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Hunger by Knut Hamsun

Hunger (original 1890; edition 2012)

by Knut Hamsun

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3,019771,885 (4.07)1 / 201
Authors:Knut Hamsun
Info:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012), Paperback, 130 pages
Collections:Your library

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Hunger by Knut Hamsun (1890)


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English (69)  Norwegian (2)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
"This is the affirmation of Hamsun's writing style and also his first literary success. It's easy to notice on this book a great effort to transmit the essence of his soul on his writing, resulting in the final product being more memorable than his own life. Long story short: the protagonist starves and struggles against really cold weather, all because he does not have enough money to make a living out of writing (or maybe he hasn't enough talent to make a living out of it?). Roaming about Oslo's streets, starving, through both summer and winter, the character loses both physical and mental health, giving the reader a thorough description of the events, filtered by his bewildered mind.

Hamsun writing is moved by a tremendous will to impose his opinions to the reader, directly and clearly. His characters are expressed through the pages vividly, their reactions and reasoning immediately understood. Somewhere I read references to his style being comparable to authors like [a:Fyodor Dostoyevsky|3137322|Fyodor Dostoyevsky|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1435749299p2/3137322.jpg], and I absolutely agree. Similarly to the Russian author, Hamsun also works towards an exhaustive description of the character's mental situation. The building of Hunger's universe comes entirely from insights, like a big flux of conscience being put into words.

As I see it, the book is a romance about the evolution of the author as a writer. It's also about how far he is willing to go for his art on the pursuit of turning from a writer to an author. He creates his intellectual propriety from mere fictional facts and emotions, manipulating them through words. Hamsun develops the protagonist by making him deny all basic human necessities, giving up to them at the end of every chapter. It comes ti a point where he is finally able to confront God with all his lies and fictional thoughts, finally reaching his goal. Hence, the young writer, now artist, leaves Oslo and looks for employment on a boat, knowing that, at least in the beginning, he is gonna need a less risky job to survive. He is secure, though, that his talent is going to prevail.

I really like this book a lot. It works like a coming of age book, but also as a reminder of how society can be cruel sometimes; it brings up a clear message that, in order to survive, it's important to be useful at the same time you pursue your dreams. Hunter is, maybe, the most keen book I've read from Hamsun, even though it is a little autobiographic. It is a piece of art made to read, reread and appreciate.

Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review:
Truth is neither ojectivity nor the balanced view; truth is a selfless subjectivity.
The intelligent poor individual was a much finer observer than the intelligent rich one. The poor individual looks around him at every step, listens suspiciously to every word he hears from the people he meets; thus, every step he takes presents a problem, a task, for his thoughts and feelings. He is alert and sensitive, he is experienced, his soul has been burned...

The Last Passage
I had already taken keenly into my head that I was to sail this voyage, and I began to dread being hounded on shore again.
""What do you think about it, Captain?"" I asked at last. ""I can really do anything that turns up. What am I saying? I would be a poor sort of chap if I couldn't do a little more than just what I was put to. I can take two watches at a stretch, if it comes to that. It would only do me good, and I could hold out all the same.""
""All right, have a try at it. If it doesn't work, well, we can part in England.""
""Of course,"" I reply in my delight, and I repeated over again that we could part in England if it didn't work.
And he set me to work....
Out in the fjord I dragged myself up once, wet with fever and exhaustion, and gazed landwards, and bade farewell for the present to the town--to Christiania, where the windows gleamed so brightly in all the homes.
" ( )
  AdemilsonM | Sep 2, 2015 |
A chilling novel. A stark, uncompromising look at the horrors of literary life in Oslo at the turn to the twentieth century Oslo. To be read by anyone contemplating a life in literary pursuits. It will deter some. ( )
  DinadansFriend | May 31, 2015 |
Desperate, grim and powerful. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
Someday I'll actually sit down and write a real book review and when I do, it might just be on this book. Hunger struck a chord in me. Maybe it's all the Gogol and Dostoevsky I've read and loved over the years. This book is indeed disturbing and describes hunger in such detail that it makes the reader feel the desperation, feel the hunger. There are scenes that a reader will likely never forget. ( )
  crule627 | Apr 16, 2015 |
‘Andreas Tangen’ is the fictitious name our nameless protagonist gives to the Officer on Duty the night he finds himself cold, wet, famished, keyless (not to say clueless, and consequently without even a room to go home to) and nearing delirium. His solution? To seek room and board in the city jail whence he can contemplate the rain falling on the outside.

I only recently (July 17) read and reviewed Jack London’s Martin Eden. Knut Hamsun’s semiautobiographical Hunger could well serve as a companion piece to London’s equally semiautobiographical novel. And neither would be out of place sitting alongside Dostoyevsky’s Notes from (the) Underground.

“‘I will read it,’ he (the editor of a city paper in Christiania) said, taking it. ‘Of course everything you write will cost you labor; the only trouble with your work perhaps is excitability. If you could only be a little more composed! There is too much fever all the time. Anyway, I’ll read it.’ Then he turned to his desk work” (p. 95).

Our anonymous protagonist’s “excitability” is quite understandable given his uncertain living conditions and constant state of hunger. And Robert Bly has done an excellent job of translating (I assume) and injecting (I don't assume) that same excitability into Hamsun’s Norwegian prose. For anyone who’s ever been homeless and felt prolonged hunger pangs for the sake of his art (or through the sheer absence of work), Hamsun’s words and Bly’s translation of those words may ring truer than any of us would care to remember. The only thing worse? I can still recall Luis Alberto Urrea’s description (in The Devil’s Highway) of what occurs when people emerge in the Arizona desert after having walked up from Mexico (or from points even further south) … and are out of water. (What happens to the human animal as it passes through the several stages of extreme dehydration is something you may be tempted to read about, but never want to actually witness.)

In any case, our protagonist’s problem is the title of this book — and it never disappears. With hunger, comes a slow insanity. It’s not easy to read about, but both Hamsun and Bly do a superb job of portraying it in all of its insidious glory. This is indeed a case of afflictio gratia artis (suffering for the sake of art).

Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (65 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Knut Hamsunprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auster, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Björkman, EdwinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lyngstad, SverreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marken, Amy vanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polet, CoraTranslatorsecondary 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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Norwegian title: Sult
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486431681, Paperback)

This powerful, autobiographical novel by a Nobel Prize-winning author made literary history when it was first published in 1890. A modern classic about a penniless, unemployed young writer, the book paints an unforgettable portrait of a man driven to the edge of self-destruction by forces beyond his control.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:53 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

"Originally published in 1890, this classic of modern literature follows an impoverished Norwegian writer through the streets of Christiania (now Oslo) 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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