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When Knut Hamsun won the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1920, it was mostly because of this 1917 novel (Growth of the Soil), an epic vision of peasant life in Norway’s backcountry. The saga of Isak and Inger (born with a harelip) and their hard times is by turns affecting and ponderous; the somewhat overheated first-person narrators of Hamsun’s extraordinary early novels—"Hunger" and "Pan"—are replaced by a stately, almost distant third person. Yet Hamsun’s eye and ear were still sharp; even his trees have special qualities ("Everybody knows that aspens can have an unpleasant, bullying way of rustling"). One of the greatest novels ever written, Growth of the Soil was described by H. G. Wells as “wholly beautiful; it is saturated with wisdom and humor and tenderness.” The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun.
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Knut Hamsun (1859–1952) was a Norwegian author. He was praised by King Haakon VII of Norway as Norway's soul. In 1920, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for the epic, Growth of the Soil. He insisted that the main object of modern literature should be the intricacies of the human mind, that writers should describe the "whisper of blood, and the pleading of bone marrow". Hamsun's literary debut was the 1890 psychological novel, Hunger, which some critics consider to have been an inspiration for Franz Kafka's classic short story, A Hunger Artist. Hamsun's reputation was severely tarnished by his vehement advocacy of Nazi Germany both before World War II and after Germany occupied Norway in April, 1940. He lionized leading Nazis and in 1943, in the middle of the war, he mailed his Nobel medal to Joseph Goebbels. Later, he visited Hitler and in a eulogy for the German leader published on May 7, 1945 — one day before surrender of the German occupation forces in Norway — Hamsun proclaimed, “He was a warrior, a warrior for mankind, and a prophet of the gospel of justice for all nations.” After the war, due to a finding that Hamsun was in mental decline, efforts to prosecute him for treason were dropped. Nearly 60 years after his death, a recent biographer told a reporter, “We can’t help loving him, though we have hated him all these years. That’s our Hamsun trauma. He’s a ghost that won’t stay in the grave.” In 2009, the Queen of Norway presided over the gala launching of a year-long program of commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the author's birth. On August 4, 2009 a Knut Hamsun Center (Hamsunsenteret) was opened in Presteid, Hamaroy island.
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