Thursday, October 07, 2004

Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Elfriede Jelinek, an author whom I have not read. So, instead of pretending to be able to comment this year's choice, I thought I would take the chance to plug one of my favorite authors, Knut Hamsun, who won the 1920 Nobel Prize in Literature. I'd give you a review, and a prosy recommendation, but seriously, who cares what I think? Instead, I'll just give you the first two paragraphs of his masterpiece, Growth of Soil. If that doesn't convince you to buy the book today, nothing will.

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. Afterward, some beast or other, following the faint tracks over marsh and moorland, wearing them deeper; after these again some Lapp gained scent of the path, and took that way from field to field, looking to his reindeer. Thus was made the road through the great Almenning--the common tracts without an owner; no-man's land.

The man comes, walking toward the north. He bears a sack, the first sack, carrying food and some few implements. A strong, coarse fellow, with a red iron beard, and little scars on face and hands; sites of old wounds--were they gained in toil or fight? Maybe the man has been in prison, and is looking for a place to hide; or a philosopher, maybe, in search of peace. This or that, he comes: the figure of a man in this great solitude. He trudges on; bird and beast are silent all about him; now and again he utters a word or two; speaking to himself. "Eyah--well, well"--so he speaks to himself. Here and there, where the moors give a place to a kindlier spot, an open space in the midst of the forest, he lays down the sack and goes exploring; after a while he returns, heaves the sack to his shoulder again, and trudges on. So through the day, noting time by the sun; night falls, and he throws himself down on the heather, resting on one arm.


Anonymous said...

_Hunger_, in my opinion, is much better than _Growth of Soil_. I also recommend _Victoria_. I read all the Hamsun books one semester in the 60s when I dropped out of school. (Along with a ton of management, art criticism, and other literature.)

Chris said...

I loved Hunger as well, though it was a bit more nebulous. It was almost experimental.