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The Ring is Closed [Paperback]

Knut Hamsun , Translated by Robert Ferguson
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2010
This is the first British edition of Knut Hamsun's last great novel, in a new translation by Hamsun's acclaimed biographer, Robert Ferguson. The Ring is Closed combines a central character as iconoclastic as that of Hunger with an evocation of the limitations of small-town life to equal Mysteries. Abel is the only son of a miserly lighthouse-keeper, after falling in love he leaves his life in a village in southern Norway and travels around the United States. He returns home, haunted by secret crimes, and now his only ambition is to live, on the barest of necessities, without desire or ambition. Abel allows all opportunities for another life an inheritance, employment, relationships to slip away while Hamsun questions what is the true meaning of work and life. The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun. Isaac Bashevis Singer

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd; First Thus edition (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285638688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285638686
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 440,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Hamsun is one of the great writers of this century his nearest British equivalent being I suspect Thomas Hardy. Hamsun s novels have the simplicity of total self-possession, of the clearest possible understanding of the human world... a unique beauty of expression. --Sunday Times

A novelist of strange and unsettling power... this new translation by Robert Ferguson is an important step towards rescuing the man s reputation and re-establishing the status of his extraordinary work. --New Statesman

An unsettling master of modern fiction --The Independent

About the Author

Born in 1859, Knut Hamsun s early works were forceful and polemic before he became more compassionate in his later work, drawing inspiration from the country people of his native Norway. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920 for Growth of the Soil. He has been recognised as one of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knut Hamsun - The Ring is Closed 11 May 2010
By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER
There's not much that can be said about this that hasn't been said about Hamsun's other work - and therein lies its flaw and its quality. The Ring... returns to many of Hamsun's common themes: the lonely, dispossesed wandering returning, ebbing, flowing, through the life of a community; that community's wider life; mismatched love; the communion of man and nature; the iconoclasm of the isolated individual; the willing material poverty of that person, yet the fullness of spirit and life. It's a very good book. It is a fantastic summing-up of all Hamsun's career, in fact, an ideal final novel: it crystallises most of his themes from previous novel (Hunger; Pan; Women at the Pump: Mysteries, etc). However there is about it that definite sense that there's nothing new here (and that's why it gets just the one star), even though it is all beautifully brought together.

For Hamsun fans, definitely buy it. You know what you're going to get from Hamsun, and this doesn't dissapoint in that regard. For initiates I suppose it's also a pretty good overview and starting point as well. His writing is charming, his characters are also, his sensitivities are also very appealing. I'm very glad I stumbled upon his masterpiece, Hunger, a few years ago. The Ring is Closed is a very good novel, but isn't that fresh. But it's not that much of a problem.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Charming novel let down by presentation 1 Mar 2011
By Archy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As the other reviewer says, this has much in common with other Hamsun books, and is recommended to fans. It's a rather long and meandering tale, though, and could have done with a little editing. The main character drifts in and out of the book without really generating the sympathy other Hamsun heroes do, and there's little real sense of time passing - though the book covers a considerable timespan. It still has great charm, though, and it's nice to find a Hamsun novel I've not read!

My main beef about this book is the fact that there are no speech marks. Whether this was down to Hamsun himself or is his translator trying to inject some trendiness into the book I don't know. Suffice to say that this style does not occur in the other dozen Hamsun books I have, and if it was meant to make it trendy it simply made it a mess. Not enough to spoil the book - just enough to irritate!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hamsun still on top of his game 2 Feb 2013
By G. Brozeit - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just a beautiful novel that highlights all of Hamsun's strengths and revisits many of the familiar themes of earlier works. It is remarkable that Hamsun left the field of fiction writing after The Ring is Closed. He was as creative as ever.

For those with a little knowledge of Hamusun, the familiarities we find include an enigmatic, loner of a protagonist, unrealized and unrequited love, a vague hint of a violent act, and the quirkiness of small town, rural, early 20th century Norwegian societal norms. Hamsun puts a fine point on many of these recurring themes in this book. Like much Scandinavian fiction, there is often a juxtaposition of real, implied meanings of words and actions and the insignificance of what is public. And the societal rules and "manners" that exist are propped up by lies, deception, and pride.

I've read all the Hamsun in English translation and this is a welcome addition. Not one of the three or four best, but close. Worth the time if you're willing to invest it.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great author, not such a great human. 11 July 2012
By Just Wondering - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Knut Hamsun is one of the greatest writers of the late 19th and early 20th century, and certainly the greatest of the modern Norwegian authors. But, and this is a big but, he was a traitor, Nazi sympathizer and Hitler lover whose first 75 years of life as an extraordinary literary talent will forever be overshadowed by his last 15 as a despicable fascist who supported his countrymen's subjugation by the German invaders in World War II.

The Ring is Closed was his last major work (published in the 1930's), and it is an innovative exploration of purpose in life, identity, and connecting with one's society as told through the story of an apparent Norwegian slacker. It is a fitting conclusion to a literary career that began with the famous Hunger, continued with Growth of the Soil (which was cited as the reason for him receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature), and included a couple dozen great works, over half of which have been translated into English. I recommend reading this after Hunger, Growth, and some of his other works, particularly the collections of short stories that are available in English. His style is unique and this book is probably the most peculiar and complex in terms of that style. Highly recommended.
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