Wednesday 18 August 2021

Book Review: Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun (Classics)

Title: Growth of the Soil
Author: Knut Hamsun
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 2007 (1917)
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classics
Source: Gift

The epic novel of man and nature that won its author the Nobel Prize in Literature, in the first new English translation in more than ninety years

When it was first published in 1917,
Growth of the Soil was immediately recognized as a masterpiece. More than one-hundred years later it still remains a transporting literary experience. In the story of Isak, who leaves his village to clear a homestead and raise a family amid the untilled tracts of the Norwegian back country, Knut Hamsun evokes the elemental bond between humans and the land. Newly translated by the acclaimed Hamsun scholar Sverre Lyngstad, Hamsun's novel is a work of preternatural calm, stern beauty, and biblical power--and the crowning achievement of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.


Hamsun's Growth of the Soil is a quiet book in many ways. There is a plot there, but it's not action-packed and mainly centres on Isak's communion with the land he's claimed and with which he forms a bond that lasts his entire life. It's about living at one with nature against the encroachment of the modern world and it made compelling reading despite its gently plodding pace. It has some similarities with Laxness' Independent People, yet approaches the topic from a slightly different angle. If you like Laxness' writing, though, the chances are you will enjoy this work too. It gets 4.5 stars from me.

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