Growth of the Soil Paperback
by Knut Hamsun
Part of the Condor Books series
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 435 pages
- Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd
- Publication Date: 27/04/1989
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780285648784
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Review by DavidHenry
Growth of the Soil has many virtues. The novel is endearing yet couragous enough to deal with subject-matter that is both substantial and controversial. Similarly, Hamsun's skills of characterisation and his descriptive style are sufficient to evince an emotional reponse from the reader at certain junctures, for example, Inger's act of infanticaide and its consequences, and Isak's realisation that his strength is in decline. The prose style is both at tines sharp and clever. The dialogue, particularly in the first half of the novel, is quite charmingly idiomatic; Isak's truncated vocabulary appears to mirror his status as a biblical Adam figure. Hamsun's descriptive style contributes toward an evocative account of his rural native Norway, whilst the novel's shifts in perspective and brief moments of rumination are reminiscent of Steinbeck at his most powerful. Isak's agrarian preoccupations binds indelibly the progress of the novel to the passing seasons, creating an impression of time not any less efficacious than that achieved in another, in some ways similar epic; One Hundred Years of Solitude. But Hamsun verges on didacticism. The reader is pushed relentlessly toward the Rousseauian-sounding idea that the self-reliant exploiter of the soil, in this case Isak, is somehow morally superior, and the related view that the city - urban living - leads to moral decay and a rather superficial, meaningless state of existence. Take, for example, the difference in the way Hamsun chooses to depict Inger's and Barbro's attitude towards their respective acts of infantiside. The former is much more sympathetic, whereas Barbro is depicted as being callously indifferent. Barbro has, of course, been infected by the vast metropolis that was nineteenth century Bergen. Overall, it's a good book. But no one likes being preached to, especially by someone with ideological sympathies as dubious as Hamsun's.In regard to this edition: the typeface is too bold making the text difficult to read. The cover picture's quite nice though.