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On Overgrown Paths

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Translated from the Norwegian, with Notes by Sverre Lyngstad On Overgrown Paths was written after World War II, at a time when Hamsun was in police custody for his openly expressed Nazi sympathies during the German occupation of Norway, 1940–45. A Nobel laureate deeply beloved by his countrymen, Hamsun was now reviled as a traitor—as long as his sanity was not called into question. However, the psychiatric report declared him to be sane, but concluded that his mental faculties were “permanently impaired.” This conclusion was emphatically refuted by the publication, in 1949, of On Overgrown Paths , Hamsun’s apologia. In its creative élan, this book, filled with the proud sorrow of an old man, miraculously recalls the spirit of Hamsun’s early novels, with their reverence for nature, absurdist humor, and quirky flights of fancy. This edition is the first authoritative English translation of Hamsun’s last work, a work which stood at the center of the film Hamsun (1996).

241 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1949

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About the author

Knut Hamsun

667 books2,126 followers
Novels of Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, pen name of Knut Pedersen, include Hunger (1890) and The Growth of the Soil (1917). He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1920.

He insisted on the intricacies of the human mind as the main object of modern literature to describe the "whisper of the blood, and the pleading of the bone marrow." Hamsun pursued his literary program, debuting in 1890 with the psychological novel Hunger.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
812 reviews877 followers
November 26, 2019
Acquired and read because Knausgaard called it Knut’s masterpiece in his Munch book. If better than what I consider Knut’s masterpiece (The Growth of the Soil) I was in for a treat. Karl Ove surely read it in the original Norwegian and while the translation seems fine, reads well etc, and conveys that familiar Hamsun spirit, I didn’t find this particularly engaging. There seemed to be too many stretches that went on too long, little scenes from his past, illustrating some point maybe about the transitoriness of life, how all life's concerns are really trifles considering inevitable onrushing death coming for everyone, how everyone will be forgotten, replaced by emerging generations that in turn will shine for a while and then be forgotten. All of which made for easy and agreeable reading that had me counting how many pages were left to the book’s end. But as a famous elderly writer's sly autobiographical/experiential defense against accusations of sympathy for the devil this is interesting reading, and my attention perked up whenever he turned his attention toward Germany, to the war era, when he said he never had anything bad to say about the Jews, how there's nothing in any of his writings of the sort, how he was essentially only currying favor for occupied Norway, trying to save lives since Germany apparently had big plans for Norway as a Nordic country, but the book as a whole is not really a satisfying defense in the end. The verdict that's ultimately handed down isn't stated, so, without consulting the internet, Hamsun pretty much suggests that the verdict doesn't matter because he and all involved would soon enough be equalized by mortality. It's exactly this sort of skewed intuitive folksy poetic pantheistic rationalizing that makes for so many great moments in his best novels (Growth of the Soil, Pan, Hunger) but as a moral defense stray descriptions of places and people populating his isolated late life, randomly emerging memories and whims, don't really come close to dealing with the enormity of Nazi crimes against humanity, which to be fair Hamsun doesn't seem to understand the extent of (no mention of genocide, eg), having been largely isolated from the world at the time (he was old in the 1940s, was pretty much deaf, and didn't have access to social media or CNN and apparently didn't really read the newspapers much or fully care about or understand what was going on). The disparity between the whim and fragility of his defense and WWII atrocity is sort of beautiful, I suppose, but only sort of. Also found this interesting in terms of Nazi Literature in the Americas, contemporary cancel culture, and Handke's recent Nobel Prize -- there's an essay there I'll maybe try to write if I can find the time.
Profile Image for Emilio Berra.
240 reviews196 followers
September 11, 2019
In attesa della sentenza
Per i critici si tratta di un capolavoro. Personalmente lo considero 'soltanto' un buon libro, valutazione comunque nettamente positiva.

Si tratta di un'opera biografica scritta dal norvegese K. Hamsun (Nobel 1920) durante l'estrema vecchiaia, nel secondo dopoguerra, in attesa della conclusione del processo per l'appoggio dato al nazismo.
(Segnalo che lo scrittore Enquist ha pubblicato un bellissimo e rigoroso romanzo biografico su tali vicissitudini in "Processo a Hamsun") .

Anziano e sordo, deve vagare da una clinica ad un ospizio prima di avere il permesso di tornare a casa. "E' stato un lungo, lungo sradicamento".
Pare rassagnato, desidera il processo e si ritiene esente da colpe gravi.
Proprio come nei suoi romanzi, la natura in qualsiasi stagione rappresenta per lui una sicura fonte di consolazione : "Il clima è aspro e il vento quasi sempre freddo. Però siamo vicini agli alberi e al bosco (...). Oh, il mondo è bello anche qui e dovremmo essere molto riconoscenti per il fatto di viverci" .
La mente talvolta vaga in lontani ricordi : la solitudine favorisce il recupero del 'tempo perduto' .
E' dentro di sé che attinge le risorse : "Oh , l'ifinitamente piccolo dentro all'infinitamente grande di questo mondo straordinario. Di nuovo sono contento di esistere" .

Nonostante gli errori commessi con una certa dose di ingenuità, non solo emerge la grandezza dello scrittore, ma si delinea anche la lievità al cospetto di problematiche esistenziali che si acuiscono nell'estrema vecchiaia :
"... non è forse che siamo qui per aspettare la morte ? " .
"...è ben certo che dobbiamo morire, ma non subito, dice Sant'Agostino" .
Profile Image for Danilo.
48 reviews36 followers
September 16, 2018
Neverovatno koliko je čovek jasno razmišljao i uviđao stvari sa svojih skoro 90 godina.
Iako deluje kroz zapise da se ne kaje zbog svojih postupaka tokom Drugog svetskog rata, na momente se oseća da ipak pokušava da se opravda. Da li je uspeo da se opravda naciji i čitaocima, nije ni bitno, bitan je uvid u način na koji je Hamsun razmišljao u godinama u zatočeništvu.
Zbog toga, ova knjiga možda nije za one koji bi da se upoznaju sa Hamsunovim delima, ili prosto, da pročitaju dobar roman.
Profile Image for Michael Canoeist.
134 reviews6 followers
January 11, 2010
The book Knut Hamsun wrote while (mostly) confined in mental institutions awaiting his trial for treason after World War II. It is a sorrowful document to read, On Overgrown Paths, although it does show Hamsun had full command of his mental faculties -- the matter supposedly at question. Some classic Hamsun romanticism appears; but more of his fatalism and the painful ponderings of a very elderly man whose life has taken such an abruptly humiliating and dehumanizing turn.

This book is for those with a deep interest in Hamsun already; it will be a weird introduction to him for those unfamiliar with his work. His origins in, and love for, Norway's Nordland run throughout, especially in a couple meetings with a true wanderer also from Hamsun's hometown -- a man who walks barefoot to save his shoes until he comes to a town, and who still lives by occasional day-work here and there. Between scenes such as those, and Hamsun's memories and preoccupations, the old ways of living are made powerfully present again. A passing reference to Truman -- one has to remind oneself that this means, yes, President Harry Truman -- shocks the reader who has by then slipped wholly into Hamsun's timeless world. Can these two timelines possibly overlap? Yes, which in its way was part of Hamsun's personal tragedy. It is worth remembering that he was already 80 when Hitler took over Norway and precipitated the conditions that led, years later, to Hamsun's eventual trial. Hamsun is already mostly deaf and, in the course of this book, growing blind.

It takes three long years of institutional incarceration for Hamsun's case finally to be heard, and the full text of his statement to the court is included here. Hamsun says he stands behind everything he said and wrote, but there is also, at moments, an obsequious, pleading, even weaseling tone uncharacteristic of Hamsun the author, but perhaps understandable given that his life was still at stake. It seems to me unlikely that Hamsun was ever a Nazi or had serious Nazi sympathies. His love of things Germanic, and his corresponding dislike of England, which he regarded as much more imperialistic, explain some of his wartime writings, I believe. And his hopes that Norway could ultimately benefit from German victories were a form of patriotism, although one his fellow countrymen did not understand or believe. If I'm wrong, and he was in part an opportunist, he sure picked the wrong side of this one. Once the war ended, Hamsun and (we can't forget) his wife, who may have been more pro-Nazi, became ready targets for the mood of vengeance that naturally grabbed hold of a formerly occupied country.

One last bit of Hamsun's writing might be the best way to end this review, and something of the man to leave with anybody who has made it through my comments here. How he evokes the land itself, and gives his appreciation or at least understanding of forces greater than our little human doings and voices, still impresses me with its enduring worldview:

"Time flies. Snow has fallen; it is winter. At this point I stop. No one knows how long I have sat here thinking, but I got no further than that. I thought I might be able to say something fine and striking about snow and winter, but I failed. Never mind. I awoke one morning and found snow and winter; that is all. No, that is not all; snow and winter are evil to me.

"That there can be a season of the year altogether unique in vileness! The young girl speaks of it with chattering teeth; the wise ant flees several yards down into the earth to get away from it all. It is all the same to me. I have good shoes, but yesterday I read a dispatch from the famine areas telling of children without a crumb to eat, of children who have to be warmed on their mother's body lest they grow stiff with the cold.

"And faced with that there is nothing one can say, no sensible question to ask. The mountains lie yonder in their full weight to themselves; the forest is stone dead and utterly slain; all is silent; the snow lies there and is white and kind; the cold rejects all idea of equality by birth and will not let mankind have its say.

"Time flies."
Profile Image for Ilze.
101 reviews29 followers
September 7, 2020
Hamsuna darbi man šķiet skumji, un arī šis nav izņēmums. Taču tajā atrodams arī ārkārtīgi liels gaišums, ko autors izstaro savas dzīves nogalē. Pieņemot, ka "Pa aizaugušām tekām" ir vismaz daļēji autobiogrāfisks, spēcīgi izjutu Hamsuna vēlmi runāt par sevi, vai varētu teikt – attaisnot sevi? Vismaz man tā šķiet. Ir grūti spriest viņam tiesu, nozīmīgam rakstniekam, kas vēstures peripētijās neizvēlējās to taisnāko ceļu.
"Pa aizaugušām tekām" ved pretim mūžībai. Tā ir tieksme un meklējums, kas fascinē visvairāk, jo dzīvot nozīmē nemitīgi virzīties tuvāk nāvei. Grāmatas izskaņa aizved autoru pa jaunības takām, un tas bija pats maģiskākais, jo ievada Hamsuniskā mūžības sākumā. Varbūt savā dzīves noslēgumā mēs piedzīvojam kādu dzīves posmu vēlreiz. Un tajā vienkārši paliekam.
Profile Image for Steven R. Kraaijeveld.
502 reviews1,765 followers
July 7, 2020
"But that's not what I'm trying to fathom, but this: that so few things last. That even dynasties give way. That even what is grandiose falls someday. There is no pessimism in this thought or reflection, only a recognition of how non-stagnant, how dynamic life is. Everything is in motion, bubbling over with vitality, up and down and to all sides; when one thing collapses something else rises, looks large in the world for a moment and dies." (26-27)
Having read all of Hamsun's works in English that I could get my hands on, I left On Overgrown Paths—his final work, written while he was on trial for treason—for last. There is not much more to life than is captured in this book. I need some time to sort out everything there is to say in response to it.
Profile Image for Roman Trukhin.
75 reviews10 followers
January 7, 2022
Норвезький нобелівський лауреат з літератури, який став колаборантом. Можна було б написати "під тиском дивних обставин", але правильніше було б сказати - згідно з подихом часу.

Книга - це його авторефлексія на тему його післявоєнного судового переслідування. Ні, текст не покликаний і не викликає жаль. З іншої сторони він ні на йоту не є виправдальним. Все ж таки - це рефлексія на події, що відбувається навколо старого, глухого і напівсліпого Гамсуна.

Кнут Гамсун - найбільше перекладуваний в Україні 20-их років європейський письменник. І від того невимовно сильно хочеться знайти ті переклади і посмакувати ту ще незросійщену і незпримітизовану українську мову.
Profile Image for Aletheia.
288 reviews119 followers
January 24, 2021
"Cuando estoy harto de mí mismo, vacío e inútil, me voy al bosque. No ayuda, pero tampoco empeora la situación. Ya no oigo el murmullo del bosque, pero veo mecerse las ramas. Eso en sí ya es algo de lo que alegrarse."

Knut Hamsun podría haber escrito un libro sobre aquella vez que fue al mercado a comprar peras y no quedaban, que yo me lo compraría a continuación. Qué maravilla de escritura.

Es extraordinario leer un libro como éste en el momento histórico actual: día a día se nos pone en la encrucijada en que debemos decidir si separamos al artista de su obra. Y es que es muy difícil encontrar un icono en cuya biografía, a poco que nos pongamos a indagar, no aparezca alguna faceta difícil de defender moralmente.

Hamsun ya pasó por eso en 1945: su obra y su premio Nobel fueron el orgullo de los noruegos antes de que se conociera su apoyo al régimen de Quisling durante la ocupación nazi y su convencida germanofilia. Durante los tres años que duró su proceso judicial, no solo perdió todo el prestigio conseguido en sus 89 años, sino que las autoridades noruegas le internaron en una residencia de ancianos y un hospital psiquiátrico para justificar como locura o demencia sus convicciones ideológicas.

En medio de todo este temporal mediático y vital, Hamsun medita sobre la vejez, los recuerdos de juventud, la sordera, la naturaleza, el aislamiento y su país... como una forma de demostrar ante su gente que no está loco. El plato fuerte es su alegato (que no defensa) ante el tribunal y lo más duro su confusión e impotencia al ser ingresado en el hospital psiquiátrico.

Si os gusta más ir con anteojeras por la vida, está muy bien porque es lo aceptable y lo que está de moda; pero si no os importa que los libros os reten, os pongan frente a vuestros propios prejuicios y os inviten a reflexionar, os lo recomiendo.
Profile Image for Ronald Morton.
408 reviews159 followers
February 24, 2016
This feels like an odd place to start with Knut Hamsum, but somehow I ended up with it from a used book shopping trip from years back when I picked up a stack of Green Integer Press books that someone had just dropped off, and it was only in the last month that I re-visited them and came across this. I've been looking for Growth of the Soil (used) for a while now, and only in the last week finally found a copy of Hunger, but I decided to go ahead and give this a shot.

It's quite good, but frustrating. Written in the years where Hamsun was confined - in a hospital, an old-person's home, a mental hospital, and then the old-person's home again - while awaiting his trial for Treason (for his support of the Nazi's during their occupation of Norway), this is mostly a recounting of what he did during his confinement, along with a meditation on aging. The only mention of his actions during the war come from a transcription of his testimony when his case was finally heard. I suppose it's my own fault for hoping that he would write about his actions during the war - from what I can tell he never did - but I did expect that, and as such I did not like this as much as I probably should have.

But, for what is here, it's fantastic. His use of language and description is incredible, and his passages about aging - especially those that focus on his failing senses - are especially poignant. Due to his actions during the war, it leaves me conflicted to enjoy his stuff, but he is an incredible writer, and I try to approach him from only that angle.
Profile Image for Ruzica.
50 reviews54 followers
October 10, 2015
Probably not the best Knut Hamsun's book to start with, but nonetheless, it's terrific piece of autobiographical prose that gives an insight into Hamsun's late years. One might think Hamsun was demented old man (considering his collaboration with Nazis and fact that he sent his Nobel medal to Goebbels out of gratitude for all the 'good' he's done in Europe), but this book shows he was lucid and very much self aware.
This book is sort of an atonement for all the praise and approval he gave to Nazis during the WW2, meeting Hitler, writing a eulogy for Hitler ("Hitler was a warrior, a warrior for humankind and a preacher of the gospel of justice for all nations. He was a reforming character of the highest order, and his historical fate was that he functioned in a time of exampleless [unequalled] brutality, which in the end felled him.
Thus may the ordinary Western European look at Adolf Hitler. And we, his close followers, bow our heads at his death.")

I don't know, for me it was kind of sad to see pictures of 90 years old, deaf and poor sighted Hamsun sitting in the court, trying to redeem himself. But also in the same time it's crazy to think he didn't know what was happening all over Europe and what nacism actually represented.
Profile Image for Eddie Watkins.
Author 6 books5,471 followers
October 29, 2018
Hamsun proudly proving he could still be Hamsun - following the drift of his mind from current events to childhood memories to an encounter with a barefoot wanderer to being reinvigorated by feminine beauty with humor, concision, and wide-openness - even though he was in his 80's and mostly deaf, going blind, and incarcerated (in a hospital and an old folks' home) for working too closely with the Nazis. There is an inspiring simplicity to the way as an old man he finds ways to tap back into forces of life. Throughout the book he seems intent on disproving the very defense concocted by authorities to save his reputation: that he worked with the Nazis due to permanently impaired mental faculties. I read this partly to understand why he might have done what he did, but it didn't provide much clarity, beyond being a demonstration of his contrary character and fierce independence (that is to say his reasons were interior and personal, egoistic, not due to any outward hatred or racism). It also demonstrates how straight up odd he was to the end - gaining wisdom by watching ants; and expending more energy during this weighty, foreboding, and consequential time of his life writing about shoelaces than Hitler.
Profile Image for Katarina.
26 reviews
May 17, 2019
This book was Hamsun's first novel that I have read, and it left me with an impression that it was maybe an odd one to start with. However, the awareness of the fact that the author was in the ninth decade of his life when he wrote these memoirs got me more curious about his previous works.
Profile Image for Amorfna.
204 reviews71 followers
August 16, 2015
Hamsunovi memoari, njegovo poslednje delo napisano na osnovu dnevnika i beleški pisanih u periodu 1945 - 1949 za vreme zatvoreništva ( uslovno rečeno). Hamsun je 1945 uhapšen te je 4 sledeće godine razrešenje svog sudskog procesa čekao , prvo u bolnici, te staračkom domu pod budnim okom policije a potom i ,sasvim nerazumno - u duševnoj bolnici. Već tada imao je blizu 90 godina i bio je maltene gluv te slabog vida.
Apsolutno must read štivo za Hamsunove verne fanove i one zainteresovane za njegov život ali nikako kao štivo za upoznavanje Hamsunovog književnog opusa.
Profile Image for Maurizio Manco.
Author 6 books94 followers
February 9, 2019
"Ho ricevuto dal cielo tanti doni benedetti, ma li ho rovinati e fatti a pezzi a forza di ragionare. Mi basta toccarlo con la punta delle dita, e il polline cade dal fiore." (p. 114)

"Siamo tutti in viaggio verso un paese che di sicuro raggiungeremo. Fretta non ne abbiamo, e ci fermiamo a raccogliere le casualità che ci capita di trovare per la strada. Solo gli stolti ridono in faccia al cielo e battezzano quelle casualità con nomi altisonanti. Sono più resistenti di noi, e non possiamo evitarli. Cari miei, se sapeste come sono resistenti, e quanto inevitabili." (pp. 161, 162)
Profile Image for Юра Мельник.
317 reviews31 followers
January 8, 2020
Кожен може помилятись. Не варто бути впевненим на сто відсотків у тому, що не перевірено наукою.
Profile Image for Boris.
83 reviews7 followers
December 26, 2018
Ovo je zadnja knjiga koju je Hamsun napisao i to u devedesetoj. Riječ je o autobiografiji u kojoj Hamsun opisuje godine nakon rata 45-e. kada se nalazi usred sudskog procesa gdje mu se sudi zbog nacističkih djelovanja, odnosno podupiranja nacizma kao političke ideje. Iako je riječ o autobiografiji i ispovijednom tekstu, nevjerojatno je koliko Hamsun dobro piše, a i lucidno (ima 90 ej !), a s druge strane nevjerojatno je koliko je loš / naivan političar. U knjizi koja je prevedena "Po zaraslim stazama" on nenametljivo i pomirljivo opravdava svoje postupke i djelovanja tijekom rata, ne govori da je bio u krivu ni u pravu, već da je uvijek htio najbolje za svoju zemlju. Jebiga, Hamsun je, u vezi Hitlera, malo pobrkao lončiće... Vjerujem da bi njegovu konfuziju mnogo elokventnije i s više entuzijazma objasnio moj goodreads friend Vatroslav, pa to ostavljam njemu i izazivam ga da čita Hamsuna! Za kraj moram, ali stvarno moram pohvaliti prevoditelja Mirka Rumca, koji je zadužan i za jedan od najboljih pogovora koje sam čitao. On je na 35 stranica, vrlo zanimljivo, objektivno i savršeno reducirao Hamsunov život i djelo u nekoliko poglavlja. Ovdje ih navodim. 1. Kraj zaraslih staza 2. Hamsunov život i djelo. 3. Hamsun - čin i posljedice. 4. Hamsun i Nietzsche. 5. Hamsun i židovstvo. 6. Hamsun - angloamerikanci i sovjeti. 7. Hamsun i psihijatar dr Langfeldt. 8. Hamsun i knjiga "Po zaraslim stazama". 9. Hamsun u nas. 10. Zaključak i 11. Hamsun i literatura o njemu. Sve to možete naći u izdanju SNL Zagreb, 1986.
Profile Image for Adriana.
326 reviews
April 15, 2017
Empecé este libro porque tenía ganas de leer algo exótico de mi categoría "resto del mundo" y sin buscar mucho me quedé con este por su lindo título. El libro es autobiográfico. A Hamsun, siendo un viejito pero también un premio Nobel, lo procesan por haber colaborado con los nazis durante la ocupación de Noruega. El juicio se va atrasando por años y mientras tanto a él lo van pasando por distintas instituciones: hospital, psiquiátrico, geriátrico, etc, lo cual lo frustra mucho, sobre todo porque no lo reconocen como quien es. De hecho mientras lo leía pensé: re de Leo. Efectivamente, google confirmó, era de Leo.
Son párrafos breves de recuerdos, anécdotas, algunas reflexiones, pero no tantas como esperaba. Salvo por su alegato en el juicio, no hay muchas referencias al tema de si era o no nazi y por qué y cuál era la discusión sobre su persona en el momento, cosa que podría haber sido muy interesante. En definitiva, un gran meh.
Profile Image for Kevin.
14 reviews14 followers
August 22, 2008
I learned from this insightful autobiography that history has no winners, that is only muddled; man can rewrite history anyway he desires in order to demonize his fellow man. This book is a masterpiece of memories, failures, and reconciliation. I love this writer!
Profile Image for Mindaugas.
15 reviews17 followers
March 10, 2016
Gyvenimo saulėlydyje norvegų klasikas Knut Hamsun palaikė nacių režimą ir po WWII Norvegijoje buvo viešai pasmerktas bei nuteistas. Autobiografinė knyga, kurioje rašytojas aprašo pokarinės visuomenės panieką jam, apgailestauja dėl padarytų klaidų. Tai paskutinė K. Hamsun knyga.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,136 reviews33 followers
September 3, 2023
I always try to read Hamsun with an open mind, being well aware of his social and political views. I can understand the struggle of Norwegians to reconcile how one of their finest prose writers – who expressed subtle, sensitive, quiet, thoughtful observations on the human condition in his fiction pre-1930 – could also be an unrepentant and traitorous supporter of the Third Reich.

This book, the last one he wrote, is a fictionalized memoir. There are a handful of passages of great beauty, but there are also moments that I can only describe as shameful, where he attempts to justify his actions, both in reflecting that he is not anti-Semitic (with the eye-rolling explanation “because I have Jewish friends” – almost word-for-word) or when he includes his trial speech, trying to argue, quite inexplicably, that he was only supporting the Reich for the betterment of Norway, even as he tried to suggest that the occupying troops were forcibly compelling him to write. Neither stance strikes me as any more genuine than his weak defense of his prejudices.

As a result, I found it very difficult to have any pity or sympathy for Hamsun as he portrays himself as merely a deaf old man with poor eyesight (“walking-sight”) who was a victim just for his writings. At one point he states, “I have not belonged to the National Socialists … But it may well be that now and then I did write in a Nazi spirit … I stand behind [my writing] now as before and as I always have.”

Yikes. This kind of attempt to play both sides – “I’m just a simple writer” vs. “I stand behind my writing”; “I’m not a Nazi” vs. “I just wrote ‘in the Nazi spirit’” – once again comes off as disingenuous, a concealment of an inner truth under the guise of publicly baring one's soul. He includes encounters that seem quite fictional, including a number of suspiciously sweet and gentle people who are kind to him because “they know who he is” (suggesting that they, too, are sympathetic to National Socialist ideology). Likewise, he paints himself as persecuted because he was sent to a mental institution rather than to prison – where, perhaps, he rightly belonged.

And so I find with Hamsun a writer whose fiction has great merits, even as his personal views are repugnant – certainly neither the first nor the last time encountering this dichotomy in my literary journeys.
Profile Image for Gijs Zandbergen.
786 reviews21 followers
November 24, 2021
De Tweede Wereldoorlog is voorbij en Knut Hamsum wordt gearresteerd wegens collaboratie. De Noorse justitie zit duidelijk in haar maag met de wereldberoemde landgenoot die in 1920 de Nobelprijs voor literatuur won. Hij wordt opgesloten in een bejaardentehuis en onderzocht in een psychiatrische kliniek. Over zijn belevenissen aldaar gaat dit boek. Daarnaast bevat het uitstapjes naar zijn verleden in bijvoorbeeld Amerika. De gedeelten over het heden vond ik interessant, het verband met wat hem in het verleden overkwam, ontging mij. Wel werd ik getroffen door de levenswijsheid van deze vitale hoogbejaarde man, die schrijft zich van geen kwaad bewust te zijn. Moest ook denken aan Stijn Streuvels, nóg een gevierde schrijver, wiens blazoen door de oorlog lelijke krassen opliep.
Profile Image for Peter Schutz.
172 reviews2 followers
September 15, 2022
“And no one told me that what I was writing was wrong, no one in the entire country. I sat in my room alone, thrown exclusively upon my own resources.”
Profile Image for Mark.
219 reviews1 follower
June 19, 2015
'God zegent alles, niet alleen maar het gewone gebabbel van de mensen dat we begrijpen. God zegent ook het zwijgen.'
Een citaat uit Hamsun laatste boek, 'Langs overwoekerde paden'. Hamsun is bijna 85 als het boek begint, in feite een autobiografisch relaas over zijn laatste jaren, nadat hij was gearresteerd vanwege zijn onverholen sympathie voor Hitler en zijn nazi-Duitsland. Al schrijft Hamsun zelf: '...ik schrijf geen biografie. Ik schrijf wat toevallige gebeurtenissen op, zo maar wat herinneringen...'
Hamsun neemt geen afstand van zijn opvattingen, en doet er verder het zwijgen toe. Want God zegent ook het zwijgen.
Hoe moet je zo'n schrijver beoordelen? Was hij overleden toen hij, zeg 71 jaar oud was (wat ook een respectabele leeftijd geweest zou zijn), dan was het 1930 geweest, en had die hele geschiedenis van zijn sympathie voor de nazi's hem nooit achtervolgd. Dan hadden we echt alleen de grote schrijver van boeken als Mysteriën, Pan en Honger gekend.
Want een groot schrijver, dat is Hamsun. Ook in dit boek, zijn laatste, blijkt dat. Beschrijft hij zijn verblijf in de Psychiatrische Kliniek (ja, met hoofdletters, zoals Reve dat later graag zou doen - Langs overwoekerde paden lijkt trouwens op het werk van Reve, zeker diens brievenboeken, maar Hamsuns laatste verscheen min of meer tegelijkertijd met Reves eerste, dus die overeenkomst moet op toeval berusten), dan staat er: 'De tijd werd gemeten in zestig minuten per uur, omdat het niet mogelijk was hem nog preciezer te meten.' Precieus.
Dat deze zelfde man nog een steunbetuiging aan Hitler, daags na diens zelfmoord, in briefvorm liet publiceren in Aftenposten, is moeilijk te verteren. Wat is zijn verdediging (al schrijft Hamsun zelf dat hij zich niet wil verdedigen)? Dat hij hij het deed voor zijn vaderland. Hij zag Noorwegen als vooraanstaand lid van een grote Germaanse gemeenschap. ‘Ze hadden ons voorgespiegeld dat Noorwegen een belangrijke, vooraanstaande plaats zou gaan innemen in de groot-Germaanse wereldgemeenschap in wording…’ In een kostelijke passage blikt hij terug op zijn tijd in Amerika, waar hij tegen een Ierse vriend opsnijdt over Noorwegen, terwijl de Ier zijn eigen Ierland boven alles plaatst. Goed, patriotisme dus, maar daarmee praat je niet alles recht.
Hij was notoir tegen het Britse imperialisme, ook dat dreef hem in de richting van het Germaanse Rijk. Maar om het zelfs tot een ontmoeting met Hitler in Berchtesgaden te laten komen? ‘Het kan best zijn dat ik zo nu en dan geschreven heb in de geest van het nationaal-socialisme. Ik weet het niet, want ik weet niet wat de geest van nationaal-socialisme is,’ noteert Hamsun. ‘Niemand zei me dat het fout was wat ik schreef, niemand in het hele land. Ik zat alleen in mijn kamer, uitsluitend aangewezen op mijzelf. Ik kon niet horen, ik was erg doof…’
‘Over honderd jaar jaar heeft men alles toch weer vergeten. Dan is zelfs deze geëerde rechtbank vergeten, totaal vergeten. Alle namen van hen die hier vandaag aanwezig zijn zijn over honderd jaar van de aardbodem verdwenen en men herinnert ze zich niet meer, ze worden niet meer genoemd. Ons lot zal vergeten zijn.’
Het is de vraag of dat waar is. Noch Hitler, noch het lot van diens vele slachtoffers, noch Hamsun de schrijver zullen licht vergeten worden.
Profile Image for Brian.
150 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2020
"Midsummer Day 1948.
Today the Supreme Court has handed down its verdict, and I end my writing."

After I finished reading On Overgrown Paths, my initial instinct was to say that the book would be a terrible place to first pick up Knut Hamsun. I thought that if a reader didn't know too much about the man, they'd find the book to be a weak apologia by a decent writer whose Nazi sympathies may repulse them to the point that they might never pick up incredible novels like Hunger or Growth of the Soil. Conversely, I was deeply moved from start to finish, and upon further reflection, I now feel that the same could be true for any reader, regardless of how familiar they are with Hamsun's life or his books. To understand why, I first have to explain the reason, theoretically, one would have objections to reading Hamsun's work.

Here's a good place to start:
"Adolf Hitler
I'm not worthy to speak up for Adolf Hitler, and to any sentimental rousing his life and deeds do not invite.
Hitler was a warrior, a warrior for humankind and a preacher of the gospel of justice for all nations. He was a reforming character of the highest order, and his historical fate was that he functioned in a time of [unequaled] brutality, which in the end failed him.
Thus may the ordinary Western European look at Adolf Hitler. And we, his close followers, bow our heads at his death."
Hamsun didn't just write that obituary. He had it published it in a newspaper! OOPS.

For his pro-Nazi writing throughout World War II, Hamsun was tried for treason, but after a psychiatric evaluation determined he had "permanently impaired mental faculties," the charges against him were downgraded and he was only forced to pay a fine, albeit a substantial one. Hamsun disputed the verdict of the psychiatrists, and his release of On Overgrown Paths in 1949, at the age of 90, is as good as any evidence that he might have been right.

So if his mental faculties weren't impaired, what exactly is his defense? Despite a sizable portion of On Overgrown Paths being centered around his life from the end of the war until 1948, he shares very little from his case, but a few of his justifications come through. He says he didn't know about any of the atrocities the Nazis were committing. He says he has Jewish friends (yeesh). He says that all he wanted was to raise Norway's standing in the world, that any particularly flowery praise of Germany came out only as a result of the way it was necessary to frame the occupiers of his homeland. He says he wrote more, so much more, to German officials in Norway and even to Hitler himself to save the lives of Norwegians held as political prisoners. And he says, truthfully, that he was deaf and old, with limited access to the outside world.

That's...just not good enough, is it?

Regardless, Hamsun didn't even intend it to exonerate him, saying afterwards that all that information, "has not been intended as any defense on my part." Fine by me. If you don't want to defend yourself, Knut, I certainly won't do it for you.

So if he's not writing about the most significant parts of his life at the time, and not all of the book is comprised of fun little stories involving an Austrian baker in America or a man who walks barefoot with his shoes around his neck, then it might seem like there wouldn't be much left to say. Hamsun, though, can't help but be evocative, no matter the subject. He writes a great deal about aging. He's in his mid to upper 80s as he's writing. His hearing is almost completely gone. His eyesight is slowly fading. He's had multiple brain hemorrhages and suffers from mild aphasia. He's not mentally impaired, and he can walk incredibly well for his age, but nothing else seems to be right. And even though he isn't really complaining, he still makes it hurt.

This, then, is a perfect example of how Hamsun the writer is so good that he makes Hamsun the person irrelevant. So much of On Overgrown Paths is tragic, but that isn't because Hamsun is old and decrepit. It's heartbreaking because man becomes old and decrepit, and that reality can be overwhelming when you're engulfed in it. It just so happens that Hamsun is an incredible writer who could, just by plainly describing his experiences, elicit profound sympathy for how his life, and every life, winds to a close.

Funnily enough, Hamsun wouldn't care much for that sympathy. The way he saw things, "We are all of us on a journey to a land where we will arrive soon enough. We are in no hurry, we take the chance occurrences in stride." And what he found most important to remember about the world:
"that so few things last. That even dynasties give way. That even what is grandiose falls some day. There is no pessimism in this thought or reflection, only a recognition of how non-stagnant, how dynamic life is. Everything is in motion, bubbling over with vitality, up and down and to all sides; when one thing collapses something else rises, looks large in the world for a moment and dies."
All that may be true, but it isn't quite as true as he'd like it to be.

While there's certainly plenty of wisdom in his reflections on the impermanence of the universe, Hamsun vastly underestimated the extent of his own legacy, for better and for worse. In the courtroom during his trial, he said to all present about the charges against him:
"In a hundred years it will all be forgotten. Then even this honorable court will be forgotten, totally forgotten. In a hundred years the names of all those present here today will have been obliterated from the face of the earth and be no more remembered, no more mentioned. Our fates will have been forgotten."
Not you, Knut. You're not getting off that easily. The world doesn't frequently forget a Nazi, and as long as there are books, there will be people around to argue about yours.

I've always loved Hamsun's work, as evidenced by the fact that I read one of his novels every year at the end of April to celebrate the birthday of his late, great translator Sverre Lyngstad (Happy 98th, buddy!), so I wasn't shocked that I connected with On Overgrown Paths. It made me furious with who he was, devastated by what he became, yet still overflowing with gratitude for what he produced. That's the Hamsun in me, tons of extreme emotions all at once. It's a mess the likes of which the narrator from Hunger, that young man so much like the enigmatic, ridiculous, unforgivable, unforgettable author that created him, might have been proud.
4 reviews
October 10, 2021
Oddly beautiful. A wistful distillation of earlier Hamsun. The apologia thing is a red herring. It is elusive, if it’s there at all. This in itself is redolent of earlier works, where some big important thing is alluded to but not explained.

The overgrown pathways are surely those synaptic routes that the young writer beat down in his search for that new way of writing for which he’s justly celebrated.

The scenes from the old people’s home seem almost contemporary. They form a poignant coda to all the vivacity and mental excitement of the earlier books. But they also carry with them as an unbroken thread the memory of being a starving young man sitting on a bench in Oslo, mind in turmoil.
Profile Image for La Tammina.
62 reviews15 followers
November 17, 2019
"Il tempo passa, è tornata la neve, l'inverno. E qui mi fermo. Nessuno può sapere quanto sia stato qui a riflettere, senza avanzare d'un passo. Pensavo di saper dire una parola allo stesso tempo precisa e impareggiabile a proposito dell'inverno e della neve, ma ho fallito. Fa lo stesso. Una mattina mi sono svegliato, ho trovato la neve e l'inverno: è tutto. Ma non è tutto, ahimé. Neve e inverno mi fanno tanto male."
Profile Image for Sir Badgerly.
115 reviews
September 8, 2023
It is funny because Hamsun says he is terrible with poetry yet this book was beautifully poetic. But I understand what he means, poetry literally is not his thing but rather prose.

What stunned me about this book is that Hamsun was 90 years old and yet his narrative voice was 80% that of a child, save the 20% when he reflected on death or being old. But even in his reflections of death and elderliness, he was carefree like a child. Such a free spirit. I rather envy his life, though not that of his time of writing this book - his ridiculous internment for treason, when I'd say those who fled were more treasonous. But still, for being interned in Norway after WWII the internment was not so bad, except for the mental hospital part which really seems to have took a lot out of him.

Otherwise, in his old age being interned he acted much like a child being scolded by stupid, senseless adults. Or so he made it feel that way. Though my sympathies are clearly with him on the matter of not wanting young men to die fighting against Germany for the Brits essentially. And he had a right to his view, but smug self-righteous liberals who want to punish non-liberals don't seem to get that.

The only reason this is not 5 stars is because of the abrupt ending. He ended it as soon as he was sentenced, despite going on to live freely for a few more years - dying at 93. What a long life he lived and how healthy for his age. Those particular Scandinavian genes...my Nana is the same, quite well at 94, only quit driving last year.

In this book, I really got a feel for the Norwegian psyche. Before I could never really understand it. Though understood now, it is still rather alien to me despite being some 30-40 percent Swedish/Norwegian, for alas I am an American mutt without any real solid cultural heritage - quite a shame! There is something rather cool, sober and jocular about the Norwegian. Like Russians but more sober, less cold, less blunt, more quiet/passive in nature yet less passive aggressive in their joking manner. Of course, these places have changed very much since Hamsun's time.

Speaking of time, Hamsun lived through very interesting times (1859-1952) and places. His young adulthood spent working in America for example! Perhaps a better time, even though his life encompassed the American Civil War, the Russian Revolution and 2 World Wars - he lived in Norway which didn't get the worst of the 2 Unnecessarily Horrible Wars in Europe. Those two wars plus the civil and revolution in my opinion were very responsible for changing the times so much for the worse though! So while too young and distant to have been effected directly by the Civil War when it happened, he felt it afterward while in America and that war echoed throughout the world through cause and effect.

He lived during some very interesting times indeed, but so do we...the difference is that at least humanity survived those times - we may not - at least not in any recognizable form. But I go on a tangent that is many essays long to explain why, and the reasons are unfortunately not anything in the mathematical category as "given" to the common person of today or things would not be so dire; it's designed by the few "elite" dingleberries to be that way.

Anyway, I talk about such things because this book had the effect on me of bringing up that deep feeling of nostalgia for times past, yet also seeing how world events are so out of our control, that we are to a large degree at the mercy and at once a product of our time and place. One thing I wish I had these days, that Hamsun had in healthy proportion - that is not too much but just small enough to be effective as an antidote to life, is faith in an afterlife. He wasn't very specific about it or religious much at all, yet he felt he was going to Heaven afterwards. I wish I could believe this as I used to. It's not that I don't think I'm not going somewhere afterwards, it's that I don't know whether or not at all and even if I did I wouldn't know where. Heaven? Hell? Limbo? Reincarnation? Nothingness? Trapped eternally in our own mind-stuff? Becoming one with everything in some pantheistic way? Like a drop of water re-entering the ocean? I just don't know, because I have read about too many religions and don't see why the few that make sense to me should have more merit than the others that make sense, or even more merit than atheism! I just don't know! At all. The more I have learned about religions the more I don't know. Yet Hamsun did, all without being religious much at all, how lucky of him - none of the trappings of religion but all the benefits of certainty. I also envy that he had a large family and a people to call his own. Liberalism has almost all but destroyed such certainties, large family and culture - especially in America.

I think this is the kind of book one should read, along with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky if one wants to get better at writing. Not that this review reflects that or anything, I didn't sleep last night because I HAD to finish this book. So concentration is not really there, but my ponderous, rambling nature sure is. This I attribute somewhat to Hamsun's words upon me. I'll have to read more of him..
Profile Image for Nenad Pavlović.
Author 18 books29 followers
February 9, 2022
Not much content here, but it does provide a nice insight into the last days, thoughts and feelings of this great writer, as well as his attitude towards the accusations he faced.
21 reviews
June 12, 2023
Poslednja knjiga Knuta Hamsuna, objavljena 1949. godine.
Zapravo njegov licni dnevnik koji je poceo da vodi od trenutka kad je optuzen za "otvorenu podrsku nacizmu tokom drugog svetskog rata".
Ovom knjigom Hamsun je dao odgovor, ispricao svoju stranu price, opisao kroz sta je prolazio i u bolnici, potom starackom domu i na kraju psihijatriskoj bolnici gde su vlasti pokusale da utvrde da li je Knut bio "umanjenih mentalnih sposobnosti", odnosno kako on kaze "pokusalo je da se utvrdi da JESAM umno bolestan".

Kako i sam kaze :" ja pisem o sitnicama" i to je ono sto zapravo dominira ovom knjigom. Citanje ovih stranica bilo je kao povratak kuci. Hamsun ostaje svoj, dosledan sebi i prepoznatljivim stilom opisuje ljude, predele oko sebe i ujedno se priseca prica iz svog zivota koje ovu knjigu dodatno obogacuju i otkrivaju nam vise, mnogo vise o njemu samom.

S obzirom da je imao gotovo 90 godina kada ju je pisao, kroz pricu se proplicu sve teskoce koje oseca osoba koja je gotovo potpuno gluva, koja polako gubi vid i otezano se krece, ali je i vise nego jasno da je mentalno i u dusi to isti onaj mladi Knut koji odlazi u Ameriku, radi razne poslove da bi preziveo i duboko tuguje za Norveskom, njenom raskosnom prirodom, fjordovima i zelenilom.

Kada smo nekog voleli ili duboko cenili, neminovno se u nama javlja potreba da znamo sta je u posldnjim trenucima zivota mislio, cega se secao, cemu se nadao...

Knut je i to nama velikodusno ispricao i velika je cast sto imamo tu privilegiju da ispratimo i pocetak i kraj jedne tako velike istorijske licnosti, rekla bih cak genija.

Zanimljivost je da je od pocetka sudjenja Knut i njegova porodica izgubila sve sto je imala i da kada je ova knjiga objavljena u Norveskoj, citav tiraz je rasprodat za JEDAN DAN sto je omogucilo Hamsunovoj porodici da otkupi nazad svoju kucu.

Na drugoj strani je poslednji deo njegovog obracanja sudu koje je, po mom misljenju, jasno objasnjenje sta znaci i koliko je vazno biti dosledan sebi.
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