Hunger by Knut Hamsun

Hunger by Knut Hamsun (1890). Knut Hamsun was born in Norway in 1859. He didn’t start school until he was 9 years old. In his early days, he worked various jobs like farmer, store clerk, peddler, shoemaker’s apprentice, schoolmaster, and road construction worker.

In his twenties, he went to the US twice, doing different jobs like being a tram conductor in Chicago and even trying to be a cowboy. When he returned to Norway, Hamsun wrote “Hunger,” his first novel. At 29, an early version of “Hunger” was published in a Danish magazine, selling in three days. Two years later, in June 1890, the full book was published.

The novel follows a young stranger in Christiania trying to make a living as a writer. It lacks a traditional plot, focusing on the tension between the narrator’s mind and a challenging environment.

The narrator struggles to sell manuscripts, spends time homeless and hungry, and encounters difficulties with police, tramps, and prostitutes. He hungers not just for food but also for success, respect, love, and more, yet he can’t seem to succeed. The book has four sections, each representing a cycle of struggle, and the entire book is a cycle as well.

Despite the narrator’s lack of money, he shows generosity to others facing hard times. In summary, the book explores the balance between the narrator’s self-destructive tendencies and his sense of pride and charity.

In 1920, Hamsun won the Nobel Prize in literature. Other Nobel laureates praised him, with Andre Gide saying he was superior to Dostoevsky, Hemingway recommending Hamsun’s novels, Hermann Hesse calling Hamsun his favorite writer, and Thomas Mann stating Hamsun was worthier of the Nobel Prize than anyone. Henry Miller, another writer, considered Hamsun his hero and admired his writing.

The book was originally in Norwegian, but the English translation by Lyngstad is well-loved. I deeply enjoyed the novel and I plan to explore more Norwegian books translated by Lyngstad.

error: Content is protected !!
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap