Bjørnson was well aware of his ephemerality: Time takes it all! Can the rest of us add anything to that? As for me, I sit and take notes and scribble a few lines about a burned down villa and I have my own ideas on that business. Over there on the neighbouring farm a small dog runs back and forth, I can see him barking at me but it doesn’t bother me. I’m at peace, my mind is clean, my conscience clear. I get letters telling me I’ll be read throughout all eternity, even the Norwegian patriots [“jøssinger”, editors note] praise me. Well, never mind about all this friendliness. But there are few things that last, times takes it, takes it all, the lot. So I lose a little of my name in the world, a picture, a bust – it would hardly have been a statue on horseback (On Overgrown Paths, 1949)
Time is realised as a theme, a motif, a narrative strategy.
Several poems in The Wild Choir (1904) are about the fleeting nature of things, including "All is forgotten in a hundred years" and "Autumn Day". In On Overgrown Paths too Hamsun reflects on the fleeting contra the eternal. In Wayfarers (1927) we meet the Jewish watch seller Papst, and in Growth of the Soil (1917) Isak returns to Sellanraa one day bringing back a clock with him. The clock is a reminder of the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of things, as well as being also a sign of the coming of new times
In his novels Hamsun’s experimental narrative technique can involve time in his use of a narrator who is omniscient yet who nevertheless exhibits some of the ignorance of his characters about events at the level of the plotting. In Hunger (1890) and Pan (1894) the narration is retrospective, with the first-person narrator writing down the story after the events described have taken place.