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The Nobel Novelist Knut Hamsun During the Nazi Occupation of Norway

The Final Chapter That Was Omitted from Marie Hamsun’s Autobiography of their Life together

The Nobel Novelist Knut Hamsun During the Nazi Occupation of Norway by Marie Hamsun
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Marie Hamsun, née Andersen (1881—1969), the second wife of Knut Hamsun (1859—1952), published her full-length autobiography Regnbuen (“The Rainbow”)? in Norway in 1953, the year following the death of Knut Hamsun. Marie Hamsun describes growing up in a large family on a small farm in Elverum township, Hedmark county, in the Østerdal region of East Central Norway; her youth in Kristiania, where she was well educated and launched a promising acting career that led to her first encounter with Knut Hamsun there in 1908; and their ensuing marriage in 1909. She relates intimacies of their courtship and married life, including their early exodus from the urban milieu to a remote farm at Hamarøy, in the far north of Norway; the birth of their four children; and their eventual return to the south, where they settled down for the rest of their lives on the storied country estate, Nørholm, on the South Coast of Norway in 1918. It was there that Knut Hamsun won worldwide acclaim for his georgic novel Markens grøde (“Growth of the Soil”) (1917) and subsequently the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920. Marie Hamsun’s account of events in her 1953 book Regnbuen (“The Rainbow”) ends abruptly with Knut Hamsun’s eightieth birthday on 4 August 1939. Her last chapter was considered “too sensitive” by her publisher at the time and was left out. It described the war years, the occupation, and the postwar legal proceedings in the years 1940—1950, “the evil years,” as she called them. Instead, she closed her book with the telling laconic teaser: “The events of the next decade are not included in this book” (italics in original), hence implying a sequel. Indeed, six years later, Marie Hamsun integrated the material excluded from Regnbuen into this poignant memoir of the war, the occupation, and the aftermath—Under gullregnen (“Under the Laburnum”)—published to coincide with the centenary of the birth of Knut Hamsun in 1959. With this new, authoritative translation of the complete text of Marie Hamsun’s memoir, English-language readers may now for the first time judge for themselves this woman’s significance—and her true rôle—in the life of Knut Hamsun. A critical desideratum, this primary source document is available now in English, thus closing a present lacuna in humanities collections. Scholars, wishing to examine and to understand the final tumultuous years in the long and momentous life of Knut Hamsun, cannot afford to ignore this book.
The Edwin Mellen Press; July 2011
168 pages; ISBN 9780773420502
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Title: The Nobel Novelist Knut Hamsun During the Nazi Occupation of Norway
Author: Marie Hamsun; Elmer T. Magnuson
 
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Excerpt
The days of May 1945. Knut had waited for them to come like an alpine hiker waits when he hears an approaching avalanche, on edge, but not without hope. Things may perhaps go well; it is not every avalanche that crushes all human beings in its path, young and old alike. Even now, it was mostly of the young that Knut was thinking, of our own, and of others as well. Amid the chaotic impressions of those days were the storms of hurrahs and the strains of “Ja vi elsker …”? coming from our old, squawking radio; the newspapers, sporting their new and unrecognizable festive layouts; the long columns of German soldiers, trudging past alongside tired, spavined horses drawing two-wheeled carts; and, now and then, a pitiable, footsore girl camp follower shuffling by—true to the last—poor things. Amid all this, looming like a mist before me now long after, one episode still stands out clearly in sharp focus to this day. We had huddled together in the sitting room, Knut, Ellinor, and I. The domestic help had deserted us. Arild had gone to be with his wife and child in Oslo. And Tore was living there, too. While we three were sitting there in the room, Knut suddenly declared: “Call a t taxi! I want to go to Oslo. I want to be with my boys!” I was beside myself and shouted all manner of objections into his ear. At last I said: “You could be arrested!” “Arrested—nonsense!” “Everybody knows you. You could be shot!” Then he cried: “I want to be shot!” At that, he staggered a little and collapsed onto a chair. I saw his face turn ashen and thought he was going to have another attack, so I dashed out into the hall and phoned for our doctor. Every other doctor would have had a needle and syringe ready with a life-saving injection, which I am certain he did, too. However, after one look at the patient, he pulled an open fifth of cognac from his black bag instead.