Hamsun under eastern eyes.

In this essay I discuss the writings of and on Knut Hamsun, especially those relating to the «problematic Hamsun» – the writer and Nazi politician – focusing on his negative attitudes to modernity. These attitudes show some affinity with ideological reflexes concerning modernity, nature and identity in contemporary Norway, creating some difficulties for repudiating Hamsun the Nazi whilst embracing his views of the «natural» life in the North. Hamsun is something of an «orientalist» in his travelogue In Adventure-Land (1903) but his enthusiasm for the oriental virtues he discovers in the Caucasus and Turkey triggers his criticism of European modernity – and prepares the «Borealism» of his epic novels from 1915 and onwards, which postulate northern rural life as more natural than southern city life. Hamsun, as seen through my Swedish eyes – i.e. from the east – demonstrates classical antinomies between life and literature, literature and ideology, but also a Norwegian issue concerning nature and modernity.

Keywords: Hamsun, nationalism, orientalism, «borealism»