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Growth of the Soil

Knut Hamsun

Book Overview: 

WINNER Nobel Prize in Literature

Growth of the Soil is the novel by Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun which won him the Nobel Prize in Literature. The essential elements of this novel are expressed in the words of the English translator W.W. Worster in his footnote: 'It is the life story of a man in the wilds, the genesis and gradual development of a homestead, the unit of humanity, in the unfilled, uncleared tracts that still remain in the Norwegian Highlands. It is an epic of earth; the history of a microcosm. Its dominant note is one of patient strength and simplicity; the mainstay of its working is the tacit, stern, yet loving alliance between Nature and the Man who faces her himself, trusting to himself and her for the physical means of life, and the spiritual contentment with life which she must grant if he be worthy. . .The story is epic in its magnitude, in its calm, steady progress and un-hurrying rhythm, in its vast and intimate humanity. The author looks upon his characters with a great, all-tolerant sympathy, aloof yet kindly, as a god.'

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .But he knows that he is the poorer by a cheese or a bundle of wool each time. And it is to his credit that he does not pick up Oline in his fingers and crush her to pieces for her meanness. Altogether, Isak is trying hard indeed to make himself a better man, better and better, whatever may be his idea, whether it be for the sake of peace in the house, or in some hope that the Lord may give him back his Inger the sooner. He is something given to superstition and a pondering upon things; even his rustic wariness is innocent in its way. Early that autumn he found the turf on the roof of the stable was beginning to slip down inside. Isak chewed at his beard for a while, then, smiling like a man who understands a jest, he laid some poles across to keep it up. Not a bitter word did he say. And another thing: the shed where he kept his store of provisions was simply built on high stone feet at the corners, with nothing between. After a while, little birds began to find their way. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Despite the fact that this book won Hamsun a Nobel Prize in Literature, it is often Hamsun's most misunderstood novel. Not much seems to happen in the 400+ pages of Isak (a mysterious, near god-like figure) building his farm. Even when things do happen, Hamsun's writing is surprisingly calm despite

Get this edition. On the front cover is a young man walking on plowed ground. Above is the book's modest title, "Growth of the Soil," and in smaller case "Knut Hamsun's Greatest Novel." Open it and you'll see the book's title again, the author's name and the information that it was translated from t

'Then comes the evening.' Those who have seen the film Hamsun, starring Max Von Sydow, will recall seeing several scenes with Marie Hamsun finishing a novel with this line at book readings. Growth of the Soil, Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun’s 1917 novel widely regarded as his masterpiece, is that novel.

It started off greatly. Great setting, close to nature and a farmer as protagonist. Isaac is a tiller of soil and loves his job passionately. And continues doing it, refusing better opportunities and while a whole town develops around him, he still continues to look down upon anything industrial. Th

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