And suddenly I remember once being called to the alter myself. It was when I was Confirmed. The priest put something in my mouth and then let me sip something from a glass. There were a lot of people standing around looking on, but they controlled themselves and didn’t smile. Why remember it now? I have no use for it, and there’s nothing particularly profound about it. I spend time on it merely because it makes me happy and tingling. I suppose impulse is what they call it. (On Overgrown Paths, 1949)
Hamsun often used details from his own life in his writing, and the distinction between life and fiction is not always equally clear.
Hamsun derived inspiration from events and people he came across, and also made use of aspects of himself and his own life. In the Wanderer trilogy he gives the main character his own real name, Knut Pedersen, and in Growth of the Soil (1917) the sheriff, Geissler, describes a childhood memory from Lom, in the Gudbrandsdal, where Hamsun himself spent the first three years of his life.
Hamsun makes the most explicit use of himself in the travel book In Wonderland (1903), in which he describes a trip he made to the Orient in the company of his then wife, Bergljot Göpfert.
But the most fascinating self-presentation is the one we encounter in On Overgrown Paths (1949), where the mixture of biography and fiction creates an interesting portrait of the aging and disgraced private individual and author Knut Hamsun in the period immediately following the end of the Second World War.