Hamsun in Wonderland: Knut Hamsun and Russia

Sat9  Apr02:00pm(10 mins)
Umney Lounge


Susan Reynolds


In 1899 the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) made a journey to the Caucasus via Moscow and St. Petersburg which he recorded in his book I Æventyrland (In Wonderland: 1905). He had already become familiar with Dostoevsky in Norwegian translations, which strongly influenced his novels Hunger, Mysteries and Pan in their portrayal of complex psychological states and the experience of extreme poverty.
Hamsun's work rapidly found favour in Russia, translated by Peter Hansen, a Dane with many years' residence in Siberia and St. Petersburg, and his Russian wife Anna.  In 1907 he signed a contract with Znanie, which also published Gorky's work. Several of his plays were performed at the Moscow Arts Theatre under Stanislavsky's direction. However, his relationship with the Hansens deteriorated and he turned to two Oslo-based Russians, Menartz (Mark) Lewin and Raissa Tiraspolska, for future translations. There was also friction with Konstantin Piatnitsky, the director of Znanie, about fees and royalties.
the author considers Hamsun's account of his only journey to Russia, his vision of the land and its culture, and the reality which he found there. She examines the views on Russian authors which he expresses in I Æventyrland, and sets these in the context of the reception of Russian literature in Scandinavia at the turn of the century and of Hamsun's work in Russia.

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