Knut Hamsun in Grimstad

At 59 years old, Knut Hamsun purchased the farm Nørholm, an old country estate in the municipality of Eide, today part of Grimstad. This was in 1918, the year after Growth of the Soil was published. He remained at Nørholm until his death in 1952. The price of the farm was high: NOK 220 000

According to the Hamsun biographer Ingar Sletten Kolloen, the amount was equivalent to the total annual salary of all 58 elementary school teachers in the five surrounding villages. Hamsun was an affluent author.

The whole family moved into a run-down manor house. Not before long, the building of accommodation for the estate manager was well underway. Then a barn was added. In 1920, Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the money was welcome considering the extensive renovation work at the farm. When completed, the property was a model farm in which Hamsun had invested large amounts - but it never made a profit.

In the early 1920s, Hamsun had a cottage erected a few minutes’ walk from the main building. This was turned into his workshop, with desk and library. He was, in principle, not to be disturbed, but he had four children who often came to say hello.

Utenfor biblioteket står bysten av Knut Hamsun utført av Roald Olsson. Den er en gave fra barnebarnet, Anne Marie Thurmann-Moe, og ble avduket i Hasmun-året 2009.
Utenfor biblioteket står bysten av Knut Hamsun utført av Roald Olsson. Den er en gave fra barnebarnet, Anne Marie Thurmann-Moe, og ble avduket i Hasmun-året 2009. Foto: Simen Samuelsen.

Hamsun made the money he needed from his writing.  A number of his books were written at Nørholm: The Women at the Pump (1920), Chapter The Last (1923), Vagabonds (1927), August (1930), The Road Leads On (1933), The Ring is Closed (1936), On Overgrown Paths (1949).

When the war started in 1940, Hamsun helped spread German propaganda. It has also been questioned whether he was a member of the Norwegian fascist party National Samling. When the war ended, he was put under house arrest, and then detained at the old hospital in Grimstad before he was moved to a nursery home in Landvik. In October 1945, he was admitted to Oslo psychiatric clinic where he was assessed by the psychiatrists Langfeldt and Ødegård. The two specialists concluded that Hamsun had impaired mental faculties. As a result, the Director General of Public Prosecution did not charge him with treason, but the state took civil action against him claiming that Hamsun had been a member of Nasjonal Samling. In 1948, Hamsun was sentenced to pay NOK 325 000 in compensation. The year after, he published his last book, On Overgrown Paths, where he describes the period from the arrest and until his Supreme Court sentencing.

This was a sad finale for Hamsun.  When he died in 1952, he was marginalised in the local community as well as in a national context.