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September 05 , 2008

The Women at the Pump


In their gossiping at the pump the women express the poetry, the tawdriness and, above all, the sheer vitality of life in Hamsun's small coastal town. A birth (where did those brown eyes come from?); a marriage (shotgun?); a death in strange circumstances (the victim flattened by a barrel of whale oil); the up-and-down career of the town's leading citizen and philanderer; the elderly spinster's pregnancy; the sinking of the steamship that is the town's pride and joy. Above all, talk centres on the doings of Oliver Andersen and the large family that he and his wife contrive to create despite growing suspicions that his mysterious accident at sea has deprived him of more than a leg... The Women at the Pump overflows with a prodigality of invention and sardonic humour typical of Hamsun's work at its best. First published in 1920, the year Hamsun won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it has a universal quality that transcends time and place. Hamsun's women live on the Norwegian coast but their soulmates flourish in every small community around the world.

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