WINNER OF THE NORWEGIAN CRITICS AWARD FOR BEST NON-FICTION 2014
On Saturday 26th June 1943, Hitler granted one of his rare audiences to a writer, the Norwegian Knut Hamsun, then generally hailed as the greatest living writer of the Germanic peoples, a contemporary Goethe. The meeting started jovially, but ended in disaster. While Hamsun insisted on his loyalty to the Führer, he also spoke out against him, interrupting a man who was not used to being interrupted. A furious Hitler ended the conversation after 45 minutes – and Hamsun and his entourage left in disappointment.
This is the first time this spectacular event in Norwegian and European cultural history has been used as the basis for an entire book. Knut Hamsun – Reisen til Hitler explores the trappings of literary genius and authority, as well as the uses of culture in Nazi Germany.
The book's main narrative, the seven-day journey to and from the meeting, ends with an epilogue which includes Hamsun's obituary for Hitler, published on 7th May 1945.
After a teaser which takes the reader straight into the journey, the book – in order to establish the premises of what took place – considers a few episodes from Hamsun's life up until 1943. These include his attempt at doing away with the father figure Ibsen, his Nobel Prize and rise to fame, how he became the favourite of the German far right, his interventions on behalf of Nazi Germany during the war, his antisemitism and his allegiance to the idea of the Germanic peoples, as well as Goebbels' glowing reception of his favourite writer in May 1943. A month later Knut Hamsun sets off to Vienna as the star attraction of a big Nazi propaganda show, a congress of Nazi journalists. It is after having been celebrated as a great success in the second capital of the Reich, Hamsun is flown on to Berghof, Hitler's mountain residence in Southern Bavaria.
Samples from what the press has said about KNUT HAMSUN – REISEN TIL HITLER:
‘ ... an audience hit, suitable for a tabloid audience, a literary audience, Second World War nerds and anyone looking for a Christmas present for Dad. This story has something in it to fascinate everyone ... Tore Rem is a skilled storyteller ... a lively mediator who will be met with interest and curiosity.’
‘The book is a biographical masterpiece.’
‘It takes a skilled wordsmith to write well about Hamsun, the man who despite his political views was a wizard with words and whose books still hold readers spellbound all over the world. Tore Rem is up to the job. It is a joy to read Reisen til Hitler. Rem brings recent history to life in tremendously exciting ways, with a burning passion .’
‘ ... a liberating book. Liberating because Rem approaches the difficult Hamsun debate in a wise, open and thorough manner ... relates to the material in a non-judgmental way.’
‘Tore Rem’s compelling and important book ... He is sensitive in his demonstration of Hamsun’s transformation from anti-authoritarian individualist to rigid, leading literary figure ... Rem ... empowers the author in an exemplary manner.’
‘Meticulous, exciting and overwhelmingly well documented ... Tore Rem’s work on Knut Hamsun's meeting with Hitler has become a full-bodied, often very exciting and insightful piece of work ...’
‘ ... adds energy and topicality to one of the nation's biggest cultural debates over the past 70 years ... Well composed, fresh and innovative ... a reading experience.’
‘ ... told in a flexible language and with a firm narrative technique ... sensational new material ... not just a pleasure to read, but also an exceptionally beautiful book.’
‘Rem presents a wealth of new material, a superb storyteller.’
‘Rem’s excellent Hamsun biography … documents … once and for all that Hamsun was a convinced Nazi from the 1930s until the end of his life.’
‘ … a very competent storyteller … The language is extremely precise, and yet comes across as free and easy … the build-up creates excitement and takes well care of the dramatic components in this highly spectactular story.’
‘ … a harrowing presentation of Knut Hamsun’s Nazism. This is tortuous reading … succeeds fully in its narrative strategy; the book stands triumphant in its choice of genre.’
‘ … probes deeper than anyone before him … in all sorts of ways a remarkable story. Rem has dug up a great number of new details.’
Selected among the critics’ ‘Book of the Year’ in Dagbladet, Morgenbladet, Vårt Land, Klassekampen, Adresseavisa and Fædrelandsvennen