Knut Hamsun


Knut Pedersen Hamsun

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Knut Pedersen Hamsun
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1920

Born: 4 August 1859, Lom, Norway

Died: 19 February 1952, Grimstad, Norway

Residence at the time of the award: Norway

Prize motivation: "for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil."

Language: Norwegian

Prize share: 1/1


Knut Hamsun grew up in poverty in Gudbrandsdalen in Norway. His breakthrough as a writer came with the novel Sult (1890) (Hunger), considered the first modern novel in Norwegian literature. In his writing he displays an aversion to civilization and a celebration of the simple life attuned to nature. Hamsun’s admiration for Germany led him to sympathize with the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940. After World War II he was sentenced to loss of his property and put under psychiatric observation for a period.


Usually the Nobel Prize in Literature is attributed to an author’s writings as a whole, not a particular literary work, but in a few cases a specific work is mentioned in the prize motivation. Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize for his book Markens Grøde (Growth of the Soil), considered an epic paean to work and the relationship between humanity and nature. While the story’s characters are depicted as living people, Hamsun endows the settlers’ efforts to cultivate the wilderness with heroic qualities in the spirit of the ancient poet Hesiod.

To cite this section
MLA style: Knut Hamsun – Facts. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2021. Tue. 19 Oct 2021. <>

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