Probably no Western writer has so extolled vitality and youth as did the Norwegian Nobel Prize winning novelist Knüt Hamsun. His sympathy for and identity with youth had the natural tandem accompaniment of an extreme revulsion toward old age. His abhorrence of old age and disease are as philosophical positions commonplace. After all, the aging process is what prevents us from ignoring our mortality: it provides us with definite mileposts on our march to the grave. What poet did not protest the transitoriness of all things? Our selves, our environments, are ephemeral; they change and disappear despite our attempts to hold them fast. And although many cultures have equated age with wisdom, who would not prefer to be young than old? But Hamsun did not attack old age or champion youth from an abstract philosophical position. Few writers have had such compelling motivation for an obsession. The "reasons" for Hamsun's fear and loathing of old age may have been subconscious; perhaps the source accounts for the intensity of the feeling. This essay will establish Hamsun's views on age and trace them back to their origin in the author's own childhood and youthful experiences. The Norwegian's passionate advocacy of youth, his affection for children, and hatred of old age are aspects of a personal revolt. They arose from unforgotten suffering.



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