Knut Hamsun


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Dreamer & Dissenter

Ingar Sletten Kolloen; Translated by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik

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An absorbing biography of Nobel Prize–winning novelist Knut Hamsun, based on a wealth of previously unavailable sources

Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun (1859–1952), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920, was a man both brilliant and controversial. Lauded for his literary achievements by Hemingway, Gide, Hesse, and others, he also provoked outrage for his open collaboration with the Fascists during the German occupation of Norway and for his insistent refusal to renounce his Nazi sympathies.

This gripping biography of Hamsun, now available for the first time in English, offers a nuanced account of this morally ambiguous man. Drawing on Hamsun’s extraordinary private archives and on his psychoanalyst’s notes, Ingar Sletten Kolloen delves deeply into Hamsun’s personal life and character. In vivid and telling detail, he describes Hamsun’s early years in a peasant farming family, his tempestuous and jealousy-racked second marriage, his erratic relationship with his children, and his infamous love affair with Nazi Germany, the roots of which Kolloen traces to Hamsun’s earliest days.  Much like the characters he created in novels such as Hunger, Growth of the Soil, Mysteries, and Pan, Hamsun was irrational, eccentric, strange, and compelling—a man uncomfortable in his own time.

Ingar Sletten Kolloen won the Norwegian Readers’ Award 2004 for this biography. He has worked as publisher, journalist, commentator, and editor for a number of newspapers. He lives in Norway.

“. . . an authoritative study of Norway's most gifted novelist. . . . it should help to make the English-speaking world belatedly more aware of the achievements and fate of this extraordinary man.”—Janet Garton, University of East Anglia

"Thanks to gifted translators, English-speaking readers can now share in Koellen's insight into a cobbler's apprentice who matures into a daring novelist who wins a Nobel Prize by pioneering a psychological fiction probing deprivation and desire. . . . Perhaps most astonishing, however, is Kolloen's portrayal of an unrepentant Hamsun—now an octogenarian—defying a postwar Norwegian government struggling to both prosecute and minimize his wartime offenses. A balanced and judicious portrait."—Bryce Christensen, Booklist

“ [a] daring, frightening book.”—Los Angeles Times

The "tortured subject" of this biography, "Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, offers a life of Dostoevskian complexity, a manic mix of genius and moral blindness. A celebrated writer (his fans included Isaac Bashevis Singer and Ernest Hemingway) who won the 1920 Nobel Prize for Literature, Hamsun collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation of Norway. He never renounced his wartime actions, including a much-publicized visit with Adolf Hitler."—Bill Marx, PRI's The World (World Books: International Reads for the Holidays)

‘This is [a] fine translation of an outstanding biography in which Hamsun’s life and work are beautifully interwoven with understanding and judgement.’

"Hamsun's struggles with the world and their reflection in his works are a fascinating and at times discomforting story, and Kolloen creates a rich sense of the changing milieu during Hamsun's lifetime. . . . Highly recommended."—J. G. Holland, Choice

Selected as one of the "International Reads for the Holidays," Bill Marx, PRI's "The World"

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2010 in the Germanic category
ISBN: 9780300123562
Publication Date: October 20, 2009
384 pages, 234 x 156
20 b/w