The uninfluences of Knut Hamsun

The Guardian yesterday had an article about Knut Hamsun, in which he was praised not merely as

a sort of proto-Kafka (who’d have thought there was such a thing, when Kafka was so original himself) but as a writer who

“unlike

virtually every other writer who has ever lived … seems to have emerged fully formed, free from any definable literary tradition, or even overt

influences.”

Well, you know we enjoy these kind of literary games, so (with Dostoevsky and Strindberg already in mind) we thought

we’d do a little investigation. – Now, it didn’t take us long to find some indication that Hamsun himself had a much clearer idea of his influences

(though, to be fair, we do have access to a lot of databases to look up things like this). Here’s Hamsun quoted in 1929, thinking back to his early

days:

“There is perhaps nobody who has been more influenced than I. I am no man of stone, I am impressionable, excitable, hysterical

some might think; perhaps I have learnt from all those authors I have read, how should I know! But in my younger days, none made such an impression on

me as Dostoievski, Nietzsche and Strindberg.”

He also appears to have been heavily influenced by Schopenhauer and Eduard von

Hartmann.

Only later in his life, the article goes on to say, did he begin

“writing epics more in the tradition of writers such

as Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy”

– which is funny because, when an excerpt from his very first novel Hunger was brought out in the Danish

journal Ny Jord in 1888, the one writer in particular that he was compared to was – Dostoyevsky.

To be honest, we’d never thought of

not reading Hamsun because he was a Nazi. (Well, the man liked Nietzsche, what do you expect!?). – Our favourite Hamsun is Mysteries (which is

apparently the most Nietzschean – or so I read). Maybe we are Nazis too. We also like Ernst Juenger; – but we don’t much like Heidegger.

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