This new edition of his letters, finely selected and edited by Harald Næss and James Mc Farlane, allows us to judge Hamsun’s entire life and work.
He was born in 1859 and grew up in Hamarøy, in the far north of Norway, about two hundred miles north of the Polar Circle.
Five years later, in 1934, he received tributes only from Goebbels and from a crowd of lesser German writers who are now forgotten outside Germany.
In 1939, for his 80th birthday, he received tributes only from Goebbels, Alfred Rosenberg – and Hitler.
In this century, Céline is such a writer; and so is Céline’s great influence, Knut Hamsun, who is the greatest Norwegian writer since Ibsen, but who ended his life, in 1952, in disgrace.
Hamsun’s life is surely one of the strangest in modern literature.
The young man is enjoying this; he froths his lies up into greater extravagances.
He reminds the old man that Hippolati is something of an inventor, that he invented an electric prayer book.
Yes, says the blind man, he recalls hearing some thing like that. But instead of accusing him of being a dupe, he does the opposite, and bizarrely accuses him of not believing his stories.
And, Hippolati was for seven years a cabinet minister in Persia, adds the young man. Now the young man, who is clearly unstable, begins to get angry. He yells at him: Perhaps you don’t even believe that a man with the name Hippolati exists! Let me tell you sir, that I’m not at all accustomed to such treatment as yours, and I won’t stand for it.