Knut Hamsun: The Dark Side of Literary Brilliance

Bernard Porter writes:

Monika Zagar was provoked to write Knut Hamsun: The Dark Side to counter the ‘whitewashing’ of Hamsun which, as she sees it, continues to this day. Included in her indictment are Jan Troell’s 1996 biopic of his later years, Hamsun, with Max von Sydow playing the elderly author, on the whole sympathetically; Ingar Sletten Kolloen’s first, two-volume version of his biography (2003-4) which has now appeared, abridged and translated, as Knut Hamsun: Dreamer and Dissenter; and Robert Ferguson’s Enigma: The Life of Knut Hamsun (1987). Zagar’s assessment doesn’t seem fair to Ferguson and Kolloen, neither of whom pulls many punches, though she aims a few more, directed mainly at Hamsun’s racism and his views on gender.

(LRB 27 May 2010)