From my childhood in Nordland I remember a strange night, a still summer’s night, in the sunlight. I was in a rowing boat, but not rowing, sculling backwards, and so facing forwards in the boat. Every seabird fell silent, and there was no sign of any living thing on land. And then from up out of the smooth water a head appears, with water dripping off it. It was probably a seal, but it was like something from another world, it looked at me with eyes open and wondering. It looked at me like a human… (In Wonderland, 1903)
Hamsun was born in the Gudbrandsdal, but his family moved to Hamarøy in Nordland when he was three. Though he presently left the region he continued to uphold and promote the values of northern Norway.
In ”Theologian in Wonderland” (1910) he mocks those priests who try to avoid a posting in the north. Northern Norwegian nature, society and language occupy a central place in his writing. In Pan (1894) the nature of northern Norway is one of the premises for the dreamlike quality of Glahn’s experiences. In the same novel, as also in Benoni and Rosa (both 1908) the location and Mack, the local squire, are important for the plot.
Hamsun’s use of north Norwegian language in serious literature was new, and the mixture of misunderstood foreign words, garbled passages from the bible, and words and expressions from northern Norway are the very essence of Hamsun’s linguistic artistry.
Descriptions of Nordland crop up throughout Hamsun’s writing, from Pan (1894) to August (1930).