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Growth of the Soil

1917
1 / 6  
«That long, long path across the moors and through the forests, who walked that first? A man, a person, the first one here. There was no path before him. And then later some animal followed the faint tracks across the moors and the bogs and made them clearer, and later still after that some Lapp became curious about the path and walked it when he had to cross mountains to see to his reindeer. That’s how the path was made, across that great swathe of land owned by no-one, the land with no master.»
2 / 6  
«Love makes the wise a fool.»
3 / 6  
«Happiness and nonsense are two different things.»
4 / 6  
«De ensomme mennesker, ja så stygge og altfor frodige, men et gode for hverandre, for dyrene og for jorden!Lonely folk, ugly to look at and overfull of growth, but a blessing for each other, for the beasts, and for the earth.»
5 / 6  
«She never left again. Inger was her name. Isak was his.»
6 / 6  
«Man and Nature don't bombard each other, but agree; they don't compete, race one against the other, but go together.»

Growth of the Soil (1917) is Hamsun’s great epic of the land. The novel describes the development of the site at Sellanraa from primitive smallholding to fully working farm.

Isak is the novel’s main character, and the description of the taciturn man’s experiences of work, love and old age are done with empathy and pathos. At Isak’s side stands Inger, with whom he has two sons. The third child, a daughter, is born, like Inger herself, with a harelip and she kills it at birth. When Inger returns to Sellanraa after serving her prison sentence the conflict between town and country becomes clear.

With its social criticism and its questioning of civilisation in the shape of industrialisation, urbanisation and the decline of values the novel touched a nerve in post-war Europe. Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1920 for Growth of the Soil.