De ring is gesloten

coverNu ik mijn studies zo’n beetje afgerond heb — ook al stopt het jezelf ontwikkelen natuurlijk nooit — heb ik wat meer tijd om af en toe een boek te lezen. Dus zo nu en dan zal ik iets uit of over een boek behandelen op mijn weblog.

Knut Hamsun kende ik al van “Hoe het groeide”. Het werk van de schrijver maakte indruk op me, en toen we in Minneapolis waren kocht mijn vriendin voor mij The Ring is Closed van dezelfde auteur.

Het boek gaat over een ontwortelde man in een kleine Noorse plaats. Het boek leest vlot weg, en het zet je aan het nadenken over de waarde van studie en werk en status — is dat echt allemaal zo belangrijk? Toch is het boek ook niet echt nihilistisch, niet echt een verering van de antiheld, meer een lof op het jezelf zijn en natuurlijkheid Eerder toont het de betrekkelijkheid van alles. Maar genoeg! Ik laat liever Hamsun zelf aan het woord. Hieronder volgen een paar citaten.

pp. 217–218

It’s a well-documented fact — I’ve heard it from others beside him — animals are homeloving, they want to be home. Even wild animals have their territories, their patches, their homes. Often they’d be better of somewhere else, but they want to be where they came from. In spring the salmon and the trout head back up to the spawning grounds where they began life themselves. The migratory birds nest where they were born themselves. I remember one particularly striking example from my own childhood home: when all the nesting boxes were full there was one pair of starlings that made their home on a wretched little wooden tray stuck on the wall. One year the tray with the nest fell down. It was carefully returned to its place on the wall, and back came the starlings. […] There were thousands of piles, she could have found them a splendid place beneath one of them. But best of all, the starlings came back to that same nesting tray the following year, year after year, wretched little home that it was. Then one year, just after Christmas, in plenty of time, the tray was removed and a nesting box hung in its place. As an experiment the tray was moved over to another wall, but wouldn’t you know it, the starling found it and started using it again! And all summer long that new nesting box stood empty.


Isn’t that what you call instinct?

Yes it’s love of home, the voice of the blood.I don’t know all its secrets, but it’s beautiful. In the middle of the confusion and doubt in which we humans wander, that’s the way life reveals a will and a purpose: Life itself gives us the love of home, it isn’t an invention.


Then what do you say about a man who dreams of nothing but, who is sick with the longing just to get away from his homeland for ever?


But might is not be that he is — as you yourself put it — /sick/ with the longing? That this is a measure of how unhealthy and unnatural he is?


The language, for example, his native language, where he understands everything that can be said, and can say whatever he wants. That he spends a long time away from home, and when he returns the sight of it reduces him to tears. That he feels a bond with hid fellow-countrymen whom he meets abroad, that he is seeing them for the first time and yet knows them, recognises them, feels as if he links arms with them.


You do have roots Captain, the very best that’s exactly what you have here. But somehow or other, some of them may have been severed.

p. 277

Quite right, I don’t follow the pattern. I’m satisfied with one meal a day, after that I make do with a lick of sunshine. Why should we make something of ourselves? That’s what everyone does, and they’re no happier for it. They make all that effort to rise up in the world, but where’s the reward? Their peace of mind is gone, their nerves are frazzled, some drink to help them get by and it only makes things worse, they think they have to walk on high heels wherever they go, and me who lives in a shack, I feel sorry for them.

Tenslotte de titel: de ring is gesloten. Steeds opnieuw herhalen zich patronen, alsof het (levens)verhaal een cirkel beschrijft. Want mensen willen terug naar hun geboortegrond, en iemands carrière is vaak tijdelijk. Leven waar je thuis bent, zonder show, is wat Hamsun ons lijkt aan te raden. Zijn stijl van schrijven maakt het een aantrekkelijk boekje voor de komende herfst- en winteravonden.