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4.09  ·  Rating details ·  5,759 ratings  ·  398 reviews
In a Norwegian coastal town, society's carefully woven threads begin to unravel when an unsettling stranger named Johan Nagel arrives. With an often brutal insight into human nature, Nagel draws out the townsfolk, exposing their darkest instincts & suppressed desires. At once arrogant & unassuming, righteous & depraved, Nagel seduces the entire community even as he turns i ...more
Paperback, Picador , 254 pages
Published January 16th 1976 by Pan Books (first published 1892)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: You should probably add this to your 'to-read' list
Hamsun’s aptly named second novel, Mysteries, is a dazzling, dark look into human nature and man’s psyche. It is no surprise that Henry Miller claimed that Mysteries was ’closer to me than any book I have read,’ this novel is so probing and insightful that you feel it begin to pick your own mind as the pages churn by. Written in 1892, just 2 years following Hunger, this novel once again demonstrates Hamsun’s signature frantic yet serene prose while showcasing Hamsun as a Modernist far ahead of h ...more
I refused to read Hamsun for a long time, on the grounds that he was a Nazi sympathizer. But I started getting interested in modern Norwegian literature a couple of years ago, and in the end I had to give in. You just can't avoid him; he's referred to everywhere. And if I find him hard to deal with, I'm comforted by the fact that it's much worse for the Norwegians.

Let me expand on that a bit. I'm English by birth, and I've also lived a fair amount of my life in Sweden and the US. None of those c
Jeffrey Keeten
“But what really matters is not what you believe but the faith and conviction with which you believe…”

Johan Nilsen Nagel arrives in a small, coastal Norwegian town bearing a fur coat in summer, a yellow suit, and a violin case without a violin. He deliberately leaves out telegrams on his table that give the impression he is quite rich. He later claims they are false, but the reader is already suspicious that subterfuge and deliberate lying are part of whatever game he is playing.

Who is he, real
E. G.
Introduction & Notes
Suggestions for Further Reading
Translator's Note


Explanatory Notes
Textual Notes
Ben Winch
When I was a teenager my dad urged two novels on me - Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game and Knut Hamsun's Hunger - which I consider all-time favourites to this day. Hesse I loved immediately; I read everything of his I could find. But Hamsun took a little longer. Upon first reading Hunger I thought, 'Huh? That's it?' It's not that I didn't like it, but it perplexed me. Hesse - and most if not all of my parents' other recommendations (Marquez, Kundera, Eco, Grass) - had seemed so grand somehow, so ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deepthi by: s.penkevich
Shelves: favorites
In the middle of the summer of 1891 the most extraordinary things began happening in a small Norwegian coastal town. A stranger by the name of Nagel appeared, a singular character who shook the town by his eccentric behavior and then vanished suddenly as he had come.

This is how Hamsun introduces us to Nagel, his yellow suit and his world of mysteries. I finished this book an hour ago. I spent my night reading this breathtaking novel. And for the past one hour I have been sitting in front of my
Nov 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though not a perfect book, Hamsun has again created a unique character, a unique atmosphere, and something resembling Musil's "man without qualities" in the person of Nagel. Mysteries, in some ways, supercedes "Hunger" in scope and depth of writing, but is much more disorganized and not as consistent in tone. Both Hunger and Mysteries simmered and seethed with nervousness, desperation, exhausted illumination, and fascinating strangeness, but where Hunger flowed essentially like four movements of ...more
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The only mystery here is why I read all 330 pages of this nonsense.
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Nagel is a disrupter—he annihilates social norms wherever he goes. And in this case he goes to a small town by the sea, where he proceeds to woo various women, tell outrageous stories while holding drunken court in his hotel room, and generally act at odds with conventional behavior. He is immediately drawn to both the town’s outcasts and its social elite, equally at ease in the company of both. Though he can be charming and the life of the party, he is also an outsider, appearing only to play a ...more
I've decided I need a new bookshelf. 'It's not you, it's me'. Perhaps all ex-Catholics need one of them, the one for the books they feel guilty about not finishing.

To begin with I hated this in a 'I hate this but I want to read it' way. That became 'I hate this but by God I'm going to finish it'. And a couple of nights ago, up at 3am that in turn became 'Yeah, nah. Move on'. And sometimes one moves on without the least guilt at all, other times one is tortured by it. Then one adds the inadequacy
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rod by: Billy Childish

Yes. "Mercurial." That is the word that kept coming to my mind to describe Johan Nagel, the central character of Knut Hamsun's masterful Mysteries. Specifically, entries 2 and 4. Maybe not "thievishness" (though I wouldn't put it past him--not for a second), but Nagel embodied the other characteristics so much that I often found myself wondering if he was actually a flesh-and-blood human or some kind of earthbound trickster god sentenced by the "All-Father" to live among the mortals. I doubt it,
Mysteries [1892] – ★★★★

“Is there any way of knowing? There are so many strange things between heaven and earth, beautiful, inexplicable things, presentiments that can’t be explained, terrors that make your blood freeze” [Knut Hamsun/Gerry Bothmer [1892/1971: 161].

Translated from the Norwegian by Gerry Bothmer, Mysteries begins with the following lines: “In the middle of the summer of 1891 the most extraordinary things began happening in a small Norwegian coastal town. A stranger by the name of N
Jim Leckband
I've always wanted to read a book by an author named Knut. But first let me give you 200 crowns and I'll tell you a story that happened to me in San Francisco. First, though, I'm in love with you and I can't live without you. I can't really play the violin even though I have a violin case but everybody in town wants me to play. You're really a very sinister person underneath - it might not look like it now, but you will turn out badly - like The Midget. The dastardly midget replaced my prussic a ...more
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It reminded me a lot of Twin Peaks--there's even a midget, and there's actually a Twin Peaks episode that drops Hamsun's name, so I'm sure David Lynch loves this book--but the Agent Cooper isn't an agent, he's an eccentric stranger who mysteriously shows up in a small town in Norway, who like Cooper, mingles and charms his way into the town scene and gets caught up in their dark inner secrets. Same tone and scariness and humor too.....I want to reread this soon. ...more
Contains spoilers

I feel somewhat uncomfortable expressing tepid feelings about a book that’s universally praised as a phenomenon in world literature but I was less than impressed with Mysteries. Perhaps it was that it was oversold on the back cover (the author was pronounced to have „complete omniscience about human nature“, where I only found incomplete, albeit self-absorbed, knowledge about a certain type of male person), or that I read it in 2016 with my firmly 2016 point of view, or that I c
Oct 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Henry Miller described Mysteries as ‘…closer to me than any other book I have read’. I’m no Henry Miller, but it is a very dear book to me too, quite like a close friend. It seems that there is no getting to the bottom of it, no matter how many times you engage with it, just like a human being. On a first reading it is seems a mere catalogue of disconnected events taking place in small town, with a stranger called Nagel at their centre, who has arrived on a steamer. He comes and goes and behaves ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Visit my poetic review here: https://formuchdeliberation.wordpress...
After reading this novel you'll be left in a barrage of mystery, you may even be wondering what was the point of it all since there's no true plot, the novel starts in the middle of somewhere but goes nowhere and ends nowhere...
James Henderson
I was introduced to the author Knut Hamsun by reading his first novel, Hunger. It is a Dostoevskian tale of a young journalist who is literally starving to death. His story is about trying to write and live while not even being able to afford a scrap of food, pawning his vest to be able to survive a few more days. It is a searing story that one does not forget. I had reread that book about a year ago, but still had not tackled any of Hamsun's other works before I had picked this book. My expecta ...more
Thi T.
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I adore Knut Hamsun's ability to write such realistic internal monologue. A friend recommended this book to me when I told him that one day in the lab, I was suddenly hit with the paranoia that I had gotten a drop of hydrofluoric acid on myself, and was somewhat convinced that there was a chance I could die right there. One of the scenes in this book describes perfectly what that feeling is like and what ridiculous thoughts run through your mind during such a moment. Definitely will go back and ...more
Lee Klein
Much weaker than Growth of the Soil, Hunger, or Pan. Disappointing. Hard to stick with. Zone outs aplenty. Didn't engage me. Wonky translation, or at least one that could use an update. Romantic proto-hippie maniac. All over the place. Cool bit with an angel hallucination. But mostly just not clear enough on a language level. Bailed on page 117, never to return. ...more
Hend AlEssa
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading this novel with a strange sense of detachment, alienation and silence. I didnt know what do I think of it, maybe I was totally puzzled, maybe because I read Hunger first and i kept on falling in the trap of comparing it with other Hamsun's novels. To be honest, sometimes I think it's wrong to read an author's masterpiece before his/her other novels. despite the fact that he didn't receive his nobel prize for Hunger. However, that novel left me totally with a different perspect ...more
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this was fabulous; incredible; superlative-full. i have rarely come across such passionate writing; the passion coupling with the character of nagel, a solid plot...the scope of the subject matter is large, and i would need to read the book again to gain a more full understanding of what is going on, on the implications of hte story, in just grasping as much as i can of what i feel Hamsun was talking about, relating that to life. this is something that needs to be meditated upon, i think. or at ...more
J.M. Hushour
I tend to hold off reading introductions to novels until after I finish it. Academics don't give a flim-flam for spoilers and will ruin the entire endeavor if you're not careful. (Do they actually 'read'?) That said, I'd advise that one actually DO read the intro to this novel because had I known going into it what I learned only after the fact, I would've received it a little more graciously.
A strange young man, we'd probably call him 'emo' today, spends a summer in a little town of Norway acti
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
A man, Johan Nilsen Nagel, blew into town a created a stir because of his uncetain origins, unpredictable behavior and sometimes odd appearance. He'd try to help some people but would often be misunderstood. He himself would also be confused about his own motivations.

I read this as an allegory. Passages and phrases here and there reminded me of the biblical story of Jesus Christ. Even the way Nagel died here hints strongly of Christ's agony on the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane before he
Oct 08, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Yo! I want to read this soon -- which translation is better, Bothmer or Lyngstad? Anybody?
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The mad protagonist of this novel was not as effective for me as the protagonist of Hamsun's "Hunger," nor did the whole thing work as well as some of the other Hamsun novels I have read. ...more
Erik Graff
Apr 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hamsun fans
Recommended to Erik by: Anne-Lise Graff
Shelves: literature
This novel is rather like Hamsun's Hunger, but more absurdist. If you like Dostoevsky, even Nietzsche, you might want to give Knut Hamsun a try. ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel, fiction, norwegian
I will make my character laugh where sensible people think he ought to cry.

And why? Because my hero is no character, no 'type,' ... but a complex, modern being.

- Knut Hamsun

I don't know whether Hamsun spoke these words to describe the character of Nagel in his work Mysteries, but I can say that in Nagel, he was successful in what he intended to carry out. Even though he does not want to call his hero a character, I found the (anti?)protagonist of Mysteries to be a remarkable character - for his
Andrew Schirmer
Sometimes I ask myself why I ever bothered to study Russian. Bergman speaks to me in ways that Tarkovsky never will (we have a tradition of watching the complete Fanny och Alexander every Christmas), I'd rather eat at Copenhagen's Noma than anywhere in Russia, and Knut Hamsun's novels are far superior to anything Dostoevsky ever wrote. Well, I've only read this one, but I've got a gut feeling...

The plot of Mysteries is extremely simple--a strange man, Nagel, comes to town. An inferior novelist w
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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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“But what really matters is not what you believe but the faith and conviction with which you believe…” 58 likes
“There are some people who cannot help giving. Why? Because they experience a real psychological pleasure in doing so. They don't do it with an eye to their own advantage, they do it on the quiet; they detest doing it openly because that would take away some of the satisfaction. They do it in secret, with quick trembling hands, their breasts rocked by a spiritual well being which they do not themselves understand.” 39 likes
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