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Hunger (1890)

by Knut Hamsun

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,9311032,184 (4.06)1 / 271
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Originally published in 1890, this classic of modern literature follows an impoverished Norwegian writer through the streets of Christiania (now Olso) as he struggles on the edge of starvation. Existing on what little money he makes from selling the occasional article to the local paper, and down to pawning the clothes on his back, the young writer slowly loses control of his reason and begins to slip increasingly into bouts of madness, paranoia, and despair.A gripping portrait of an artist struggling for integrity, Hunger mirrors the dire straits of Hamsun's own life when he brought this, his then incomplete first novel, to a publisher in 1888.… (more)
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» See also 271 mentions

English (92)  Norwegian (2)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (Bokmål) (1)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Artistic squatter
malnourished schizophrenic
thanklessly alive. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
I don't understand why anybody would be surprised that this guy could be a Nazi.

Super easy to read, a few hours, no more. The guy understood that a one-idea book with no plot has to be short. I don't mean that to be deprecating. It's gripping, on the edge-of-your-seat-stuff. Well, I read it on the bed, lying down, but. ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
I don't understand why anybody would be surprised that this guy could be a Nazi.

Super easy to read, a few hours, no more. The guy understood that a one-idea book with no plot has to be short. I don't mean that to be deprecating. It's gripping, on the edge-of-your-seat-stuff. Well, I read it on the bed, lying down, but. ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
I don't understand why anybody would be surprised that this guy could be a Nazi.

Super easy to read, a few hours, no more. The guy understood that a one-idea book with no plot has to be short. I don't mean that to be deprecating. It's gripping, on the edge-of-your-seat-stuff. Well, I read it on the bed, lying down, but. ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Let's check in on the mental state of our narrator at the top of page 57:
"I laughed, laughed and slapped my knees, laughed like a madman. And not a sound emerged from my throat: my laughter was feverish and silent, with the intensity of tears..."How about at the bottom of that same page?
"I lay with open eyes in a state of utter absence from myself and felt deliciously out of it."And what about the next page?
"My first feeling was a stupid amazement at finding myself out in the open, but this was soon replaced by a bitter despondency; I was on the verge of crying with grief at still being alive."This guy goes from manic laughter to blissful placidity to "bitter despondency" in under 2 pages. His emotional roller coaster has flown off the tracks and collided with another roller coaster on the other side of the amusement park. And he keeps this up throughout the whole novel!

Hunger is not meant to be read at a leisurely pace. Every decision the narrator makes is a life-or-death one, and he's constantly in motion, both mentally and physically. His life feels exhausting even without factoring in that he typically hasn't eaten anything in three or four days.

I've seen other reviews compare the narrator to Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment and the Underground Man from Notes from Underground, and I can see why. His encounter with Ylajali in Part 3 is very similar to the Underground Man's interaction with Liza, and his relationship with the city of Kristiania (now known as Oslo) reminds me of Raskolnikov's connection to St. Petersburg. But the big difference I see between the impoverished hero of Knut Hamsun and those of Dostoevsky is the purpose for which each character writes.

Both the Underground Man and Raskolnikov live their lives in an attempt to follow the philosophy of their writings. Part One of Notes from Underground is a rambling diatribe that explains the behavior of the Underground Man in Part Two. Raskolnikov's thesis On Crime is his own attempt to justify his actions. But the narrator in Hunger has no such motivation for his work. When he writes, he isn't setting out to condemn modern society or to justify the crimes of the powerful. His goal is to eat. All three men write a great deal throughout their respective stories, but while we read the entirety of the Underground Man's memoirs and are given a picture of Raskolnikov's On Crime through conversation, our information on the writing of Hamsun's narrator is limited, and that's because it really doesn't matter. When this man finishes a piece, he doesn't see a literary work. He sees ten kroner.

That's what makes Hunger so compelling. There's nothing romantic about starving half to death, and Hamsun doesn't attempt to make it seem that way. In fact, the ending of the novel, where the narrator abandons Kristiania for a job on a boat, is a nice "no thanks" to the whole starving artist thing, which is about as unromantic as it gets. Despite the complicated thought process of the narrator, this is a very simple book about a simple problem, and it's handled beautifully. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (145 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Knut Hamsunprimary authorall editionscalculated
Auster, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Björkman, EdwinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bly, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chong, W. H.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Egerton, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lyngstad, SverreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marken, Amy vanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nesbø, JoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polet, CoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Singer, Isaac BashevisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Worster, W. W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Hunger ( [2001]IMDb)
Sult (1966IMDb)
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It was in those days when I wandered about hungry in Kristiania, that strange city which no one leaves before it has set his mark upon him. . .
Det var i den tid jeg gikk omkring og sultet i Kristiania, denne forunderlige by som ingen forlater før han har fått merker av den ....
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Originally published in 1890, this classic of modern literature follows an impoverished Norwegian writer through the streets of Christiania (now Olso) as he struggles on the edge of starvation. Existing on what little money he makes from selling the occasional article to the local paper, and down to pawning the clothes on his back, the young writer slowly loses control of his reason and begins to slip increasingly into bouts of madness, paranoia, and despair.A gripping portrait of an artist struggling for integrity, Hunger mirrors the dire straits of Hamsun's own life when he brought this, his then incomplete first novel, to a publisher in 1888.

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Norwegian title: Sult
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