Emir Never's Reviews > Hunger

Hunger by Knut Hamsun
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Apr 30, 12

Read from April 11 to 20, 2012

CHRISTIANIA(Oslo), Norway-- Knut Hamsun, 31, has published his first novel called Hunger, about a young man who starves himself. Hunger met with surprisingly wide acclaim, despite veering from traditional novelistic route.

"It is a work devoid of plot, action, and--but for the narrator--character. By nineteenth century standards, it is a work in which nothing happens. The radical subjectivity of the narrator effectively eliminates the basic concerns of the traditional novel," said Paul Auster, a noted modern writer.

Robert Bly, a poet who translated Hunger to English, pointed at the "swiftness and pungency of the prose". "It made Norwegian seem like a young language."

Hunger, possibly based on Hamsun's personal bouts with hunger, presents a nameless male narrator who goes around Christiania relying on occasional payments for his articles, which, as his hunger persists and worsens, he seldom gets to finish.

As hunger gnaws on Hamsun's narrator, all other elements-- time, truth, morality-- are tossed down it, the bottomless well. Hamsun's narrator holds out obstinately, desperately and in the end, depending on the reader's interpretation, succumbs or succeeds.

"In all this time, however, only a few artists have been able to recognize it. It takes courage, and not many of us would be willing to risk everything for nothing. But that is what happens in Hunger, a novel written in 1890. Hamsun's character systematically unburdens himself of every belief in the system, and in the end, by means of hunger he has inflicted himself, he arrives at nothing. There is nothing to keep him going--and yet he keeps on going. He walks straight into the twentieth century," Auster said.

(Based on Farrar, Straus and Giroux translation with Introduction by Paul Auster and afterword by Robert Bly.)
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Reading Progress

04/16/2012 "When I was Hunger
So much Hunger than today..."

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Chika (new)

Chika OMG...! That's crazy. I would have never thought the book actually existed outside of Norway. No offence; but whenever we'd learn about it in high school or college I tended to fall asleep. Is it any good?

Emir Never Hi, Chika. I've just started reading this so I don't know yet how I'll find this overall.

message 3: by Chika (new)

Chika Cool. Hope it's good. Lol, I just never found it interesting because it was about the olden days - and somehow I always had a resentment to stories which dated back to earlier than the 1950s. Lol. I hated reading about the olden days. Perhaps I've changed now that I'm older. I might actually consider reading the book.

Angus Bwahahaha!

Bettie☯ Superb book and a superb review encapturing the essence. Thanks for your take on it Emir.

IMHO he succumbs rather than succeeds.

Bettie☯ hah! just realised you didn't write one word yourself - it was all second hand via Auster.

Emir Never Bettie wrote: "hah! just realised you didn't write one word yourself - it was all second hand via Auster."

lol. I tried coming up with a news article, all quotes are attributed. Those that are not in quotation are mine.

Bettie☯ yep - spotted the hattips however I just blundered through without firstly realising!


Emir Never Hehe. Anyway, about succeeding or succumbing I am sure someone could argue for both. In a way he succeeded in dealing with things his way (he could have opted out earlier) but it can be said that he failed in completing his hunger in the end. As astutely pointed out by Auster that honor belongs to Kafka's A Hunger Artist.

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