knut Hamsun’s Greatest Novel” – That’s an interesting subtitle to a book… Slow and ponderous sounds like it might not fit everyone but I think I’ll actually like it. Still, I’ll try to keep my expectations in check. No need for disappointment, right?

  2. I read Hamsun’s other greatest novel Hunger and, although it had a promising start, I really struggled to finish it.

  3. Biblibio:
    In this case, slow and ponderous contribute to the euphemism of “boring.”

  4. Thomas:
    This one also (has a promising start). The very first quote atop the post is the opening line. But after athat it just gies downhill and I struggle to sustain my interest. I manage to finish because I want to be able to publish a full review, not just random thoughts.

  5. This sounds way over my head!!!

  6. Matt, I am always amazed at the eclectic mix of books that you choose to read and am inspired to challenge myself more in my own reading as a result.

  7. Staci:
    It’s the kind of book that will not stay in my head.

  8. Kathleen:
    I picked this one up because I have heard Knut Hamsun so many times and the book had been recommended to me on numerous occasion since I was a college freshman. I feel obliged reading this and I’m glad I’ve read it even though there’s really nothing to call home about.

  9. […] [240] Growth of the Soil – Knut Hamsun […]

  10. […] Growth of the Soil by Nobel prize winner Knut Hamsun is about man and nature, blood and soil–specifically how a man named Isak cultivates a patch of land and builds a gigantic farm that is eventually subjected to state tax and regulation. Laborious and industrious, Isak builds up his farm from scratch, with help from the later-arrived Inger, with whom he starts a family. The story is rich in obscure symbolism, but lacks dramatic force, begging for very tedious reading. The subject matter is weighty and complex (i.e. social justice), with strong undertones of political liberalism. Coverage on trial for infanticide is disturbing. The overall reading pace is slow and ponderous. While it’s book worth reading, the wisdom as proclaimed by those who sing praises that the book exudes doesn’t impress enough to register in my mind. I struggled to finish this one. I’m still underwhelmed thinking of the book now. […]

    • My only copy has gone missing and the loss plays on my mind.This is a favourite book because a few years ago I did an Isaac, starting a farm from scratch.

      I have never approached Isaac’s heroic achievements, but I gave it all I had and the result is a worthwhile piece of the landscape.

      Hamsun writes about how a bloke feels when he is alone in the paddock.A mixture of sweat and wonder. A connection with the cosmos.Feeling like you’re part of a mighty cycle.

      All this took place on opposite sides of the earth and a century later but the experience remained the same. Good on you Knut. Thanks for strength and inspiration.

      All my friends think it’s a dull book,so where can it be?

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