Daily Bookshot: Hamsun’s Ring

Hamsun’s Ring, originally uploaded by Robert Burdock.

Those who follow RobAroundBooks may remember Totally Knut, my biggest reading project that never was last year. Despite careful and meticulous planning of the entire project – which was being launched in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Knut Hamsun’s birth – I never got around to following through on the reading project, which is something I’ve regretted ever since. So much so, that in one of my posts at the start of this year, I said that my Totally Knut project hadn’t been forgotten, and that I was planning on finally getting it underway in the Spring.

Well, with April upon us, around about now would probably be a good time to start Totally Knut, especially when an added incentive arrived through the door a few days ago, in the shape of the latest Hamsun-flavoured title to be published by Souvenir Press, The Ring is Closed, the subject of today’s Daily Bookshot.

Originally published in 1936, The Ring is Closed is the last major work to be written by Knut Hamsun, and this new edition from Souvenir Press – which thankfully comes with the same Munch-flavoured artwork that adorns all other titles in the series – not only marks the first new English translation since 1937 (trans. Robert Ferguson), but it also stands as the first UK-published edition of the novel. For those unfamiliar with the story (like me :)), here’s the synopsis:

The Ring is Closed combines a central character as iconoclastic as that of Hunger with an evocation of the limitations of small-town life to equal Mysteries. Abel is the only son of a miserly lighthouse-keeper, after falling in love he leaves his life in a village in southern Norway and travels around the United States. He returns home, haunted by secret crimes, and now his only ambition is to love, on the the barest of necessities, without desire or ambition. Abel allows all opportunities for another life – an inheritance, employment, relationships – to slip away while Hamsun questions what is the true meaning of work and life.

So that’s the blurb for the novel, and I can tell you that I’m delighted to have it in my hands. The Ring is Closed is one of the few novels of Hamsun that I was unable to source when I originally put my Hamsun reading list together (the others are Benoni (1908), Rosa (1908), The Last Joy (1912), Children of the Age (1913), Segelfos Town (1915), The Last Chapter (1923), August (1930)), so to be able to add this one to my list now is a real boost for me. I look forward to getting to it.

So aside from using today’s Daily Bookshot to bring to your attention this new and significant Hamsun translation, I also want to use this post to announce that my Totally Knut reading project is now officially under way.

I will begin this week by refamiliarising myself with Ingar Sletten Kolloen’s most excellent biography, Knut Hamsun: Dreamer and Dissenter (Yale University Press), before moving on to the reading of Hamsun’s works in chronological order. Expect to see a dedicated ‘hub page’ for the reading project going up on RobAroundBooks later in the week, but for now you can catch up with all of the details for the project (including a rundown of the other Hamsun titles shown in this bookshot which are published by Souvenir Press ), on the original announcement page.

So fellow reader how familiar with Knut Hamsun are you? Have you read any of his books? What do you think of him as a writer? Perhaps you steer away from him because of his infamous behaviour in later life? Whether good or bad I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Souvenir Press | 22 April 2010 | £12.99 | PAPERBACK | 316 PP | ISBN: 9780285638686

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. I’ve read Hamsun’s more famous works, Hunger, Mysteries, Pan, Victoria and Growth of the Soil. I loved the sad and dreamy universe in Mysteries, Pan and Victoria, though each of them have their own distinct flavor. I didn’t know how to take Growth of the Soil at first, being more familiar with the style of his other novels.

    There is something interesting about Hamsun for me, it comes in a blend of the dreamy perception he creates of reality, his life and history and his mastery of language and ideas. His focus leaned a little to the Norwegian nationalist side so the world is definitely tinted with those colours, and in a lot of ways they can be beautiful and wonderful colours. I intend to read more of Hamsun, though his books can be a little obscure and difficult to come upon. I know that he wrote some more cosmopolitan works, I’m interested in seeing his take on that side of things.

    It was an interesting history at the end of Hamsun’s life, the way he got involved with World War 2 politics. It seems that his ideas were a little misfounded. While I think there is intent or even room to clear him of affiliations with the atrocities of the Nazi party, the plea of ignorance in a man of study and learning, who used his influence, talents and ideology to sway the people, is a little weak. It’s an interesting story, and reflection on talent, genius as well as human emotion and fallibility.