Monday, December 8, 2014

if I could speak without any restriction, the wind would turn around to acquittal

Hamsun's gaolers have told him that he mustn't go farther away than a certain specific point but his character in the book has been clarified until we can see that it is in his nature to walk a long way through the trees, and therefore he must go past the designated point; nothing else would be reasonable: he will go up a hill.

His good judgment is proven when he meets, in the forest, a man named Martin who encourages him to read an unpublished autobiographical manuscript, a strange man and not a fool, Martin, a wandering preacher, with the habits of one of Hamsun's own characters, staying apart in a baffled, thoughtful way whenever someone is suffering. "I didn't dare show myself too often but only sent greetings at Christmas and the other holidays. This, too, made her sore at me …"

The authorities do not know what is best, Hamsun says; he would solve the whole problem if they would stop locking him up and let him speak. "For I knew in my heart that if I could speak without any restriction, the wind would turn around to acquittal for me, or as close to acquittal as I would dare to go and the court accept. I knew I was innocent, deaf and innocent; I would have done very well in an examination by the public prosecutor just by telling the truth. But this situation was confounded by the circumstance of my being locked up month after month …"

Martin is innocent too. The woman is "sore at me" because he lent her husband money for a project and the man died. Now the widow blames him. "Here," Hamsun might as well be saying, "is the way this drama should be played out. The accused is not imprisoned, he is free to roam, he presents his case freely, a reader reads it freely, and nobody can blame him now that we understand his side. Events were beyond his control."

Distressed, then, choked, restricted, his point of view not seen. "I do not think it is distinctly enough felt by us that the beak of a bird is not only its mouth, but its hand, or rather its two hands." (Ruskin, Love's Meinie.)

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