Monday, December 15, 2008

Knut Hamsun - "Growth Of The Soil" (book review)

Let me tell you about a book which is a monument to not giving a fuck about bullshit. This book is "Growth Of The Soil", and it was written by Knut Hamsun. In this book, a man named Isak goes through life not giving a fuck about anyone else past a certain degree of fuck-giving. The result of this is that his life is awesome.

At first, Isak is alone. Not a word is mentioned as to where he came from, or why he came. He has simply wandered into the woods. Once there, he discovers a plot of land and settles in, working it over to make it his own. He eventually takes a wife, Ingrid, and they have two sons. She is a good wife, but alas, she gets caught up in trivial matters soon enough. Isak lets it happen and does not get involved. Eventually the matters concerning his wife get very serious, even involving jail time. The incarceration is the result of her own actions, and as such, Isak does not give too much of a fuck. Of course he's sad to see his wife get locked up for some time, but there was nothing he could do about it, so why get bent on it? He simply waits for her return and gives her the same unconditional Isak as before.

Before you think "why do I want to read a book about an asshole", let me tell you that for all of his simplicity and non-fuck-giving for the matters of others, I have never read a book so rife with love and heart of the least nauseating kind. Isak's lack of bother with the troubles of others allows him take great care of his land, his home, his wife, and his children. He works to the bone all year round, deals only with good people, and makes basically zero rash decisions in the process. He is able to say to his family "Do what you will, and deal with it. But know that before, during, and after any hardships, my love and your home will always be here for you in perfect condition." This may not seem to be the manliest of sentiments, but reading the book will prove that said sentiment is delivered in as masculine a fashion as is found in any big-tough-guy story.

At 435 pages, it is not the quickest of reads. Luckily, Hamsun's style of writing has a quick yet pastoral pace about it, making the pages fly by in what seems to be no time. The beauty in the writing is not of that obvious kind which has the tendency to make one gag to death, and yet somehow it cannot be missed by the reader in any way. To quote a line from H.G. Wells' review on the back cover, 'It is wholly beautiful; it is saturated with wisdom and humor and tenderness'.

Well said, H. baby.

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