|Knut Hamsun was born in Vaga in Gudbrandsdalen in 1859. In 1962 his family moved to Hamaroy in Nordland, where his father worked the small Hamsund farm.
At the age of 14, Hamsun broke away from Hamaroy and lived a wandering, unsettled life until 1911. He soon tried his hand at writing. When he was twenty, he walked into the Gyldendal publishing company in Copenhagen with the manuscript for his novel, Frida. It was immediately refused and a disappointed Hamsun left for Kristiania. Here his life was characterised by hunger and extreme poverty and this, combined with later visits to Kristiania, created
the basis for his breakthrough novel, Hunger (1890). This was followed in 1894 by another novel, Pan, which was read at the time as a neo-romantic gospel of nature, and with this came Hamsun's definitive breakthrough.
In 1898, he married Bergljot Goepfert and started writing Victoria, one of the strongest and most beautiful love stories in Norwegian literature. In time, he decides he wants to settle down, be a farmer and return to North Norway. He realises this wish in 1911. His marriage to Bergljot had been dissolved in 1908 and, with his new, 22-year younger wife, Marie, he moves to Skogheim farm on Hamaroy. They return south again in 1917 and make their home at Norholm near Grimstad, where Hamsun stays for the rest of his life. In his rural novel Growth of the Soil (1917), Hamsun describes the satisfaction of living and working in harmony with nature. For this tribute to the farmer, written in Old Testament style, Hamsun received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920.
During the German occupation of Norway, Hamsun wrote a number of newspaper articles supporting the occupying forces and Quisling. In 1943, he visited Joseph Goebbels, the German propaganda minister, and later he met Hitler. After the liberation of Norway in 1945, a court-appointed psychiatrist concluded that Hamsun had permanently impaired mental faculties. The authorities brought a civil action against him and in 1948 he was ordered to pay NOK 425,000 to the Norwegian State for his close connection with the Norwegian Nazi Party.
In 1949, he published a book entitled On Overgrown Paths. This is an apologia, but it also provides insight into his life as an old man. Hamsun's actions during the war were a great disappointment to the Norwegian people, but it is generally agreed that he must be regarded as one of Norway's greatest authors. Knut Hamsun died in 1952 aged 92.