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On Overgrown Paths
Translated from the Norwegian with Notes by Sverre Lyngstad
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On Overgrown Paths
Green Integer Series No.: 22
ISBN: 1-892295-10-5, Pages: 231
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Author winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
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 traitoras 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 recent film Hamsun.
THE REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY FICTION, pp. 178-179 (Summer 2000)
by Thomas Hove
This swan-song memoir is the latest of Sverre Lyngstad's admirable
of Hamsun's work into English, all of which vividly convey both the rawness
and the lyricism of Hamsun's style and the abrupt, random shifts of his
narrator's moods. On Overgrown Paths documents the events and memories
of Hamsun's life during his 1945-1948 confinement and trial for his Nazi
affiliations in World War II. Except for some brief details of his arrest
and trial, Hamsun commeants very little on the political climate of Norway's
He does, however, include a transcript of his defense
speech, which is a fascinating account of the insoluble conflict of obli-
gations he faced and a muted challenge to his accusers' self-exulpatory
scapegoating impulses. But most of this memoir dispenses with self-
vindication and instead reads like one of Hamsun's early novels, meander-
ing through the random everyday events of his life: encounters (sometimes
politically charged, sometimes not) with ordinary Norwegians; meditations
on nature's beauty; bittersweet memories of youthful friendship and
romance; and, above all, world-weary assessments of life, chance, and
the individual's place in history.
Hamsun constantly notes that,
no matter what happens in the political sphere, the ultimate problem
of existence is one's private rendezvous with death. Whether or not
we feel we can judge Hamsun's moral and political failings, or excuse
his indirect complicity with the Holocaust, or accept his peculiar
combination of nationalism and fatalism, this memoir, like act 5 of
Hamlet or the philosophy of Schopenhauer, is the disturbingly
conforting testament of a man who is utterly fed up with existence
but has learned to accept its inevitable disappointments and in-
justices. "But let us not turn tragical in our disappointment,"
he says in a variety of ways. "The whole thing isn't worth that
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