Whale song could help turn an old surveillance station into a tourist attraction
英格兰一座小岛上的市民图谋购买位置一幢在冷战时期被用来做监视观望标楼面并将其更动成供游人聆听鲸鱼歌声的风光。以下是 Colin Blane 的通信。
Written in the early twentieth century, a time when the modernization of society was occurring at a highly extensive rate, with Growth of the Soil Knut Hamsun encapsulates his reverence towards traditional life, as well as his worry that the rapid changes around him would encroach upon this way of life and eventually drive it out of existence.
Centred around a small rural community of settlers in the wilderness on the outskirts of a Norwegian town, the novel takes us through the life of Isak Sellanraa, whose perseverance and daring allowed him to conquer and shape the unexplored wilderness, yet whose virtues as a pioneer go largely unappreciated by his wife and firstborn son, who have spent time in town and only have minds for luxuries and extravagance.
When the top secret radio and radar station was established on the headland at Aird Uig 60 years ago， it was part of Nato’s early warning system against Soviet submarines and aircraft。 Now the Ministry of Defence has no further use for the derelict buildings and the windswept clifftop site。
The expanding influence of modernity has a major impact on Isak’s family, with the prime example of this being his wife Inger.
But local people are convinced the old base could help transform the economy of the area。 Where Aird Uig once listened out for possible enemy attack， it’s hoped a hydrophone could be placed in the sea to pick up the sound of whales。
Inger initially came to Isak after he had been asking passing strangers to spred the words around the village for a woman to help him on his farm. Nobody was willing to go except her. She was modest, plain, and not particularly attractive in her appearance, with her large build and cleft palate. Isak found her to be a perfect match for him, as she likely would not have come were it not for her disfiguration, and he was not particularly attractive himself, resembling “a man seen through the flaw of a window-pane”. She was awed by Isak’s farm and constantly praised him while he was working, and while she spent most of her time in the hut, she was eager to assist him.
There are plans for a visitor centre， with a dark skies night observatory。 Other attractions include unexplored sea caves and cliff climbs which have never been tackled。
If it goes ahead， it will be one of Scotland’s smallest and most unusual community buy-outs。
She had two sons with Isak, named Eleseus and Sivert. Isak taught them much about life in the wilderness, disregarding more sophisticated education as he “apparently thought it better for men to grow up without book-knowledge”.
This rather idyllic lifestyle was briefly interrupted when Geissler, the sheriff, came over to tell Isak to pay for his land, though he was very generous to Isak and the matter was ultimately of little consequence, other than serving as an introduction for Isak to the world outside, including concepts he had never thought of previously such as land ownership and the State.
The first major disruption came from Inger; after she gave birth to her third child, she saw that she had a cleft palate and killed her on the spot, not wanting her daughter to suffer as she did in her childhood due to the same deformity. Her infanticide was discovered, and she was sent to the city of Trondhjem (now Trondheim) to serve her prison sentence, which was cut down from life to eight years due to Geissler negotiating with authorities on Isak’s behalf. When she returned to the village, she brought back a new daughter named Leopoldine, with whom she had been pregnant before being sent off, but most importantly, she had become accustomed to urban life. She had been treated well during her prison sentence, and when she returned, Isak could hardly recognize her. She and Leopoldine were dressed in expensive clothing, and she had her cleft palate sewn up.
Inger’s time in Trondhjem was the cause of her “corruption”.
Her jailers were very kind and lenient to her because of her good behaviour, and she was allowed to go around town, enabling her to experience the modern, bourgeois lifestyle, with all its lavishness, its lack of physical labour, and its emphasis on image. By the time she returned home, she kept these things with her, which had a major effect on family life.
She became far more prideful and uncaring. Instead of merely being Isak’s humble wife, she attracted all the girls from the village to show them around her home. Instead of helping Isak with farm work, she demanded that he should hire a servant girl. She became very eager to show off to other women, which was very much unlike her old self.
have never been tackled未有被打下、被攀援
As winter comes, however, Inger herself takes note of these changes, realizing that they are for the worse. Faced with the hardships of winter and plagued by her conscience, she attempts to become the way she was before her prison sentence, dressing as modestly as she can and forcing herself to do physical labour. Isak pities her and thinks she works too hard, but she insists and he lets her go on with it.
However, when summer arrives, and workmen from outside the village come to work on a mine that was found near Isak’s land, she starts showing herself off again, vying for the attention of these young men. Her relationship with Isak becomes more strained as he finds her constantly being around them, talking and dancing with them, and one night, she even runs off with one of them into a secluded area in the woods, disappearing for an unusually long time before being found by Isak.
Eventually the mine becomes inoperable, causing all the workmen to leave, and Isak manages to bring Inger back into the fold.
Isak’s other modernized family member, however, does not return to the family’s traditional lifestyle. Eleseus, his firstborn son, had always been more of an intellectual than his brother Sivert, and he did well at school when the two brothers were eventually sent there after Inger’s return. When he grew up, he decided to work in the village, and gradually his ambitions of being wealthy grew, pulling him further and further away from his family in search of business and money. Eventually, he left Norway altogether, seeking a new life in America.
Outside of Isak’s family, several other characters are heavily influenced by modernity, which is shown to be the source of their greatest flaws. They are Isak’s neighbours Brede Olsen, Aronsen, and their families, as well as Geissler, the sheriff who eventually lost his job and became a good friend of Isak.
Brede Olsen and Aronsen were both at least fairly well-off before leaving their urban homes to settle the uninhabited land, with Aronsen in particular being considerably rich, and both already had families that they brought along with them. Their connection to the soil is very superficial, with both of them only deciding to move to the wilderness because they see an opportunity to make money, and Aronsen having everything he needs pre-built before even settling down and hiring a team of construction workers to set it all up.
As a result of their lack of connection to the soil, their stay in the wilderness is short-lived: Brede is a highly incompetent farmer who is eventually forced off his land by circumstance, and Aronsen, who came to set up a trading station for the mine, has nothing to do once the mine shut down. By contrast, Isak and Sivert are strongly tied to their land, and do not prioritize profit.
The foreman only cares about money, and believes that nothing could possibly take priority over his offer, whereas Sivert prioritizes his father's building project, sacrificing the potentially large sum of money he could earn from sending his horses to help in order to focus on building up his home.
This is a recurring theme that highlights the contrast between Isak, Sivert, and the more urban men: Isak and Sivert are hard-working, but do not seek profit, preferring to life off the land and strengthen their ties to the soil, while Brede and Aronsen desire money over anything else, which Hamsun takes to be the epitome of the modern man.
Geissler mainly serves to show another facet of modernized men: their rootlessness.
Although he is depicted as a good man who is very loyal and helpful to his friend Isak, using the advantages he has over Isak as a city-dweller who is familiar with the money and the law to help him get Inger out of jail and give him a larger share from his business dealings, he is also shown in a pathetic light. He is restless, always moving about from place to place, and it has clearly taken its toll on him, as he appears to be worse off with each subsequent visit he makes to Isak’s home. His appearance is disheveled, his eyes are red, his pockets are empty, and his behaviour is anxious and frantic, yet he helps Isak whenever he can. Good-hearted and generous by nature, Geissler is poisoned by the circumstances of modernity, and though the qualities of his soul endure for the most part, his physical condition suffers greatly.
Barbro, Brede’s eldest daughter, is an example of the same trait of rootlessness in women, having travelled to many cities in her lifetime, never being particularly attached to a single place. This is reflected in her love life, as she develops a relationship with Eleseus for a brief period of time, and while Eleseus thinks himself romantically committed to her, she forgets about him within weeks, eventually entering an unhappy marriage with Axel Strom, one of Isak’s neighbours. Additionally, she serves as a depiction of what Inger may have become had the spirit of modern, urban society rooted itself more deeply within her. There are many aspects of her life that make her similar and yet contrasting with Inger. Her husband Axel is similar to Isak, being the only other man who could build and maintain a proper settlement, though he is rather mediocre when compared to Isak and far less ambitious. Like Inger, she was born in the village and eventually moved out into the wilds, but she was beautiful all her life and never suffered as Inger did. She had also killed one of her children before her engagement to Axel, and her child with him died as well, though it is unknown whether this was done on purpose. Barbro is entirely unrepentant about her having killed her child, and rather than burying it in a small grave to mourn it, she left the corpse to float down the river to dispose of it, caring little about the child and only wanting to get away with the deed.
Growth of the Soil presents Isak and his traditional lifestyle as a bulwark against the world outside his community, which is depicted to be rife with greed, vanity, and immorality, and constantly encroaching upon the rugged, pioneering ways of rural men like him.