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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  42,478 ratings  ·  3,022 reviews
One of the most important and controversial writers of the 20th century, Knut Hamsun made literary history with the publication in 1890 of this powerful, autobiographical novel recounting the abject poverty, hunger and despair of a young writer struggling to achieve self-discovery and its ultimate artistic expression. The book brilliantly probes the psychodynamics of alien ...more
Paperback, 134 pages
Published November 17th 2003 by Dover Publications (first published 1890)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who can read
Recommended to s.penkevich by: The poetry of Charles Bukowski
I often catch myself staring, rather lovingly in fact, at my bookshelves. Each shelf is swelling nearly to the point of overflowing with books, each authors collection seemingly positioned at random - yet, somehow, the location of each work holds some secret form of order that is beyond even me. I'll caress each spine with my eyes, occasionally running a finger down it to feel a spark of retrospection and for a moment recall the times when I held a particular book during the course of absorbing ...more

Discombobulated…frenzied…distracted…rambling…and oh so BRILLIANT.

Knut Hamsun's fevered, stream of consciousness classic is something special. Unwaveringly "in the now," this novel's every word felt as if it had fallen from the narrator's mind, unfiltered, unrestrained, and unreflected upon. Wow, was this something. The unnamed narrator, with his exaggerated and unjustified notions of his own superiority reminded me a lot of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, while the disjointed style a
Ahmad Sharabiani
813. Sult = Hunger, Knut Hamsun
Hunger (Norwegian: Sult) is a novel by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun published in 1890. Parts of it had been published anonymously in the Danish magazine "Ny Jord" in 1888. The novel has been hailed as the literary opening of the 20th century and an outstanding example of modern, psychology-driven literature. Hunger portrays the irrationality of the human mind in an intriguing and sometimes humorous manner.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم دسامبر سال 2010 میلا
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dolors by: The contestant in my head
Shelves: read-in-2017
What is it that differentiates dignity from stubbornness?
Moral rectitude from pride?
Attitude. Intention. Motivation.
Knut Hamsun’s autobiographical novella explores the tenuous line that separates the iron will from the almost obsession of an aspiring writer who refuses to give way to the silent pressure of a dehumanized society that insists on nullifying his efforts to earn his living through his writing.

The protagonist is a nameless narrator who seldom raises sympathy from an estranged reader

I did not feel anything while reading this novel.

Well, this is not strictly true. What I mean is that I felt no pity, no compassion, no sorrow, no empathy, while following the struggles, the penuries, the poverty, the deprivation, the hunger, of the nameless protagonist.

My feelings were not of the humanitarian type, but of the literary.

I was astonished at the literary proposal Hamsun had written in what was still the nineteenth century. The ‘flâneur’ existence of the narrator made me think of B
Lynne King
Last night the “fog” finally left me as effortlessly as it had arrived seven months ago. My mourning period was now officially over, although the good memories would be firmly entrenched forever in my mind, as well as the sad ones. I shed my widow’s weeds. Also the tears surprisingly enough poured for the first time in ages. I certainly do not have a weak character. I had been in the doldrums and was not progressing, nor “turning the page”. Knut showed me via “Hunger” (Norwegian: “Sult”) that on ...more
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bravehearts treading the less-stocked path
A review of this book from my pen is akin to injustice. After all, what do I know of hunger? Something that loses its meaning with a hop to the kitchen? A need that vanishes with the stair-climbing to the canteen? A routine that knocks every four hours, only to be dispatched back to its den with a pouring of necessary and unnecessary stuff? A fuel that is available at an arm’s length? A six-lettered word that assumes greater importance in symbolic garb than its bare attire?

I have been fortunate.
Started reading the original Norwegian edition today. I'm fluent in Swedish but don't really know Norwegian, though I have read maybe half a dozen Norwegian books. Comparing with English, it's rather like reading something in broad Scots dialect that's been written down phonetically. Iain Banks fans will be able to relate.

So far, it's pretty good, but I'm only 15 pages into it.


I come down the main staircase of the hotel. At reception, Zenit,
Rakhi Dalal
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This powerful work of writing by Knut Hamsun, clearly lets you think what the state of ‘hunger’ can do to a human being. Yes, by ‘hunger’, the author does really refer to the state of starvation in the absence of food. This idea of ‘hunger’, which looks like just another figure when it makes its appearance in one’s view in the form of some statistics, something which the well-to do people cannot even imagine about, is the essential sketch of this extremely thought provoking work by Hamsun.

Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars for me. I wasn’t prepared for this. I remember a GR friend’s positive review of the book so I decided to read it. I read it in one sitting. I was mesmerized. The writing — it is unbelievably good. Crisp, sharp prose.

The author is Norwegian. This was the first novel he got published, and he was 31 at the time (1890). He had had an earlier novella rejected by a publishing house at the age of 20. After the rejection, he then went to a famous Norwegian author for perhaps support/encouragemen
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: you dropped your books
Recommended to Mariel by: s.pen and manny
I have a confession to make. Well, it's not really a confession if I've alluded to it in the past. I'm cheap. I spend freely, I mean, and it doesn't take much convincing for me to go ahead and make some purchase (especially if it's a book) when I really shouldn't. Don't ever take me shopping in hopes that I'll convince you not to make that purchase, either. So I downloaded the free kindle version of this. I have too many books and I do that shit anyway. I think there's something wrong with the k ...more
Henry Martin
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hunger is, in my opinion, the most important work of "psychological realism" of all times. When I first read it, I fell in love with Hamsun's style, but it was the second and the third reading that pushed me over the edge, slipping into the realm of mind, walking the streets with Hamsun, shivering in the cold and hurting from the hunger. Hunger both for food and for a human touch, living outside the society both due to his situation and by choice to strive for the pure and unconditional self-dis ...more
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, to-re-read
Very reminiscent of a couple of books I have already read, including Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London." Very dire account of a starving writer trying to find work and food at the same time.

Especially interesting to me was the fact that the protagonist still valued maintaining his dignity over everything else.

His interior dialogue was definitely reminiscent of Job speaking to God in the Old Testament.

I liked the archaic style the book was written in. Case in point was the word "zound
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Hunger Eats the Soul

This is not so much the story of the rise and fall of a young man (published in 1890), as one of his relentless physical and spiritual decline.

He never seems to have risen in the first place, and his fall seems to be unimpeded, even though momentarily it seemed that love might redeem him.

In the absence of consummation, hope or redemption, the novel eschews any dramatic tension that an Aristotelian three act structure might offer, and simply plummets downwards.

Early, the prota
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Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mary by: charles bukowski
Shelves: 2013, fiction, norway, nordic
He sure would like a meal, yes, but more so, why won’t anybody listen? What the hell is wrong with everyone? None of them are truly getting it. They don’t understand the urgency! Look at them in their warm clothes and their comfortable houses. Why do their eyes laugh at him? Is there nothing left but mockery? I wonder how he came to be in such circumstances. What led to this downward spiral? Even if I could ask him, could he even explain it? None of us can pinpoint the moment when it all started ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight’s contest is a tag team wrestling match between, in the blue corner, reigning champions The Backstabbing Haystacks, and in the red corner the fearsome Intestines R Us – ladeeeeeeeez and gentlemen let me introduce you to the members of the teams, in the Backstabbing Haystacks we have from Norway the unnamed protagonist of Knut Hamsen’s much-praised novel of terminal anomie Hunger, so I give you Mr Anonymous Hunger (applause, hoots, burgers thrown into the ring); and ...more
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A troubling mix of Dostoyevsky (especially Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment) and George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London.

Describing a time of poverty and starvation from an unnamed narrator who is some kind of intellectual, a writer or journalist, Hamsun explores the hunger of not just his physical needs but of his spiritual and psychological angst as he is rejected (or intentionally self-exiled) by society. Hamsun’s protagonist goes through a hell of self-doubt and existential enn
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rod by: Billy Childish
I'm pretty lucky, I guess; I've been middle-class all my life, never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from or if there would be a next meal. I've never known starvation, despite saying stuff like "I'm starving!" when it's a half-hour past lunchtime and I haven't eaten yet. So why do I identify with the undernourished protagonist of Hunger so strongly? Perhaps it's because I'm an introvert; like the protagonist, I sometimes have internal conversations with myself in the third pers ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
What a perfect portrayal of the psychological and physical effects of hunger on a person. Of his rantings and ravings, his hallucinations and inner dialogues and his pride, chivalry, integrity and principles. "It is the reign of Autumn, the height of the Carnival of Decay, the roses have got inflammation in their blushes, an uncanny hectic tinge, through their soft damask."
The narrator is an unnamed writer who is suffering from hunger and homelessness. He tries to survive from day to day by writ
E. G.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Translator's Note


Explanatory Notes
Textual Notes
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kris by: s.penkevich
Wow. That was powerful. I have to write a lot of reviews this weekend - this will be one of them.

I find it ironic that I read this while the RNC circus is going on in FL. I wish I could force everyone there to read this book and live it. just for a short while.
David Schaafsma
“I was on the verge of crying with grief at still being alive.”

It’s sometimes hard to separate the work from the author, of course; the list of examples is long and troubling, including Wagner’s and Heidegger’s Nazi sympathies, and oh, an increasing number of male writers we now see as misogynist. I read Knut Hamsun’s Hunger first when I was 20, not knowing anything about him, and I was moved by this story of a starving artist driven to madness. I saw it then as I do now as connected to Dostoev
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 501, 1001-core
By Jove! This novel is beautifully depressing! It is beautiful because of the way it is written: magical stream-of-consciousness style with the meager plot and with no misplaced or excess words at all! It is depressing because of the theme: hunger. It is not hunger for love or something. It is the hunger that most Filipinos know: hunger for food.

The novel, originally written in German and first published in 1890, revolves around a struggling writer in Christiana (now Oslo). Herr Hamsun did not n
Hunger is a powerful psychological exploration of the cycles of poverty, as well as being simply an entertaining read. The writing style feels almost contemporary. It is perceptive, narrated in a lively voice, and the use of stream of consciousness was ahead of its time.

My criticism is as follows: I found it difficult to extract much that is universal to the experience of poverty and hunger, because Hamsun’s protagonist is really such an oddball, and much of his suffering is self-inflicted. Tho
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am tempted to write that it's a book about the adventures of a destitute man wandering the streets of Christiania, but that wouldn't do. See, there is a pleasantness implied in the word "adventures". An unspoken promise of a happy end behind every setback, no matter how difficult. But no, there is nothing pleasant in destitution. No promise that tomorrow there'll be a happy turn of events. Only hope. A hope which, more often than not, simply dies unfulfilled as another day goes by without so m ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a classic, that I had been looking forward to reading. I thoroughly enjoyed Victoria, one of Hamsun's other novels. Alleged to be the first 20th century novel, employing stream of consciousness; compared to Dostoevsky (the protagonist has been compared to Raskolnikov). It is an account of a starving writer/journalist set in Kristiana (Oslo) at the end of the 19th century. It is pretty much a book of one idea; the aspiring writer who suffers for his art to the point of almost starving to ...more
Betsy Robinson
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: Lynne King
Almost from page one of this Nobel Prize-winning novel, first published in 1890, I had to remind myself that I'm (1) sane, (2) have always been financially responsible, and (3) am not homeless. This story of a destitute writer is my worst writer's nightmare, and probably the worst nightmare of many people who work in the arts. I've known so many unsuccessful, desperate, bitter artiste-victims and Hamsun's depiction of the first-person protagonist is flawless. He vacillates from arrogance and gra ...more
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is easy to see why Hamsun, and this book in particular, is seen as so influential, despite his later support for the Nazis, which is difficult for a modern reader to ignore. His account of a struggling writer attempting to survive in Oslo (Christiania) by selling occasional articles to a newspaper seems very modern for a book first published in 1890.

Much of the time he quite literally has no money, so he is at constant risk of becoming homeless and is subject to frequent and dramatic mood sw
Steven Godin
The bewildering protagonist of Hamsun's 1890 novel is living and failing dismally in an unforgiving place, Kristiania (Oslo), that strange city no one escapes from until it has left its mark. As a writer, he tries to write, but no one really wants to pay him except the occasional kindly newspaper editor, so he has fallen into destitution and is half starved to death. The novel, psychologically processes the exploration of the human spirit, and follows our wanderer as he simply travels around the ...more
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Knut Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920 "for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil". He insisted that the intricacies of the human mind ought to be the main object of modern literature, to describe the "whisper of the blood, and the pleading of the bone marrow". Hamsun pursued his literary program, debuting in 1890 with the psychological novel Hunger. ...more

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“...I will exile my thoughts if they think of you again, and I will rip my lips out if they say your name once more. Now if you do exist, I will tell you my final word in life or in death, I tell you goodbye.” 336 likes
“I suffered no pain, my hunger had taken the edge off; instead I felt pleasantly empty, untouched by everything around me and happy to be unseen by all. I put my legs up on the bench and leaned back, the best way to feel the true well-being of seclusion. There wasn't a cloud in my mind, nor did I feel any discomfort, and I hadn't a single unfulfilled desire or craving as far as my thought could reach. I lay with open eyes in a state of utter absence from myself and felt deliciously out of it.” 164 likes
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