Growth of the Soil

( 12 )

Overview

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 ...
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Growth of the Soil

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Overview

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 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.
A few hours' rest, and he is on the move again: "Eyah, well...."-moving northward again, noting time by the sun; a meal of barley cakes and goats' milk cheese, a drink of water from the stream, and on again. This day too he journeys, for there are many kindly spots in the woods to be explored. What is he seeking? A place, a patch of ground? An emigrant, maybe, from the homestead tracts; he keeps his eyes alert, looking out; now and again he climbs to the top of a hill, looking out. The sun goes down once more.
He moves along the western side of a valley; wooded ground, with leafy trees among the spruce and pine, and grass beneath. Hours of this, and twilight is falling, but his ear catches the faint purl of running water, and it heartens him like the voice of a living thing. He climbs the slope, and sees the valley half in darkness below; beyond, the sky to the south. He lies down to rest.
The morning shows him a range of pasture and woodland. He moves down, and there is a green hillside; far below, a glimpse of the stream, and a hare bounding across. The man nods his head, as it were approvingly-the stream is not so broad but that a hare may cross it at a bound. A white grouse sitting close upon its nest starts up at his feet with an angry hiss, and he nods again: feathered game and fur-a good spot this. Heather, bilberry, and cloudberry cover the ground; there are tiny ferns, and the seven-pointed star flowers of the winter-green. Here and there he stops to dig with an iron tool, and finds good mould, or peaty soil, manured with the rotted wood and fallen leaves of a thousand years. He nods, to say that he has found himself a place to stay and live: ay, he will stay here and live. Two days he goes exploring the country round, returning each evening to the hillside. He sleeps at night on a bed of stacked pine; already he feels at home here, with a bed of pine beneath an overhanging rock.

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920. The story of an elemental existence in rural Norway.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Hamsun released this novel in 1917, three years before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. It's the story of Isak, who raises his family deep in Norway's unspoiled country, and the bond the family builds with the land. This Penguin edition is the first new English translation since the novel was initially released 90 years ago.


—Michael Rogers
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143105107
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/25/2007
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 683,462
  • Product dimensions: 5.09 (w) x 7.77 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2010

    Be warned.

    This book starts out like a simple, sturdy story, but be warned. If you open it before bed it will invade your dreams like a conquering tribe, and take up residence in your soul...

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    Hamsuns objectivity make for a slow but deliberate read.

    Great book glorifying the role of the farmer in moder society. What sets this novel apart though is Hamsuns style. He approaches his characters with neither love nor scorn. The honesty in the writing makes this a truely unique and engaging story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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