Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun

Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun (Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920) is a well-known novel. One of the author’s most famous works is “Hunger.” I also read another book by him called “In Wonderland.” All of these books are amazing and have different themes. One of the things that makes Knut Hamsun a great writer is his ability to come up with unique and interesting stories.

I read the English translation published by Penguin, and in the introduction, they mention that the story shares similarities with “Robinson Crusoe,” which is true. Additionally, I feel that Vilhelm Moberg’s novel “The Emigrants” has a similar feel to Hamsun’s book. Both authors are from the Nordic region, which might explain the resemblances. While reading “Growth of the Soil,” I felt like I was experiencing a similar lifestyle to Karl and Krirstina as they tried to build their lives in the wild as depicted in “The Emigrants“.

The novel “Growth of the Soil”, first published in 1917, takes us through the challenges and beauty of life in rural Norway. It’s centered around Isak, a strong and determined man, and his wife Inger. Isak is the first character introduced in the story. He settles in the untouched forests of Norway. Later on, Inger, an unmarried woman with a harelip, comes to Isak’s home, and he allows her to stay. Eventually, they get married. They set out to build a successful farm and a better life in a rough, untamed land.

The book vividly describes the difficult landscapes and the struggle to survive, likely taking place in the 19th or early 20th century. Isak fights against the wild nature to clear and cultivate the land. Inger faces the challenges of isolation and raising a family in such a remote area.

One of the toughest challenges the family faces is after their second child. Inger becomes pregnant again. When Isak is away, she gives birth to a baby girl with a harelip. Inger decides to end the baby’s life and buries her in the forest. This is a morally complex decision for Inger, who isn’t a bad person. She made this choice to spare her daughter from the sadness she experienced due to her own harelip when she was young.

Inger eventually goes to jail for her actions. While in prison, she becomes a better person. She already was a good mother, but she learns to read, write, and acquire various skills that make her more valuable. She also gives birth to another baby girl in jail. During her time in prison, her daughter is well taken care of.

To be continued.

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