2 June

2 June 1920

2 Portland Villas, Hampstead - London

It is difficult to account for the fact that Growth of the Soil, the latest novel by the famous Norwegian writer, is only the second of his works to be translated into English. Knut Hamsun is no longer young; he has fulfilled his early promise and his reputation is assured and yet, except for Shallow Soil, which was published some years ago, we have had nothing but the echo of his fame to feed upon. Perhaps this is not wholly lamentable. How often we find ourselves wishing that we had the books of some writer we treasure to read for the first time, and if the novel before us is typical of Knut Hamsun's work - as we have every reason to believe it is - there is a feast before us. Here, at least, are four hundred and six pages of small type excellently translated, upon which we congratulate the Norwegian publishers and the translator, whose name does not appear.
If Growth of the Soil can be said to have any plot at all - any story - it is the very ancient one of man's attempt to live in fellowship with Nature. It is a trite saying when we are faced with a book which does renew for us the wonder and the thrill of that attempt that never was there a time when its message was more needed. But solitude is no cure for sorrow, and virgin country will not make anyone forget the desolation he has seen. Such a life is only possible for a man like the hero, Isak, a man who has known no other and can imagine none. Nevertheless, there remains in the hearts of nearly all of us an infinite delight in reading of how the track was made, the bush felled, the log hut built, so snug and warm with its great chimney and little door, and of how there were animals to be driven to the long pastures, goats and sheep and a red and white cow. [Review of Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun, Athenaeum, 11 June 1920]