Cover image for Knut Hamsun remembers America : essays and stories, 1885-1949
Knut Hamsun remembers America : essays and stories, 1885-1949
Hamsun, Knut, 1859-1952.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Works. Selections. English. 2003
Publication Information:
Columbia, Mo. : University of Missouri Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 155 pages : illustrations, 1 map ; 24 cm
Critical reporting (1885-1888) -- The American character -- New York City -- Yellow Thunder's camp -- Mark Twain -- A bonanza farm -- Robert Ingersoll -- Memory and fantasy (1897-1905) -- Terror -- On the prairie -- Zachæus -- Vagabond days -- A woman's victory -- Mellow reminiscence (1928, 1949) -- Festina lente -- My first time abroad.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PT8950.H3 K59 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



When Americans remember him at all, they no doubt think of Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) as the author of Hunger or as the Norwegian who, along with Vidkun Quisling, betrayed his country by supporting the Nazis during World War II. Yet Hamsun, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1920 for his novel The Growth of the Soil , was and remains one of the most important and influential novelists of his time. Knut Hamsun Remembers America is a collection of thirteen essays and stories based largely on Hamsun's experiences during the four years he spent in the United States when he was a young man. Most of these pieces have never been published before in an English translation, and none are readily available. Hamsun's feelings about America and American ways were complex. For the most part, they were more negative than positive, and they found expression in many of his writings--directly in his reminiscences and indirectly in his fiction. In On the Cultural Life of Modern America , his first major book, he portrayed the United States as a land of gross and greedy materialism, populated by illiterates who were utterly lacking in artistic originality or refinement. Although the pieces in this collection are not all anti-American, most of them emphasize the strangeness and unpleasantness, as the author saw it, of life in what he called Yankeeland. Arranged chronologically, the pieces fall into three categories: Critical Reporting, Memory and Fantasy, and Mellow Reminiscence. The Critical Reporting section includes articles that appeared in Norwegian or Danish newspapers soon after each of Hamsun's two visits to America and that give his views on a variety of American subjects, and includes an essay devoted to Mark Twain. Memory and Fantasy comprises narratives of life in America, most of which are presented as personal experiences but which actually are blends of fact and fiction. Mellow Reminiscence includes later and fonder recollections and impressions of the United States. The pieces in this collection provide variations on a theme that runs through much of American history--European criticism of American ways. They give vivid, at times distorted, pictures of life as it was in the United States. They tell us something about the development of the worldview of a man who became a great writer, only to jeopardize his reputation by defending the Nazi oppressors of his own people . Knut Hamsun Remembers America will appeal to anyone interested in the history of American civilization or, more specifically, in the history of anti-Americanism.

Author Notes

Knut Pedersen Hamsun was born in Gudbrandsdalen, Norway on August 4, 1859 and grew up in poverty in Hamarøy. At the age of 17, he became an apprentice to a ropemaker and also began to dabble in writing. This eventually became his full-time career.

He wrote numerous books during his lifetime including The Intellectual Life of Modern America, Hunger, and Pan. In 1920, his novel Growth of the Soil, a book describing the attraction and honesty of working with the land, won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

As a supporter of Hitler and the Nazi Occupation of Norway during World War II, Hamsun was charged with treason for his affiliation with the party after the war ended. His property was seized, he was placed under psychiatric observation, and his last years were spent in poverty.

He died on February 19, 1952. A 15-volume compilation of his complete works was published posthumously in 1954.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

With this translation, Current (emer., Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro) makes an important addition to the works of this Norwegian author available in good English translation. Hamsun's early experiences in the US led to The Cultural Life of Modern America (1889; Eng. tr. by Barbara Gordon Morgridge, 1969) and to the sketches and stories in the present volume. Many appear in English here for the first time. Some reflect Hamsun's criticism of the materialism of the young republic. In "New York City," an inventor with an electric psalm book and a con artist with a sly line and found ring show deft humor and a quick eye for street life. The description of the comic master's public performance style in the piece titled "Mark Twain" is essential reading. "On the Prairie" and "Zachaeus" are powerful stories of the western plains similar to the stories of Stephen Crane and Hamlin Garland. Current's introduction offers interesting material, though the opening sentence in which he pairs Hamsun with Vidkun Quisling is a questionable beginning; readers will find a richer account of the literary context of the times in Morgridge's introduction. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. American and Scandinavian literature collections; all levels. J. G. Holland Davidson College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Hamsun's Americap. 1
Critical Reporting (1885-1888)
The American Characterp. 17
New York Cityp. 24
Yellow Thunder's Campp. 35
Mark Twainp. 45
A Bonanza Farmp. 57
Robert Ingersollp. 60
Memory and Fantasy (1897-1905)
Terrorp. 67
On the Prairiep. 72
Zachaeusp. 80
Vagabond Daysp. 91
A Woman's Victoryp. 122
Mellow Reminiscence (1928, 1949)
Festina Lentep. 131
My First Time Abroadp. 139
Bibliographical Notesp. 151