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A complex legacy

The Humsun Fest Finale pushes Norwegian culture to the forefront.

Published: November 6, 2009 (Issue # 1524)



  • Controversial Norwegian author Knut Hamsun, who went from being an admired Nobel laureate to despised Nazi traitor, is in the limelight this month.
    Photo: for spt

  • The Hamsun Center, which was opened earlier this year, is seen from across the river in Hamaroy, Norway.
    Photo: for spt

The Days of Knut Hamsun in St. Petersburg are set to enable city residents to get acquainted with the legacy of one of the most controversial writers in the history of Norway.

In 2009, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Knut Hamsun, Norway launched a year-long international program commemorating its best known writer. The Hamsun Fest Finale that takes place in St. Petersburg this month is part of this program.

The Days of Knut Hamsun is a series of unique theatrical and musical performances, exhibitions and literatary events that aim to highlight the controversial writer’s work and promote the cultural heritage of Norway. The festival has been organized by the Nordland County Council in Norway, with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate General of Norway in St. Petersburg.

“There will be a wide-ranging and exciting cultural program during the Days of Hamsun in St. Petersburg,” said Fredrik Langeland, adviser at the Nordland County Council. “There will be an opening reception and concert at the Sheremetyev Palace. We also want to draw particular attention to theater performances, lectures and film screenings at the Dostoevsky museum, a book exhibition at the National Library, a unique film program at Dom Kino cinema with showings of Hamsun films with Russian subtitles for the first time, and the play “On Overgrown Paths” at the Lensoviet Theater.”

Hamsun gained popularity with his epic “Growth of the Soil,” for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920. Hamsun’s works were determined by the idea of connection between characters and their natural environment. The author had a significant influence on European and American literature, with Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Maxim Gorky, Stefan Zweig and Henry Miller all admitting that they tried to write like Hamsun. Ernest Hemingway said, “Hamsun taught me to write.”

Albert Einstein regarded Hamsun as an eminent man, while Thomas Mann compared the writer to Homer and Dostoevsky. Biographer Robert Ferguson (1988) wrote that Hamsun was one of the most influential and innovative literary stylists during the last hundred years, and that there was hardly a writer living in Europe or in America who was not consciously or unconsciously indebted to him.

“Hamsun was highly popular in Russia when Scandinavian literature gained popularity in Russia in the 1890s and early 1900s,” said Langeland. “His plays were performed on Russian stages even more than in Norway, his books were soon translated and quickly sold in large quantities. The first biography of Hamsun in Russia came out as early as 1910, when Maria Blagoveshchenskaya stated that Hamsun was really similar to the Russian nature,” he added.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Dec. 26


Celebrate Boxing Day by playing various tabletop games during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening tonight at 5 p.m. Spread the Christmas cheer and goodwill by making other people regret their decision to come and try to match their intellectual prowess against yours.



Saturday, Dec. 27


Indulge cultural and material needs simultaneously during the free classical music concert at the Galeria shopping mall in the heart of the city. Starting at 7 p.m., shoppers and mallwalkers will be able to hear the sounds of Tchaikovsky and Strauss softly lilt over the constant buzz of people bustling from store to store, trying to get their shopping done before New Year.



Sunday, Dec. 28


Prepare for the holidays at the Russian Winter New Year’s Fair on Moskovskaya Ploshchad, which concludes today after starting on Dec. 22. Games and attractions as well as numerous performances will be on offer for those looking to get into the spirit while numerous vendors will help make sure you have something for everyone on your list.



Monday, Dec. 29


Learn how the Swedes observe Christmas, or Jul, in their land of ice and snow, during aSwedish Christmas celebration at the Lermontov Children’s Library this afternoon at 4 p.m. Activities explaining and demonstrating Sweden’s cultural traditions will be accompanied by traditional dishes and sweets.



Tuesday, Dec. 30


Today is the final day of the Christmas Market at the Europolis shopping center on Polyustrovsky prospekt. Indulge your holiday sweet tooth by tucking into some gingerbread men, or attend one of the master classes that will teach you about how to make beautiful, festive decorations for your tree using only your hands.



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