Peasant Autonomy
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Story 60

Norway – 1917


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(Photo: Nathanael Coyne)


Actually this is a deserted area. There is still a narrow path, but hardly anyone goes there. Perhaps someone coming from one faraway village, and going to another to visit family. Or a few Lapps searching for a lost reindeer. But no one else. Still, a small, stocky, muscular young man with a rust-coloured beard is roaming around here. His name is Isaac, and he is in good spirits. Why shouldn't he be? The forest is beautiful here, it is springtime, the birds are singing ardently, the mountain pastures are full of flowers, and in the distance a small stream gurgles.

Isaac likes this place. This is no-man's-land. Nobody lives here. He could start his own farm here. There is quite a lot of forest with fire wood, and enough big, straight trees, which he can use as beams. The stream is not that wide, but quite deep, and it flows so strongly that it will for sure have water during the whole year. There are mountain pastures nearby where he can make a lot of hay, when he has livestock in due time. The marshes are also suitable: not too sandy, with enough peat. He will have to drain them. That means: digging ditches. A lot of work, hard work. But that's not a problem for Isaac.

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(Photo: Ram Yoga)


Isaac takes his time. He traverses the whole area, and considers everything. In the evening he eats something from his knapsack, and sleeps on a rock that is still warm from the sun. The next day he again goes through the area that he has in mind. Meanwhile he collects a big load of bast to sell in the village, which is a several-hour walk. With the money he earns by that, he buys food and a spade to dig ditches. Then, he walks back, again for hours. He cuts sod, and builds a hut of it. He has at least now a dry place to sleep when it rains. Tomorrow he will start digging ditches, so that the marsh can dry well. It will certainly become a good field.

At night, when he is lying comfortably in his newly built hut, he asks himself if he could find a woman to do together all the farm work he has in mind. What woman would like to live in such an isolated, remote place? Nevertheless, this is the best place to start a new farm. Then, Isaac falls asleep.


The book Growth of the soil (1917) written by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun shows how a peasant and his wife, who own nothing, succeed in building up a prosperous farm, although it is not a path strewn with roses. Hamsun writes about the differences between the life in the city and in rural areas, and chooses straightly for the latter.

Go to:
= the next page: A shepherd joins the Reds - Steppe in the Don Valley, Southern Russia – spring 1918 (2), story 61.
= the Table of contents, story 60.