Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Growth of the Soil, Hamsun

I just finished this epic novel last night. Beyond amazing. Hamsun's work is so simple and straightforward, but then it reveals these unexpected complexities that make you pause. His characters are so vivid that I began imagining them as real people that I know. I found myself thinking of Oline while I did dishes, irritated at her big mouth. And any time Barbro entered a scene I groaned out loud. Layers. Just so many layers to these characters that make them real. Inger is so hard to describe that Hamsun's simple description is the only one that makes sense: "a strong woman full of weakness".

The book is basically a love affair with the earth, given the few people in this unbroken part of Norway that makes up the setting. Their lives revolve around earth and sky and seasons. Simple work, simple food. They don't spend time analyzing why they are unhappy or seeking remedy for their bad childhoods. They live forward, moving ahead.

Again, I had to try and control my isolation inclination as I read this. When they finally get other settlers up near Sellenara, inwardly I cringed because I'm thinking, what? Neighbors? Sheesh. Get rid of them! Make them move! And yet these people were happy for the company. I am so anti-social when I think living in the wilds with 8 other people within 10 miles is too much!

This also was a very peaceful book. It had tension and action and sadness and pain, but overall it felt calming and restful to read it and imagine this kind of life.

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