Right now a new and aspiring generation is working its way up from below. It’s so newborn and innocent, I read about it but don’t recognise any of the names, not that it matters. They’re wanderers the lot of them, they come, shine for a while, then they’re gone. Come and go, just as I came and went. (On Overgrown Paths, 1949)
With the publication of his first novel Hunger (1890) Knut Hamsun entered the ranks of Norway’s greatest writers.
His fame reached a climax in 1920 with the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature for Growth of the Soil (1917), and the widespread national and international celebrations of his 70th birthday in 1929 confirmed his status as the great Norwegian dikterhøvding (poet-leader) .
But Hamsun was also an active participant in debates on social issues, and throughout the whole of the Second World War supported Germany. In the post-war years Hamsun was a persona non grata, but as early as 1949 his publisher, Gyldendal, agreed to publish On Overgrown Paths – Hamsun’s description of the years between 1945 and the sentence of the High Court in 1948. A first print run of 5000 copies quickly sold out. And yet Hamsun’s reputation remains coloured by his over sympathy and support for Germany during the war.