Hunger by Knut Hamsun

I read this for Dewey’s 24 hours readathon. I will publish the reviews as quickly as I can throughout the 24 hours. Sorry for any mistakes.

It was during the time I wandered about and starved in Christiania: Christiania, this singular city, from which no man departs without carrying away the traces of his sojourn there.

Though I’m Norwegian I’ve never read a lot of Norwegian literature, except for Henrik Ibsen. I’ve wanted to rectify that, and since Hunger by Knut Hamsun was a book I was supposed to read in school, but never did, I thought I should try it.

I don’t know what to think about this. I felt the same way as I did watching Mystery by Knut Hamsun in theatre, which I did a few weeks ago. I want to describe Mystery as an intellectual discussion presented by a drunk man preaching sobriety, except it’s about sanity. Hunger is in one way very similar to that. It’s about hunger, written by Hamsun when he actually was starving. My main problem is the same I had with Mystery, he is starting arguing about a concept already deep in the concept. There is no other to compare his arguments with.170px-hamsun_bldsa_ha0269

The book described the main persons struggle due to hunger, but because we never knew the person before he was starving, we don’t know if the pain he is describing really is because of hunger. He is constantly giving the little money he has away, and at the end of the book we find out that this is a trait he had when not starving. But, what about the way he talks down to other people, his pride regarding non-money issues, his harassment of women, they way he tricks other people, are all these things due to hunger or a part of him? I think the book is very autobiographical, I think Hamsun is good at painting a picture about how he was starving, and not reflecting that this might not be universal. That hunger affect people differently.

Truth is neither ojectivity nor the balanced view; truth is a selfless subjectivity.

At the same time, I don’t think Hamsun is a bad writer. He is good at describing the emotions, very similar to an impressionist painter. I get why he won the Nobel prize in literature. I understand that there is something here I don’t get (more than it’s just not for me), I just don’t know what that is.

I don’t get why this short book (158 pages) took me sooooo long to read.

Someone, I beg you, please help me understand what it is about Hamsun I don’t get.


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