Back to the Classics 2018, Book reviews, The Classics Club

Look Back on Happiness

The title is strange, the book is different, the author is a mystery, but I couldn’t help but loving my experience reading it. It’s short, 180 pages my Kindle says.

I met Knut Hamsun reading a book reviews blog that reviewed his more well known title, Hunger. Then I found out he’s also a Noble prize for literature, 1920, for his title Growth of the Soil. And I know those who have no interest on Nobel prize authors.

Further down, I read he was a Nazi. Read this article though, and you’ll see why that should not deter us from reading his books. And to say he was a Nazi, would be very incomplete and simplistic. There’s also the fact that he did not have much schooling, that he was a self taught man. He had a very unique style, -maybe since he was unscathed by the intellectuals of the times, or the writers of the time. He lived long and was prolific.

Many times, an author’s life and beliefs can draw us close to his books, or repel us from them. In this particular instance, there’s much to ponder in this book, ideas, -some of them alien to me, others awake affinity, none can be ignored. Right after reading a book by a Swedish author of today,  I met this Norwegian author of a century ago. (Not that they are more alike than an Italian and a Spaniard author would be, but they are both Nordic, foreign to me, exotic.) Knut Hamsun got my attention with this opening,

“I have gone to the forest. Not because I am offended about anything, or very unhappy about men’s evil ways: but since the forest will not come to me, I must go to it.”

His style is a mix of a memoir, story telling, psychological ruminations, descriptions. He talks to us about himself, and what it means to him to be a writer who now enjoys certain prestige. He writes about old age, about modern Norway. He addresses the reader, and the Modern Spirit of Norway too.

I have many highlighted notes. I leave you with a few more and hopefully you pick up a book by him and read it. If you do so, or have done so, don’t forget to let me know what you think of him.

“Experience shows that when culture spreads, it grows thin and colorless.”

“But a person with character goes his own way up to a point, even if the majority go a different way.”

“Life is only a loan, and I am grateful for the loan.”

3 thoughts on “Look Back on Happiness”

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