the knut


In the spring of 1891, 31-year-old Knut Hamsun, penniless and hounded by debtors, embarked on a lecture tour of his native Norway. He had recently published his first successful novel, “Hunger”; now, he hoped to bolster his reputation with a public assault on the old guard of Norwegian writers, including playwright Henrik Ibsen. Hamsun padded lecture halls with friendly artists and publishers, and in Oslo, at the majestic Hals Brothers auditorium, he gave Ibsen a front row seat. “We have grown so used to believing what the Germans say about Ibsen that we read him assuming we will find words of wisdom,” Hamsun said in Oslo, looking directly at his chosen target. In fact, Hamsun continued, Ibsen had never offered any insight into the modern condition; he was a writer of the most shallow social drama, hobbled by an “indefensibly coarse and artificial psychology.” The playwright sat impassively through the tirade. But as Ingar Sletten Kolloen writes in his incisive new biography, “Knut Hamsun: Dreamer and Dissenter,” he may have been threatened by the young upstart, and for good reason.

more from Matthew Shaer at the LA Times here.