3 June

3 June 1920

2 Portland Villas, Hampstead - London

In the opening chapter of Growth of the Soil, Knut Hamsun gives us the picture of an immense wild landscape, and there is a track running through it, and we spy a man walking towards the north carrying a sack. [Quotation from the novel]
The man is Isak. It is extraordinary, how, while we follow him in his search for the land he wants, the author gives us the man. His slowness and simplicity, his immense strength and determination, even his external appearance, short, sturdy, with a red beard sticking out, and a frown that is not anger, are as familiar as if we had known him in our childhood. It is, indeed, very much as though we were allowed to hold him by the hand and go with him everywhere. The place is found; the hut is built, and a woman called Inger comes from over the hills and lives with him. Gradually, but deeply and largely, their life grows and expands. We are taken into it and nothing is allowed to escape us, and just as we accepted Isak so everything seems to fall into place without question. Growth of the Soil is one of those few novels in which we seem to escape from ourselves and to take an invisible part. We suddenly find to our joy that we are walking into the book as Alice walked into the looking-glass and the author's country is ours. It is wonderfully rich, satisfying country, and of all those who dwell in it, gathered round the figures of Isak and Inger, there is not one who does not live. At the end Isak is an old man and his life is ebbing, but the glow, the warmth of the book seems to linger. We feel, as we feel with all great novels, that nothing is over. [Review of Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun, Athenaeum, 11 June 1920]