My Writing

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Pan" by Knut Hamsun

I liked this book. It is subtitled "From the Papers of Lieutenant Thomas Glahn," and Thomas is the narrator throughout the book until an addendum of sorts, or an unusual additional section at the end, which is purportedly a document written by someone who knew Glahn. The main narrative line or plot involves Thomas' relationship with a woman named Edvarda. I loved the parts with Edvarda. She seemed like an interesting and unpredictable character. They live in a rural part of Norway, and Thomas spends a lot of time alone, often walking through the woods or down roads alone until he runs into other people. There are a lot of interesting descriptions of nature, and the book felt calming and meditative to me in certain sections.

The prose seemed concise and poetic. I liked how the form, the shape, of the chapters and paragraphs seemed creative and intuitive. I also liked how the narrator switched freely between the past tense and the present tense, as if reliving or heightening the sensation of moments that occurred in the past. What was perhaps most intriguing to me about the book was the juxtaposition of the natural imagery and romantic-seeming moments with a very subtle feeling of uncertainty and menace. The section at the end, narrated by someone else, complicates the preceding narrative and casts doubt on the nature of Thomas Glahn. I definitely want to read more books by Hamsun.

"At this moment someone came quickly toward us, everyone saw her, it was Edvarda. She comes straight up to me, says a few words and falls on my neck---she clasps her arms around my neck and kisses me on the lips again and again. She says something each time, but I can't hear what it is. I couldn't understand the whole thing, my heart had stopped, I just noticed the burning look in her eyes. When she let go of me, her little bosom rose and fell. There she stood, lingering, with her dusky face and neck, tall and slim, with flashing eyes, completely reckless; everyone was staring at her. For the second time I was thrilled by her dark eyebrows, which rose in a high curve on her forehead.

But good God, the girl had kissed me in front of everybody!

'What is it, Miss Edvarda?' I asked, and I hear my blood throbbing, hear it as it were from my throat, it prevents me from speaking clearly.

'Oh, nothing,' she answers. 'I just felt like it. It doesn't matter.'"


  1. I like it when he literally shoots himself in the foot. Pretty much a perfect book.

    You should read Mysteries and Hunger and maybe Victoria. After that Knut Hamsun started writing more 'epic' stories. I read 'The Ring is Closed' recently, which he wrote when he was like 76. It was good, but not great like Pan and Mysteries.

  2. Thanks, Giles. Yeah, that is very interesting how the shooting is presented.

    I've already read Hunger, and I definitely want to read Mysteries next. Cool.

  3. Growth of the Soil is probably my favorite by him. It's devastating in certain points---and completely hard to relate to in such a transformed society that we live in today. But he speaks of a time where if you wanted something you built it. And if you wanted to go somewhere you walked there. It's marvelous---Hunger is definitely a beautiful read too.