Born Knut Pederson, Hamsun grew up 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle and virtually no formal education, spending his youth working for a relative to whom his family was in debt. However, his first work of fiction, "Den Gaadefulde", appeared in 1877, when he was only 18. After its publication, he taught school, and continued to write. In 1878 he moved to Christiania (now Oslo), living in poverty, his career going nowhere. He spent the years from 1882 to 1884, and again from 1886 to 1888, in the United States, working his way across the country at odd jobs. In 1890, back in Oslo, Hamsun finally had a sensational literary success: "Sult" ("The Hunger"), the story of a starving young writer, became an overnight success and established Hamsun as an important writer. In 1917, after the publication of "Markens Grode" ("The Growth of the Soil"), he was able to buy a vast estate in southern Norway, where he devoted himself to writing and farming. In addition to fiction, Hamsun wrote travel books, essays, short stories and plays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920. Though he never joined the party, Hamsun was a Nazi sympathizer during the occupation of Norway in World War II and wrote series of pro-Fascist articles, as a result of which he was arrested after the war. He spent some time in a psychiatric clinic in Oslo, and in 1947 he was tried and fined for his opinions; his personal account of these experiences appeared in "Pa Gjengrodde Stier" ("On Overgrown Paths"), published when he was 90 years old. He lived to be 92.
From the Publisher
The middle-aged narrator of The Last Joy is a Hamsun double, who leaves the wild, where he has lived in a turf hut, for a tourist resort and, subsequently, the city, where he resumes contact with Miss Torsen, a beautiful young schoolteacher he met at the resort. He follows her sexual escapades, including rape, with the intense, vicarious interest of a voyeur. Considering himself too old for love, he encourages Miss Torsen's interest in Nikolai, a hulk of a man whom she marries, thereby escaping the supposedly sorry lot of a career woman.