«A delicate rim of gold in the east as the sun rises. The town awakens, already there is the distant clattering of wagons from the countryside rolling through the streets, big, heavy carts loaded with peat, with hay, fresh meat and firewood.»

2017-04-2611:57 Viktor Håkonsen

Shallow Soil (1893) is a novel about artists.

It is set in about 1890 in Kristiania, where the writer Irgens is at the centre of a circle of smug and superficial artists. Moral, industrious and honourable, the businessmen Tidemand and Henriksen are in striking contrast to the artists. Poised between these two groups is the schoolteacher, Coldevin, whom Tore Hamsun once described as the author’s mouthpiece.

Shallow Soil seems to have been intended as a contribution to an ongoing debate, typical of the period, and this adversely affects the literary quality of the novel. Yet for some time Hamsun regarded it his finest, referring to is as a ”clenched fist” of a book.


Front cover, first edition of Ny Jord (Shallow Soil). Photo: The Hamsun Centre.