Huginn e Muninn

Blog del Centro Studi La Runa



La riscoperta di Hamsun

20 Marzo, 2009 (16:52) | Autori, Libri, Nord | Di: admin

Knut Hamsun (Vågå, 4 agosto 1859 – Nørholm, 19 febbraio 1952)

A quanto pare, in Norvegia il nome di Knut Hamsun sta tornando a essere considerato come quello di un grande personaggio della nazione. Così, dopo decenni di ostracismo ideologico – Hamsun rimase germanofilo sino alla morte, avvenuta da ultranovantenne nel 1952 – in occasione del 150esimo anniversario della nascita sono in corso numerose manifestazioni ufficiali di ricordo. Inoltre gli verrà dedicata una statua.

Io ho scoperto questo autore solo l’anno scorso; naturalmente “scoperto” in senso strettamente personale. Di lui aveva detto Thomas Mann: “Mai il Premio Nobel (che Hamsun vinse nel 1920) fu conferito a scrittore più meritevole”; Gide lo accostò a Dostoevskj, “sebbene Hamsun sia probabilmente più sottile del maestro russo”; Isaac Singer affermò che Hamsun “è il padre della scuola moderna di letteratura in ogni aspetto: nella sua soggettività, nell’impressionismo, nell’uso della retrospettiva, nel liricismo. Tutta la letteratura moderna del ventesimo secolo deriva da Hamsun”.

Dopo il primo libro (una raccolta della UTET degli anni sessanta), che avevo letto incuriosito dal lusinghiero giudizio espresso da Adriano Romualdi, ho letteralmente divorato tutto quello che è stato tradotto di lui in italiano; purtroppo la maggior parte dei suoi libri non sono più in commercio, e questo limita la sua conoscenza per lo più alle due opere più famose, Pan e Fame, che sono pubblicate da Adelphi, mentre non sono più disponibili nelle librerie opere come Il risveglio della Terra, Vagabondi, Misteri, Vittoria o L’estrema gioia.

Riporto di seguito un articolo sull’attuale repechage norvegese uscito il mese scorso sul New York Times, che parla al proposito di Reconciliation Therapy. E’ significativo che anche in quel paese le parole piene di astio e risentimento vengano dagli individui in assoluto più spregevoli: i politici.

Norwegian Nobel Laureate, Once Shunned, Is Now Celebrated
By WALTER GIBBS
Published: February 27, 2009

OSLO — It’s all you would expect of a national jubilee: street theater, brass bands, exhibitions and commemorative coins. A statue is to be unveiled, and a $20 million architectural gem of a museum is under construction.

Yet the honoree is not a war hero, nor even a patriot. It is the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun, who welcomed the brutal German occupation of Norway during World War II and gave his Nobel Prize in Literature as a gift to the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Hamsun later flew to meet Hitler at Hitler’s mountain lair in Bavaria.

Why the festivities, then? Call it reconciliation therapy, or a national airing out.

Hamsun died in 1952 at 92, shunned by his countrymen and heavily fined for his spectacular wartime betrayal. But as the author of revered novels like “Hunger,” “Pan” and “Growth of the Soil,” Hamsun has remained on school reading lists and in the hearts of many Norwegians.

“We can’t help loving him, though we have hated him all these years,” said Ingar Sletten Kolloen, author of “Dreamer & Dissenter,” a Hamsun biography. “That’s our Hamsun trauma. He’s a ghost that won’t stay in the grave.”

With the passage of time, however, Hamsun packs less of a fright. Several years ago King Harald V of Norway set off debate just by quoting a snippet of Hamsun’s prose in a speech. Last week, by contrast, Queen Sonja opened a yearlong, publicly financed commemoration of Hamsun’s 150th birthday called Hamsun 2009. Fanfare, musical comedy and a jovial outdoor crowd of several hundred greeted the occasion, and the queen spent a highly symbolic half-hour with Hamsun family members at the National Library. Together they viewed the author’s handwritten manuscripts.

“I hope there can be forgiveness soon,” Hamsun’s grandson Leif Hamsun, 66, said afterward. “It feels like there’s a healing taking place.”

But some still see nothing to celebrate — not the man, not the books.

“Hamsun wrote great novels, but they are completely overshadowed by his behavior as a Hitler lackey,” said Jo Benkow, 84, a former president of the Norwegian parliament. “At least for my generation, it’s outrageous to give more honors. He won the Nobel Prize in 1920. That should be enough.”

Mr. Benkow, who is Jewish, fled across the Swedish border in 1942 to avoid deportation to the prison camps in Poland, where more than 700 Norwegian Jews were killed. But as the war generation has dwindled, so has the collective ill will. Even some formerly uncompromising voices here have softened.

In 2001 a prominent wartime resistance leader, Gunnar Sonsteby, helped defeat a proposal to name a street in Oslo after Hamsun. Norway should dissolve parliament and declare a dictatorship first, he said. But he now says that commemorating Hamsun is acceptable, as long as his literary talent and his dark side receive equal focus.

La casa di Hamsun ad Hamaroy

La casa di Hamsun ad Hamaroy

That double-barreled approach was evident in Oslo last week. One of the largest framed items at the National Library was the May 7, 1945, edition of a collaborationist newspaper whose lead article on Hitler’s death was by Knut Hamsun. As most collaborators lay low, preparing alibis, Hamsun wrote, “He was a warrior, a warrior for mankind, and a prophet of the gospel of justice for all nations.”

Queen Sonja, leaving the exhibition, said only, “I think we’ll have to keep two thoughts in our head at the same time.”

After the war a court-appointed psychiatrist found Hamsun too “diminished” from age, deafness and a stroke to undergo prosecution for treason, but a civil court confiscated much of his fortune. A period of weak book sales followed, and some Norwegians tossed Hamsun’s collected works over his garden fence. Yet this former “poet chieftain” of his country soon returned to the best-seller list with “On Overgrown Paths,” his postwar apologia. He has remained one of the top-selling Norwegian authors at home and abroad.

In the United States the translator Sverre Lyngstad has contributed to a modest Hamsun resurgence with new English-language editions of Hamsun’s more luminous works, including his 1890 breakthrough novel, “Hunger.” The self-conscious protagonist of “Hunger” signals the arrival of European modernist literature by trying, at one point, to eat his own index finger.

Instead of merely narrating events, Hamsun peels away layers from his unnamed character’s flickering psyche. With typical bombast the young Hamsun declared at the time that he had outwritten Dostoyevsky and annihilated the social realism of Ibsen.

The author Isaac Bashevis Singer basically agreed. “The whole school of fiction in the 20th century stems from Hamsun,” Singer wrote in 1967, citing in particular “his subjectiveness, his fragmentariness, his use of flashbacks, his lyricism.”

In “Pan” and “Mysteries” Hamsun continued writing in this fathomless new way. But in 1898 came a simple, poetic love story, “Victoria,” and by middle age Hamsun had actually turned anti-modern. “Growth of the Soil” (1917) is an Old Testament-style portrayal of stolid mountain dwellers. Goebbels was so fond of its blood-and-soil ethos that he had a special edition printed for German soldiers in the field.

Many readers today, however, agree that the crude, reactionary impulses displayed by Hamsun during World War II are scarcely evident in his novels, the last of which appeared in 1936, when he was 77.

As part of Norway’s continuing celebration, Hamsun’s publisher, Gyldendal, is rolling out a new “Collected Works” in Norwegian. Its 27 volumes contain more than 30 novels, as well as essays and travelogues, including at least one that reveals an early racist streak in Hamsun that may surprise readers of his mature works.

The Hamsun 2009 festivities are supposed to peak on the honoree’s birthday, Aug. 4. On that day a new six-story Hamsun Center is scheduled to open in Hamaroy, where Hamsun grew up, north of the Arctic Circle. Resembling a large black cube, the structure was designed by the New York-based Steven Holl Architects to house both a museum and an assembly hall. Around the same time the sculptor Skule Waksvik plans to unveil Norway’s first statue of Hamsun.

It will be in bronze, he says — and larger than life.

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