Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In a hundred years ...

... a lot of things will be forgotten*, but obviously not everything. :-) Our greatest Nobel laureate** Knut Hamsun was born 150 years ago today. Considering how incredibly influential he was in his lifetime and has remained since he died in 1952, the anniversary has been celebrated very little here in Norway. We have our reasons. 57 years after his death he remains a deeply controversial figure in this country - and it's a controversy that IMO will not be resolved any time soon. Did you know, foreigners, that in our nation's capital there isn't so much as a little lane named after 'the father of modern literature'? We've been arguing for decades about whether or not this great writer should be honored in this way - a Knut Hamsun Street, or Knut Hamsun Square. Personally, I think this disagreement is very easy to solve - we simply rename St Olav Square, we call it Ylajali Square and if anyone's still up in arms after that, they're arguing for the sake of the argument and not because they care. So there.

Was he a Nazi? Yes, he was. Absolutely no question. If you're not a Nazi, then you don't give your Nobel Prize medal as a gift to Joseph Goebbels. End of story. Was he a tremendously gifted and very skilled writer who touched the hearts and minds of his countrymen and of readers all over the world? Yes, he was that too, no question.

It's tricky. I won't deny that. But it's taking it too far to say that if one stands by the latter statement above, then one must also think that Nazism is great and Hitler was cool. That does not follow. (Israel, are you listening, I'm looking at you.)

Happy birthday, old man, wherever you are. >:-)

* A famous Hamsun quote says that 'in a hundred years everything will be forgotten'. Ie, don't worry, be happy. :-)
** For literature, at any rate. >:-)


Anonymous said...

Interesting post, and I agree that one can admit to his being a great writer without also condoning Nazism. Sadly, I'd never heard of Hamsun before your post; I'll have to look him up.

Paz said...

also the day that another nobel winner, Nelson Mandela was jailed.
there should at least be a statue to him

Anonymous said...

Hamsun is one of my fav. writers, and I very much agree with the sentiment of your post - his litterature was grand and I want to be able to say that without being accused of having nazi sympathies.

Strange that liking Wagner seems to be less controversial (except, of course, in Israel), when Wagner as a person expressed much stronger opinions on the ways of the world and the "Jewish business" in Germany.

Paz said...

Today I read that Mein Kampf going to printed with Jewish backing in Germany!!