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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

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Observe the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekov's book will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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