Hunger: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

The story of a starving writer in Norway, Hunger is a pivotal masterpiece of European modernism. The protagonist is anonymous and the plot is meager. What holds the text together is the focus on the protagonist's emotions. These emotions are reveled to the reader by the minute descriptions of the inner landscape of the mind, interspersed with the unnamed writer's random encounters with strangers and acquaintances in the streets, or short meetings with various editors.
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Hunger: A Novel

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Overview

The story of a starving writer in Norway, Hunger is a pivotal masterpiece of European modernism. The protagonist is anonymous and the plot is meager. What holds the text together is the focus on the protagonist's emotions. These emotions are reveled to the reader by the minute descriptions of the inner landscape of the mind, interspersed with the unnamed writer's random encounters with strangers and acquaintances in the streets, or short meetings with various editors.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"After reading Hunger, one can easily understand why Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Hunger should appeal to any reader who is interested in a masterpiece by one of this century's great novelists." —-James Goldwasser, Detroit News
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429930932
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/19/2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 721,424
  • File size: 201 KB

Meet the Author


Knut Hamsun (1859–1952) was a Norwegian author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature whose best-known worsk include Hunger, Pan, and Growth of the Soil.

Kevin Foley has over thirty years' experience in radio and television broadcasting, commercial voice-overs, and audiobook narration. He has recorded over 150 audiobooks, and he won an Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine for his narration of Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky.

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Read an Excerpt


  Hunger
part oneAll of this happened while I was walking around starving in Christiania—that strange city no one escapes from until it has left its mark on him … .I was lying awake in my attic room; a clock struck six somewhere below; it was fairly light already and people were beginning to move up and down the stairs. Over near the door, where my wall was papered with old issues of the Morning Times, I could make out a message from the Chief of Lighthouses, and just to the left of that an advertisement for fresh bread, showing a big, fat loaf: Fabian Olsen’s bakery.As soon as I was wide awake, I took to thinking, as I always did, if I had anything to be cheerful about today. Things had been a bit tight for me lately; one after the other of my possessions had been taken to my “uncle” at the pawnshop; I was becoming more and more nervous and irritable, and several mornings lately I had been so dizzy I had had to stay in bed all day. Occasionally when my luck was good I took in five kroner or so from one of the newspapers for an article.It was getting lighter, and I concentrated on the advertisements by the door; I could even read the slim, mocking typeface declaring: “Shrouds available, Miss Andersen, Main Entrance, to the right.” That satisfied me for a long time. The clock below had struck eight before I got up and dressed.I opened the window and looked out. I could see a clothesline and an open field. Behind them there was some debris from a burned-down blacksmith’s shop which the workmen were just now cleaning away. Leaning my elbows on the windowsill, I gazed up into the sky. Today would be clear. The fall had come, that cool and delicious time of year when everything changed color and died. Noises were floating up from the streets, tempting me to go out. This empty room whose floor gave a little with every step was like a badly put-together coffin; the room had no real lock, and no stove; I usually slept on my socks so they would be a little drier by morning. The only nice thing in the room was a small red rocking chair in which I sat in the evenings, and dozed and thought about all sorts of things. When the wind was strong, and the street door of the house had been left open, all kinds of weird whines would come through the floor, and out of the walls, and the Morning Times by the door would get tears in it as long as a hand.I stood up and investigated a little bundle I had over in the corner by the bed, looking for something for breakfast, but found nothing and went back again to the window.I thought, God only knows if there’s any sense in my looking for a job any longer! All these refusals, these partial promises, simple noes, hopes built up and knocked down, new tries that ended each time in nothing—these had squashed my courage for good. The last time, I had tried for a job as a bill collector, but arrived too late; I couldn’t have got together fifty kroner for a bond anyway. There was always one thing or another in the way. I had even tried to join the Fire Department. A half hundred of us stood there in the entryway, sticking our chests out to give the impression of strength and tremendous audacity. A captain walked around inspecting these applicants, felt their muscles, and asked a question or two. He merely shook his head as he walked past me, and said I was out because of my glasses. I turned up again, later, without the glasses. I stood there with my eyebrows scrunched up, and made my eyes as sharp as knife ends: he walked past me again, and smiled—he had recognized me. The worst of it was that my clothes were beginning to look so bad I couldn’t really present myself any longer for a job that required someone respectable.How steadily my predicament had gotten worse! By now I was so utterly denuded of objects that I didn’t even have a comb left, or a book to read when I felt hopeless. I had spent the entire summer sitting in cemeteries or in the public gardens near the castle, writing articles intended for some newspaper: page after page on almost any subject, filled with odd ideas, inspirations, quirks rising from my restless brain. In desperation I would choose the most outré subjects; the pieces would cost me hours and hours of labor, and were never accepted. When a piece was done I plunged immediately into a new one, and therefore wasn’t very often crushed by an editor’s refusal ; I told myself all the time that eventually my luck would turn. And in fact, sometimes when I had luck, and things were going my way, I could get five kroner for one afternoon’s work.I stood up from the window again, went over to the washstand and sprinkled some water on my shiny trousers to make them look blacker and newer. When I had finished that, I put paper and pencil in my pocket as usual and went out. I slipped down the stairs very quietly so as not to attract my landlady’s attention; my rent had been due a few days ago and I had nothing to pay her with at the moment.It was nine. The rattle of wagons and the hum of voices filled the air—growing into a great orchestra of sound into which the noise of people walking and the cracks of the drivers’ whips fit perfectly. The traffic noise on all sides cheered me up immediately, and I began to feel more content and at peace. I had much more to do of course than merely to take a morning stroll in the fresh air. What did my lungs care for fresh air? I was powerful as a giant and could stop a wagon with my shoulders. A rare and delicate mood, a feeling of wonderful lightheartedness had taken hold of me. I began examining the people I met or passed, I read the posters on walls, noticed a glance thrown at me from a streetcar, let every trivial occurrence influence me, every tiny detail that crossed my eyes and vanished.If one only had something to eat, just a little, on such a clear day! The mood of the gay morning overwhelmed me, I became unusually serene, and started to hum for pure joy and for no particular reason. In front of a butcher’s shop there was a woman with a basket on her arm, debating about some sausage for dinner; as I went past, she looked up at me. She had only a single tooth in the lower jaw. In the nervous and excitable state I was in, her face made an instant and revolting impression on me —the long yellow tooth looked like a finger sticking out of her jaw, and as she turned toward me, her eyes were still full of sausage. I lost my appetite instantly, and felt nauseated. When I came to the main market square, I went over to the fountain and drank a little water. I looked up: ten o’clock by the Church of Our Saviour.I kept on going through streets, rambling on with no purpose in mind at all. I stopped at a corner without needing to, turned and went up small alleys without having anything to do there. I just drifted on, floating in the joyful morning, rolling along without a care among other happy people. The air was clear and bright and my mind was without a shadow.For the last ten minutes an old man had been limping ahead of me. He had a bundle in one hand, and was using his entire body to move forward, working with all his strength and yet making very little progress. I could hear him puffing from the effort. It occurred to me that I might carry his bundle; but I made no attempt to overtake him. On Grænsen Street I met Hans Pauli, who said hello and hurried by. Why should he be in such a hurry? I certainly didn’t plan to ask him for money; in fact I wanted first of all to return to him a blanket I’d borrowed from him a few weeks ago. As soon as I was in better shape I would; the last thing I wanted was to owe a man a blanket; perhaps today, as a matter of fact, I would get an article started on “Crimes of the Future” or “Freedom of the Will,” something like that, something salable enough so I could get five kroner at least … . Thinking about the article, I suddenly felt a strong desire to work on it immediately, and drain off my mind. I’d find a good spot in the public gardens and keep on until I had the whole thing done.However, the old cripple was still making the same wiggly movements ahead of me in the street. Finally it began to irritate me to have this feeble creature in front of me all the time. His journey evidently had no end; maybe he was determined to go to exactly the same place as I and I would have him blocking my view the whole way. In my excited condition I had become convinced that at each crossing he had hesitated, as though waiting to see what direction I would take, and then had taken a stronger hold on his bundle and limped off with all his might to get a head start. I walked on, looking at this tedious creature, and became more and more full of rage at him; it was clear he was destroying my good spirits bit by bit, little by little dragging the pure and magnificent morning down to his own ugliness. He looked like a huge humping insect determined to make a place for himself in the world by force and violence and keep the sidewalk all to himself. By the time we got to the top of the hill, I wanted no more part of it; I stopped in front of a shop window, and waited till he had time to get away; but when I started off again after a few minutes, the man cropped up in front of me again: he must have stopped also. Without thinking, I took three or four quick steps, caught up with him, and slapped him on the shoulder.He stopped short. We began staring at each other.“Can you give me a little something for a glass of milk?” he said at last, and let his head fall to the side.Now there was no turning back! I fumbled in my pockets and said, “Oh, yes, milk. Hmm. Money isn’t easy to get these days, and I’m not sure how much you really need it.”“I haven’t eaten a thing since yesterday in Drammen,” the man said. “I don’t have an øre and I still can’t find work.”“What do you do?”“I’m a welt binder.”“A what?”“Welt binder. I can also make the whole shoe.”“Well, that’s different,” I said. “Wait here a few minutes, and I’ll see if I can’t find something for you, a little something at least.”I ran down Pile Street, where I knew of a pawnshop on the second floor; it was one I had never been to either. As I went in the main entrance I quickly slipped off my waistcoat, rolled it up and put it under my arm; then I went up the stairs and knocked on the door. I bowed and threw the waistcoat down on the counter.“One and a half kroner,” said the man.“Very good,” I answered. “If it hadn’t begun to be a little too tight for me, I don’t know how I could have parted with it.”I took the money and went back. Actually, pawning this waistcoat was a wonderful idea; I would still have money left over for a good fat breakfast, and by evening my piece on “Crimes of the Future” would be in shape. Life began immediately to seem more friendly, and I hurried back to the man to get him off my hands.“Here you go,” I said, giving him one of my coins. “I’m delighted that you came to me first.”The man took the money and began to look me up and down. What was he standing there staring at? I got the sensation that he was inspecting my trousers particularly, and I became irritated at this impertinence. Did this old fool imagine I was really as poor as I looked? Hadn’t I just as good as begun my ten-kroner article? On the whole, I had no fears for the future; I had many irons in the fire. What business was it of this heathen savage if I helped him out on such a marvelous day? The man’s stare irritated me, and I decided to give him a little lesson before I let him go. I threw back my shoulders and said, “My dear man, you have gotten into a very bad habit, namely, staring at a man’s knees after he gives you money.”His head settled back against the wall, and his mouth fell open. Behind the idiotic forehead something was going on, he had concluded that I was trying to trick him in some way and he handed the money back.I stamped my foot, swore, and told him to keep it. Did he think I intended to go to all this trouble for nothing? When you came down to it, I probably owed him the money, I just happened to remember an old debt, he was looking at a punctilious man, one honorable right down to his fingernails. In short, the money was his … . Nonsense, nothing to thank me for, it was a pleasure. Goodbye.I walked off. At last I was rid of this painful pest, and could be undisturbed. I went back up Pile Street and stopped in front of a grocery. The window was crammed with food, and I decided to go in and get something to take along.“Some cheese and a French loaf!” I said, and threw my half krone down on the counter.“All of this is to go for bread and cheese?” the woman asked in an ironic tone, without looking at me.“The entire fifty øre,” I replied, not at all upset.I took my bundles, said good morning with the most exquisite politeness to the old fat woman, and started off at full speed toward the castle and the public gardens. I found a bench to myself and began chewing savagely at my lunch. It did me good; it had been a long time since I’d had such a well-balanced meal and I gradually became aware of the same feeling of tired peace which one feels after a long cry. My courage had now returned; it was not enough any longer to write an essay on something so elementary and simple-minded as “Crimes of the Future,” which any ass could arrive at, let alone read in history books. I felt ready for a more difficult enterprise, I was in the mood to conquer obstacles and I determined on a consideration in three parts of Philosophical Consciousness. Naturally I’d find a moment to break the neck of some of Kant’s sophistries … . When I reached to take my writing materials to begin work, I discovered that my pencil was gone—I had forgotten and left it in the pawnshop: my pencil was still in the waistcoat pocket.God, how eager everything was to go wrong around me! I swore several times, leaped up from the bench, and strolled back and forth on the path. Everything was silent; near the queen’s summerhouse two nursemaids were wheeling their baby carriages along; otherwise, not a person was to be seen anywhere. I was profoundly bitter, and strolled up and down in front of my bench like a maniac. How amazingly everything fell to pieces on all sides! An essay in three parts left high and dry for no reason than that there was missing from my pocket a ten-øre pencil! Suppose I went down to Pile Street again and got the pencil back? There would still be time to get a lot done before the mob would come and fill the park. Moreover, there was so much at stake with this investigation of Philosophical Consciousness, perhaps the happiness of many persons. Who could tell? I told myself that the piece could very well be a great help for dozens of young people. Actually, I wouldn’t attack Kant after all, I could avoid that, I would just have to make an invisible detour when I came to the problem of Space and Time; but Renan would have to take care of himself, Renan, that old preacher … . In any case, what was essential was an article of so and so many pages; the unpaid room rent and the landlady’s long look in the morning when I met her on the stairs bothered me all day and even cropped up in my gay moods when I hadn’t another dark thought in my head. This would have to come to an end. I walked rapidly out of the park to get my pencil from the pawnshop.At the bottom of the hill I overtook and passed two women. As I walked by them, I brushed the arm of one. I looked up; she had a plump, slightly pale face. All at once she blushed and became wonderfully beautiful—I don’t know the reason; perhaps from a word she had heard from someone passing, perhaps because of some silent thought inside her. Or was it because I had touched her arm? Her full bosom heaved noticeably several times, and she clenched her hands firmly on her parasol handle. What was she thinking?I stopped and allowed her to go on ahead; actually at that moment I couldn’t have gone farther anyway, the entire series of events seemed to me so curious. I was in an excitable mood, angry with myself for the business with the pencil, and extremely stimulated by all the food just eaten on an empty stomach. Suddenly my thoughts shot off on a lunatic direction, and I felt myself possessed by a strange desire to frighten this woman, to follow her and hurt her in some way or other. I caught up again and walked past, then abruptly turned and looked back at her to study her. I stopped and stared at her face to face, and on the spot a name came to me I’d never heard before, a name with a smooth, nervous sound: Ylayali. When she was very close, I drew myself up straight and said in an impressive voice, “Miss, you are losing your book.”I could hear my heart thump audibly as I said that.“My book?” she said to her companion. She walked on.My malice increased and I followed the two. I was conscious all the time that I was following mad whims without being able to do anything about it. My deranged consciousness ran away with me and sent me lunatic inspirations, which I obeyed one after the other. No matter how much I told myself that I was acting idiotically, it did not help; I made the most stupid faces behind the women’s backs, and I coughed furiously several times as I went by them. Walking on in this way, very slowly, always a few steps ahead, I could feel her eyes on my back, and I bowed my head involuntarily in shame at persecuting her. Gradually I began to feel a marvelous sense of being far, far away, in another place entirely; I had a sort of vague conviction that it wasn’t I who was walking there on the sidewalk and bowing my head. In a few minutes, the women had reached Pascha’s Bookstore. I had already stopped at the first window, and as they went by, I stepped out and said once more, “Miss, you are losing your book.”“Book, what book?” she said in a frightened voice. “Whatever sort of book is he talking about?”She stopped. I gloated cruelly over her confusion; the bewilderment in her eyes fascinated me. Her thought could not grasp my desperate and petty persecution; she has no book at all with her, not even a page of a book, and yet now she looks through her pockets, gazes repeatedly at her hands, turns her head and examines the sidewalk behind her, strains her small and tender brain to its limit to find out what sort of book I am talking about. Her face turns various colors, shows now one and now another expression, and her breath is audible; even the buttons on her dress seem to stare at me like a row of alarmed eyes.“Don’t bother with him,” her friend said, and took her arm. “He’s drunk—don’t you see how drunk he is!”Despite my alienation from myself at that moment, and even though I was nothing but a battleground for invisible forces, I was aware of every detail of what was going on around me. A big brown dog ran across the street, toward the trees and the Tivoli; it had a small collar made of Mexican silver. Farther up the street, a window on the first story opened and a girl with her sleeves rolled up leaned out and began polishing the panes on the outside. Nothing escaped my eyes, I was sharp and my brain was very much alive, everything poured in toward me with a staggering distinctness as if a strong light had fallen on everything around me. The women before me had two blue feathers in their hats, and plaid kerchiefs around their necks. It occurred to me that they were sisters.They turned in and stopped at Cisler’s Music Shop, talking. I stopped also. Then they turned around, returned the same way they had come, passed me once more, turned the corner at University Street, and went up to St. Olaf’s Place. I was at their heels, as near as I dared, all the time. They turned once, giving me a half-frightened, half-inquisitive look, and I saw no irritation in their manner, nor any wrinkled brows. This patience with my pestering made me ashamed, and I dropped my eyes. I no longer wanted to torture them, I wanted out of sheer gratitude to keep track of them with my eyes, not lose sight of them until they were safely inside some building.Outside 2 St. Olaf’s Place, a large house with four stories, they stopped once more, and then went in. I leaned against the lamppost near the fountain, and listened for their steps on the stair: the steps died away in the third story. I came in from the lamppost and looked up at the front of the house. Then something odd happened. High up, some curtains moved, an instant later the window opened, a head appeared, and two remarkable eyes rested on me. Ylayali! I said half aloud, and I felt myself turning red. Why didn’t she call for help? Why didn’t she push one of the flowerpots over on my head or send someone down to chase me away? We stood looking into each other’s eyes without moving; this lasted a minute; thoughts shot between the window and the street, and not a word was said. She turned away. I felt something wrenched in me, a delicate shock went through my system; I saw a shoulder which slowly swung about, a back that disappeared into the room. This leisurely turning from the window, and the expression of the shoulder as it turned, was a sign to me. My blood recognized this delicate greeting and at that moment I felt marvelously happy inside. Then I turned and went back down the street.I didn’t dare look back to find out if she had come to the window again: the more I wondered about this, the more restless and excited I became. The chances were she was standing there this instant following all of my movements: I couldn’t help knowing that I was being examined in this way from behind. I drew myself up as well as I could and walked on. Small jerks began to appear in my legs, my walk became unsteady precisely because I wanted it to be smooth. In order to seem calm and indifferent I swung my arms pointlessly, spit to the side, and looked up at the sky, but it was no good—I felt the watching eyes on my neck every second and a chill ran through my body. Finally I escaped by turning into a side street, from which I went on down to Pile Street to get my pencil back.I had no trouble in retrieving it. The man brought me the waistcoat itself and invited me to go through all the pockets. I found a couple of other pawnshop tickets, which I kept, thanking the man for being so obliging. I became more and more taken with him; at that moment it was extremely important for me to make a good impression on this person. I started off toward the door and then turned back to the counter as if I had forgotten something. I felt I owed him an explanation, some sort of reason, and I began to hum in order to attract his attention. Then I took the pencil and held it up in the air.“It would never have occurred to me,” I said, “to go to such trouble for just any pencil; this case is something special: there is a reason. This stump of a pencil may look insignificant, but this pencil is responsible for getting me where I am in the world, it has given me so to speak my position in life … .”I stopped there. The man came all the way over to the counter.“Is that so?” he said, looking curiously at me.“With this pencil,” I went on straight-faced, “I wrote my great work on the Philosophical Consciousness in three volumes. You have heard of it, I trust?”It seemed to him that he had heard the name, the title only.“Yes, that’s it! That was mine! So it isn’t really surprising if I wanted that tiny stub of a pencil back: it is very precious to me, it is almost a human being to me. In any case, I am tremendously grateful to you for your kindness and I will remember you for it—no, no, I will remember you for it without question: a promise is a promise, that is the sort of man I am, and you certainly have deserved it. Good day.”I strolled to the door, keeping the posture of a man who can place another easily in an important post. The polite pawnbroker bowed twice to me as I went; I turned once more and said good day.On the stairs I met a woman carrying a suitcase. She flattened herself against the wall to let me go by since I looked so prepossessing, and I involuntarily reached in my pocket for something to give her. When I found nothing, my pose collapsed, and I passed her with my head bowed. A moment after, I heard her, too, knocking at the pawnbroker’s door: the door had a steel grillwork attached to it, and I recognized the reverberations as the knock disturbed it.The sun was high, the time nearly twelve. The streets were beginning to come alive as the time approached for strolling in the sun. People laughing and nodding flowed up and down Karl Johan Street. I held my elbows near my sides, made myself small, and slipped unobtrusively by some acquaintances who had stationed themselves near the university to admire the passers-by. I strolled up to the Royal Gardens and fell to brooding.These people I met on the streets, how gaily and lightly they rolled their shining heads and swung through life as if through a ballroom! Not a single eye had grief in it, no shoulders had burdens, in these happy minds there was not a clouded thought, not even a tiny hidden pain. I walked there, alongside these creatures, young myself, hardly leafed out, and I had already forgotten what happiness was! I hugged these thoughts close to me, and found that a terrible injustice had been done to me. Why had these last few months gone so much against me? I could no longer remember my own joyful nature, and I had the strangest troubles coming from all sides. I could not sit on a park bench by myself or put my foot down anywhere without being besieged by tiny and pointless events, absurd nonsense, which forced itself into my brain and scattered my powers to the four winds. A dog that shot past me, a yellow rose in someone’s lapel, could set my thoughts in motion and obsess me for hours. What was the matter with me? Had the hand of the Lord reached out and pointed at me? Well then, why me? Why not just as well at some man in South America? When I pondered these things, it seemed more and more incomprehensible why precisely I should have been chosen as the guinea pig for a whim of God’s favor. It was an extremely odd way of going about things, to leap over the whole human race in order to arrive at me; for example, there was Pascha, the rare-book dealer, and Hennechen, the steamship clerk.I walked along arguing with myself about these things, and could not stop; I came on the weightiest objections against the Lord’s arbitrariness in letting me suffer for everyone else’s sins. Even after I had found a bench and sat down, this question remained, occupying my mind and keeping me from any other thought. From that day in May when my setbacks had begun, I could see clearly all the landmarks of a gradually increasing weakness: now I had become too feeble to steer or guide myself, so to speak, where I wanted to go; a cloud of tiny vermin had forced its way inside me and eaten me out hollow. And what if God had decided absolutely to finish me? I stood up and walked back and forth in front of my bench.My entire being was full of incredible pain at that moment; even my arms ached, and I could hardly stand to carry them in the usual way. I felt a distinct discomfort from my recent large meal also; I was stuffed and overstimulated and walked to and fro without looking up; the people who walked around me on both sides slipped by like ghosts. Finally, my seat was taken by two gentlemen who lit their cigars and talked loudly; I became furious and was about to order them off, but turned instead and went over to an entirely different area of the park, where I found a new bench. I sat down.Thoughts of God began to occupy me again. It seemed to me utterly reprehensible of Him to block my way every time I tried for a job and to ruin my chances when it was only daily bread that I was asking for. I had noticed very clearly that every time I went hungry a little too long it was as though my brains simply ran quietly out of my head and left me empty. My head became light and floating, I could no longer feel its weight on my shoulders, and I had the sense that my eyes were remaining far too open when I looked at anything.I sat there on the bench and thought about all this, and became more and more bitter against God for His constant persecutions. If He wanted to draw me nearer to Himself and make me better by pushing me hard and laying obstacles in my path, He was going about it the wrong way, I could assure Him of that. Then I looked up to the sky almost in tears from my defiance and I told Him that, once and for all, silently, inside myself.Fragments of childhood teachings ran through my mind, I heard the music of the Bible in my ears, and I talked softly to myself, letting my head fall sarcastically to the side. Why should I be troubled for what I would eat, or for what I would drink, or for what I would put on this vile bag of worms which is called my earthly body? Had not the Heavenly Father cared for me as for those creatures who had no place to lay their heads, and had not His hand in His graciousness pointed at His insignificant servant? God had poked His finger down into my nerves and gently, almost without thinking, brought a little confusion among those threads. And God had pulled His finger back, and behold—there were filaments and fine rootlike threads on His finger from the threads of my nerves. And there remained an open hole behind His finger which was the finger of God, and a wound in my brain behind the path of His finger. But after God had touched me with the finger of His hand, He let me be and touched me no more and let nothing evil come upon me. He let me depart in peace and He let me depart with the open hole. And nothing evil will come upon me from God who is the Lord through all Eternity … .Phrases of band music were coming on the wind all the way from the Student’s Promenade. So it was after two. I took out my papers to try some writing; as I did so, my book of barber coupons fell out of my pocket. I opened the book and counted the pages: there were six left. Thank God! I said without thinking; now I could still be shaved for several weeks and look decent! My mood instantly changed for the better because of this little property which I still had left; I smoothed the coupons out carefully and stowed the book away in my pocket.However, I was unable to write. After a couple of lines, nothing more wanted to come; my thoughts were elsewhere and I couldn’t pull myself up to the effort. Everything around bothered me and distracted me; everything I saw obsessed me. Some flies and gnats were sitting on my paper and this disturbed me; I breathed on them to make them go, then blew harder and harder, but it did no good. The tiny beasts lowered their behinds, made themselves heavy, and struggled against the wind until their thin legs were bent. They were absolutely not going to leave the place. They would always find something to get hold of, bracing their heels against a comma or an unevenness in the paper, and they intended to stay exactly where they were until they themselves decided it was the right time to go.These minuscule monsters kept me busy a long time; I crossed my legs and settled down leisurely to watch them. Suddenly one or two high notes of a clarinet drifted up to me from the concert and started my thoughts off in a new direction. Depressed at not being able to do my article, I poked the papers in my pocket and leaned backward over the bench. In this instant, my head was so clear that I could follow the most difficult train of thought without any effort. Lying in this position, letting my eyes float down over my chest and legs, I noticed the tiny leaping movement my feet made every time my heart beat. I sat up partway and gazed down at my feet. At that moment a strange and fantastic mood came over me which I had never felt before—a delicate and wonderful shock ran through all of my nerves as though a stream of light had flowed through them. As I stared at my shoes, I felt as if I had met an old friend, or got back some part of me that had been torn off: a feeling of recognition went through me, tears came to my eyes, and I experienced my shoes as a soft whispering sound coming up toward me. “Getting weak!” I said fiercely to myself and I closed my fists and said, “Getting weak.” I was furious with myself for these ridiculous sensations, which had overpowered me even though I was fully conscious of them. I spoke harsh and sensible phrases, and I closed my eyes tightly to get rid of the tears. Then I began, as though I had never seen my shoes before, to study their expression, their mimelike movements when I moved my toes, their shape, and the worn-out leather they had; and I discovered that their wrinkles and their white seams gave them an expression, provided them with a face. Something of my own being had gone over into these shoes, they struck me as being a ghost of my “I,” a breathing part of myself … .I sat there and tried to puzzle out these feelings a long time, perhaps an entire hour. A little old man arrived and took up the other end of my bench; as he sat down, he was puffing heavily after his walk, and said: “Ah ya, ya, ya, ya, ya, ya, yaaah!”The moment I heard his voice, a wind swept through my head, I let shoes remain shoes, and I had the sensation already that the confused state of mind I had just gone through belonged to some time long ago, perhaps a year or two in the past, and was in the process of vanishing entirely from my memory. I settled down to examine the old man.What was there about him of interest to me? Nothing, not the slightest thing! Only the fact that he was carrying a newspaper, folded, an outdated issue with the classified section showing; evidently something was wrapped in it. I became inquisitive and couldn’t take my eyes from that paper; I got the insane idea that this might be a rare issue, perhaps the only one of its kind. My curiosity rose and I began to slide back and forth on my bench. Perhaps it was hiding official papers, dangerous documents stolen from some files. I had the vague impression of the existence of some secret treaty, a plot.The man sat motionless, thinking. Why didn’t he carry his paper like every other man, with the front page showing? What sort of cunning lay behind that? He looked as though he didn’t want to let the parcel out of his hands, not for all the money in the world, he didn’t even dare trust it to his own pockets. I’d be willing to risk my life that there was something more here than met the eye.I concentrated. The very fact that it was impossible to penetrate this enigma made me wild with curiosity. I searched my pockets for something to give the man in order to start a conversation with him; I came on my barber coupons but replaced them. Suddenly I decided to be completely shameless; I patted my empty shirt pocket and said, “May I offer you a cigarette?”No, thank you, the man did not smoke, he had had to quit in order not to make his eyes worse, he was nearly blind. Thank you anyway very much!How long was it that his eyes had been weak? Was he able to read? Newspapers, for example?“Not even newspapers, a shame!”The man turned toward me. Both of his sick eyes had a film, which gave them a glassy appearance; they looked whitish, and made a revolting impression.“You are not from here?” he asked.No. Isn’t he able even to read the headlines, for example, of that paper he has there?Just barely. In any case, he could tell right away that I wasn’t from here—there was something in my voice that told him. It didn’t need to be much: he had very sharp hearing; at night when everyone else was asleep he could hear the people in the next room breathing … . “I wanted to ask you, where do you live?”A lie appeared full-blown in my head. I lied automatically, without looking forward or back, and answered, “On St. Olaf’s Place, number 2.”Is that right? The man knew every stone on St. Olaf’s Place. There was a fountain there, street lamps, a couple of trees, he remembered it very well … . “What was the number of your apartment?”I stood up; I wanted to get to the bottom of this, driven wild by my notion about the newspaper. I intended to find out the secret, no matter what it cost.Well, if you’re unable to read even a newspaper, I don’t see … .“In number 2, did you say?” the man continued, paying no attention to my impatience. “Once I knew every last person in number 2. Whom do you rent from?”I found a name quickly in order to get this over—invented one on the spot and tossed it out to bring down my tormentor.“Happolati,” I said.“Oh, yes, Happolati.” The man nodded, and had not missed a single syllable in this difficult name.I looked at him astonished; he sat there very soberly, with a thoughtful air. I had barely finished pronouncing this stupid name, which had popped into my head, and this man was already at home with it and pretending that he had heard it before. Meanwhile, he laid his parcel down on the bench, and I felt my curiosity become unbearable. I saw clearly that there were two greasy spots on the paper.“Doesn’t your landlord work on a ship?” the man asked; his voice had not a trace of irony in it. “I seem to remember that he worked on a ship.”“On a ship? I don’t mean to contradict you, but I wonder if the one you know isn’t the brother; this one is J. A. Happolati, a businessman.”I figured this would settle his hash, but he kept on.“They say he’s got quite a head on him,” the old man said, pushing forward.“Oh, he is very sharp,” I answered. “A tremendous head for business, he sells everything you could imagine: Russian goosedown and chicken feathers, hides, pulpwood, ink …”“Amazing!” the old man broke out. “Is that so?”—very excited.I was beginning to be drawn in. The plot ran away with me, and one lie after the other popped into my head. I sat down again, forgot the newspaper and the rare documents, became enthusiastic, and got into the swing of it. The gullibility of the little dwarf made me reckless; I was going to stuff him full of lies, no matter what happened, and drive him like a knight from the field.I wondered if he had heard about the electric prayer book that Happolati had invented?“What was that, an electric—”“With electric letters that can light up in the dark? A fantastically big operation, a million kroner going into it, factories and printing presses working now, mobs of engineers on contract already, I’ve heard some hundred men.”“I’m not really surprised,” the man replied calmly. That was all he said: he believed every word I had spoken and did not fall over with amazement. This disappointed me a bit; I had hoped to see him dumfounded at my inventions.I pulled up a couple of other desperate lies, went all the way, dropped the detail that Happolati had been prime minister of Persia for nine years.“You probably do not really realize what it means to be prime minister of Persia?” I asked. It was greater than being king here, more like being a sultan, if he knew what that involved. Happolati, however, had settled down marvelously in the job and had never taken a false step. And I told him about Ylayali, his daughter, an enchanted creature, a princess who owned three hundred slaves and slept on a bed made of yellow roses; she was the most beautiful being I had ever seen, I had never seen any woman in my life, so help me God, that could begin to compare with her!“So, she must have been pretty, then, eh?” the old man mumbled with an absent air, looking down at the ground.Pretty? She was magnificent, that sort of magnificence ought to have been prohibited! Her eyes were as soft as silk, and her arms the color of amber! A simple glance from her was like a kiss from any other woman, and when she spoke my name her voice poured through my veins like wine right into my heart. And why shouldn’t she be that beautiful? Who did he think she was, a filing clerk or a receptionist in the Fire Department? She was simply out of a fairy tale, he could take my word for it, she was a masterpiece, divine!“Yes, I’m sure she was,” the man said, a little bewildered.His composure bored me; I had become excited by the sound of my own voice and spoke in deadly seriousness. The material stolen from secret files, the agreements signed with some foreign power or other, all this I had forgotten entirely; the small flat bundle lay on the bench between us and I hadn’t the slightest desire any longer to see what was in it. I was completely taken up with my own stories, strange visions were passing before my eyes, my blood went to my brain, and I was lying as fast as I could.All at once the man seemed about to leave. He got halfway up and asked, so as not to break it off too abruptly: “This Happolati, if I’m not mistaken, is quite rich now?”How did this blind and revolting old fool dare to throw about this remarkable name which I had myself created, treating it as though it were just an ordinary name, plastered on the front of every grocery in town? He never stumbled over a single consonant and never omitted a syllable; this name had sunk deep into his brain and put down roots instantly. I became annoyed, and an inner bitterness began to rise in me against this creature whom nothing could disconcert and nothing could make suspicious.“I wouldn’t know,” I answered roughly. “I wouldn’t know anything about that. Let me tell you, moreover, once and for all that his name is Johan Arendt Happolati, judging from his initials.”“Johan Arendt Happolati,” the man repeated, somewhat astonished at my violence. Then he fell silent.“You should see his wife,” I said, raving. “A fatter human being … . I suppose you don’t think she was really fat?”“Oh no, I certainly wouldn’t deny that, especially—you know—that kind of a man …”The old creature answered meekly and quietly to every one of my outbursts and fumbled for words as if he were afraid to say something wrong and make me angry.“Goddammit, man, I suppose you think I’ve been sitting here stuffing you full of lies?” I shouted, completely out of my mind. “I’ll bet you never believed there was a man with the name Happolati! Never in my life have I seen such obstinacy and viciousness in an old man! What in the hell has got hold of you anyway? And you have probably been thinking to yourself, on top of all this, that I am actually broke, haven’t you, and that this is my best suit, and that I haven’t a cigarette case in my pocket at all? The way you have treated me is something I am not used to, I will tell you flatly, and I won’t take it, so help me God, neither from you nor from anybody else, and you may as well know that now!”The man got to his feet. He stood there with his mouth open, completely dumb, and listened to my outburst to the end; then he reached hurriedly for his bundle on the bench and walked away, nearly running down the path, with his little old man’s steps.I sat down on the bench and watched his back go farther and farther away, seeming to fold more and more in on itself. I don’t know where the impression came from, but it occurred to me that I had never seen a more dishonest, a more vile back than this one, and I wasn’t at all sorry that I had given him what he deserved before he left … .The light began to fail, the sun was sinking, a faint rustling came from the trees nearby, and the nursemaids who were sitting in groups by the climbing bars got ready to push their baby carriages home. I was tranquil and in good spirits. The excited state I had just been in slowly passed away and I returned to normal, became relaxed, and began to feel sleepy. The huge amount of bread I had eaten was no longer bothering me particularly. I leaned back on the bench in a marvelous mood, closed my eyes, and became more and more drowsy; I slipped off and was about to fall into a deep sleep when a park attendant placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “You mustn’t sleep sitting here.”“No, no,” I said and jumped up. All at once the hideous position I was in drove in on me with all its force. I had to do something, light on something or other! Trying for a job had not worked; my recommendations were old by now and written by people so totally unknown they were virtually worthless anyway; and this series of refusals all through the summer had been a heavy blow to my morale. Nevertheless, my rent was due now, and I had to find a way out. Everything else would have to wait.I had taken my pencil and paper out again and was sitting mechanically writing 1848 in all the corners. If only one good thought would rush in, then words would come! That had happened before, I had had times when I could write out a long piece with no effort at all, and it would turn out to be first-rate besides.I wrote 1848 twenty times, wrote it crossways and intersecting and every possible way, waiting for a usable idea to come. A swarm of vague thoughts were batting about in my brain. The mood of the approaching dusk made me despondent and sentimental. Fall was here and had already begun to put everything into a deep sleep—the flies and small creatures had received their first shock; high in trees and down near the earth you could hear the sounds of a laboring life, breathing, restless, and rustling, struggling not to die. The whole community of insects would rouse themselves one more time, poke their yellow heads up out of the moss, lift their legs, put out expeditions, feeling with their long antennae, and then suddenly collapse, roll over, and turn their stomachs to the sky. Every plant had received the mark—the delicate breath of the first frost had passed over it. Grass stems held themselves stiffly up toward the sun, and the fallen leaves slipped across the ground with a sound like that of traveling silkworms. It was the hour of fall, well into the festival of what is not eternal. The roses have taken on a fever, their blood-red leaves have a strange and unnatural flush.I myself felt like an insect about to go under, attacked by annihilation in this world ready to go to sleep. I jumped up, laboring with profound terrors, and took three or four long steps up the path. No! I cried, and clenched both fists, this has to end! And I sat down again, brought out the pencil and paper in order to grapple with the article. When the rent was right before my eyes, it would never do to give up.My thoughts slowly started to assemble. I paid attention to them and wrote down with care a couple of well-thought-out pages, a sort of introduction: it could have been a beginning to several things, a travel piece or a political essay, whichever I felt like. The pages led one on, and made a good introduction to either sort of piece.Next I started looking about for a specific question which I could discuss, a person, a problem I could fasten on. I couldn’t come on anything. During this struggle, chaos began to appear again in my thoughts, I could feel my brain literally go click, my head began emptying, and finally it was balancing lightly and without content on my shoulders. I felt this ghastly emptiness inside with my whole body. I seemed to myself hollowed out from head to toe.“Lord, my God and my Father!” I cried in agony, and I repeated this appeal many times in succession without adding a word.The wind rustled in the leaves, it was getting ready to rain. I sat there a while yet and stared hopelessly at my papers, finally folded them together and placed them slowly in my pocket. The air had become chilly, and I had no waistcoat now; I turned my collar up to my neck, stuck my hands in my pockets, then stood up and left.If it only could have gone this time, this one time! My landlady had inquired about the rent with her eyes twice now, and I had had to duck my head and sneak past with an embarrassed greeting. I could not do it again; the next time I met those eyes, I would release my room and make some honest nest for myself. The way it all was going, that time could not be far off.When I came down to the park gate, I saw the little old troll again whom I had chased away in a rage. The mysterious bundle was lying alongside him on the bench, opened; in it were several sorts of food which he was just eating. I immediately had the impulse to go to him and apologize, ask him to forgive my behavior, but his food put me off. His ancient fingers, which looked like ten folded claws, were clutching the sandwiches in a repulsive way. I felt nauseated and walked past without speaking. He didn’t recognize me; his eyes stared at me like dry horns and his face was entirely blank.I walked on.I stopped as I always did when I passed any newspaper building, and read the late editions posted outside in order to study the classified section for job openings, and this time I was lucky enough to find one I could apply for; a grocer on Grønland Street wanted someone for a few hours’ bookkeeping every day; wages by arrangement. I wrote the man’s address down and prayed to God silently for this position—I would accept much less than anybody else for the work, half a krone would be princely or perhaps even less; the price would not be a consideration.When I got home I found on my table a note from my landlady in which she asked me either to pay my rent in advance or to move as soon as I could. I mustn’t be offended at this, it was a request she had to make. With best wishes, Mrs. Gundersen.I wrote a letter of application to the grocer, whose name was Christie, 31 Grønland Street, sealed the envelope and took it down to the mailbox at the corner. Then I went back up to my room and sat down to think in my rocking chair, as the room grew more and more dark. It was beginning to be difficult to stay up late now.
 
 I woke very early the next morning. When I opened my eyes, it was still half dark, and it was quite a while before I heard the clock in the apartment beneath strike five. I wanted to fall asleep again, but couldn’t manage it; I became more and more alert and lay there thinking thousands of things.All at once, one or two remarkable sentences occurred to me, good for a short story or a sketch, windfalls in language, as good as I had ever come on. I lay saying the words over to myself and decided they were excellent. Soon several other sentences joined the two; instantly I was wide awake, stood up, and took paper and pencil from the table at the foot of my bed. It was like a vein opening, one word followed the other, arranged themselves in right order, created situations; scene piled on scene, actions and conversations welled up in my brain, and a strange sense of pleasure took hold of me. I wrote as if possessed, and filled one page after the other without a moment’s pause. Thoughts poured in so abruptly, and kept on coming in such a stream, that I lost a number of them from not being able to write them down fast enough, even though I worked with all my energy. They continued to press themselves on me; I was deep into the subject, and every word I set down came from somewhere else.The session lasted a wonderfully long time before it ended! I had fifteen, twenty written pages lying on my knees in front of me when I finally stopped and laid the pencil down. Now if those pages were only worth anything, I was saved! I leaped out of bed and dressed. It grew more and more light, and I could halfway make out the Chief of Lighthouses’ message down by the door; near the window there was already enough light to write by, if one had to. I started immediately making a clean copy.A strange mist, with lights and colors in it, rose from these fantasies; startled, I came on one good thing after the other and told myself that it was the best piece I had ever read in my life. I became giddy with contentment, gladness swelled up in me, I felt myself to be magnificent. I weighed the piece in my hand and assessed it on the spot with a rough guess as five kroner. No one would ever haggle about five kroner for this. On the contrary. In view of the quality, one could call it pure thievery to get the piece for ten. The last thing I had in mind was to do such a remarkable work free; my experience was that one did not find stories of that sort lying about on the street! I decided definitely on ten kroner.It grew lighter and lighter in the room: I glanced down by the door and I could read without any great difficulty the delicate skeletonlike letters of Miss Andersen’s offer of shrouds, Main Entrance, to the right; the clock had struck seven some time ago.I stood up and remained standing in the center of the room. All in all, Mrs. Gundersen’s notice had come rather conveniently. This really wasn’t any room for me; the curtains on the windows were a very ordinary green, and there weren’t even enough pegs on the walls to hang your wardrobe on. The sad rocking chair in the corner was actually a joke of a chair: if one started laughing at it, one could die laughing. It was too low for a grown man, and besides, it was so tight, one needed a shoehorn to get back out of it. In short, this room was simply not furnished in a way appropriate to intellectual effort, and I did not intend to keep it any longer. I would not keep it under any circumstances! I had been silent in this hole and stood it here and stayed on here too long already.Borne up by hope and contentment, thinking all the time of my marvelous story, which I took out of my pocket every other minute to look at, I decided to get it over with right now and move. I took out my bundle, a red handkerchief which contained two clean collars and some crumpled newspaper which I had carried my bread home in, rolled it all together with my blanket, and added my store of white writing paper. Then, just to make sure, I looked in every corner to see that I hadn’t left anything, and when nothing turned up, I walked to the window and looked out. The morning was dark and misty; no one had arrived yet at the burned-down smithy site and the clothesline down in the courtyard was stretched tight from wall to wall, shrunken by the mist. There was nothing new, so I turned away from the window, took the blanket under my arm, bowed to the Chief of Lighthouses’ announcement, bowed to Miss Andersen’s shroud, and opened the door.All at once I remembered the landlady; she certainly ought to be notified of my departure so she might realize that she was dealing with a self-respecting person. I wanted to thank her also in writing for the couple of days I had used the room beyond my time. The certainty that I was saved now for a long while dominated me so entirely that I even promised to give my landlady five kroner when I came into them one of these days: I wanted to prove to her without possibility of doubt what an honorable man she had had under her roof.I left the note behind on the table.I stopped by the door and turned around one more time. The delicious feeling of having come out on top at last filled me with joy and made me thankful to God and to the universe and I knelt down by the bed and thanked God aloud for His great goodness toward me that morning. I knew, oh I knew so well, that the inspiration and holy breath I had just experienced and written down was a wonderful working of God in my soul, an answer to my cry of need of yesterday. It is God! It is God! I cried to myself, and I was so moved over my own words I sobbed; now and then I had to stop and listen a moment to hear if anyone should be coming up the stairs. At last I stood up and left; I slipped noiselessly down all the flights of stairs and made it to the outer door unseen.The streets were shiny from the rain that had fallen in the dawn hours, the sky hung low and thick over the city, there was not a ray of sunlight anywhere. What would this day bring? I started as usual in the direction of the City Hall and saw that the clock showed eight-thirty. I had, therefore, a couple of hours to waste; there was no sense in getting to the newspaper office before ten, perhaps eleven; I could wander around till that time, and in the meantime think of some avenue that would lead to breakfast. The best was that I had no fear of going to bed hungry tonight; those times, thank God, were over! That phase was behind me now, a bad dream, from now on it was upward all the way!But in the meantime my green blanket was becoming a problem; I certainly couldn’t make a spectacle of myself carrying something like that around under my arm in broad daylight. What would people think of me? So I walked along trying to think of some place where it would be safe until later. It struck me suddenly that I could walk over to Semb’s and have them wrap it. The bundle would instantly look more respectable and there would be no shame any longer in carrying it. I carried it into the store and communicated my errand to one of the clerks.He looked first at the blanket, then at me; I had the sensation that he shrugged his shoulders, invisibly, with a kind of contempt, as he took the parcel. That wounded me.“For God’s sake, be careful!” I shouted. “Two delicate vases are inside. That package has to get to Smyrna!”That helped immensely. With every movement of his hands and body the clerk begged my forgiveness for not having sensed that there were expensive objects inside the blanket. When he had finished his wrapping, I thanked him for his help like a man who has often sent valuable objects to Smyrna. He even opened the door for me as I left.I started wandering around among the people in the main marketplace, and particularly hovered near the women who were selling potted plants. The heavy red roses smoldering in the foggy morning, blood-colored and uninhibited, made me greedy, and tempted me powerfully to steal one—I asked the prices merely so I could come as near them as possible. If I got more money than I needed, I would buy one, no matter what happened afterwards; I could always skimp a little here and there in my daily budget to make up for it.It was ten, and I walked to the newspaper office. Scissors, who spent his day cutting out news notes from other newspapers, was absently leafing through old issues, the editor had not yet come in. Following Scissors’ inquiry, I delivered over my great manuscript to him, made him understand that it was a matter of more than ordinary importance, and impressed firmly on his mind that the editor should receive it personally as soon as he arrived. I would pop in later in the day for his answer myself.“Very good!” Scissors said, and went back to his paper.It seemed to me he had taken it a little too calmly, but I said nothing, just nodded casually to him and left.Now I had a lot of time. If the weather would only clear up! It was really a miserable day, nothing fresh, no wind; the women were using umbrellas just to be safe, and the wool hats of the men looked comical. I made one more trip through the market to see the vegetables and the roses. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned: “Queeny” was saying good morning.“Good morning, yes,” I answered in a questioning tone in order to find out what he wanted as quickly as possible. I was not too fond of Queeny.He looked curiously at the brand-new package under my arm and asked, “What have you there?”“I bought some cloth at Semb’s for a suit,” I answered in a casual tone. “I don’t know why I should go around so threadbare any longer; one can be too stingy in bodily things too, you know.”He looked at me intently.“How is it going then?” he said slowly.“Fine, much better than I had expected.”“Have you found something to do then?”“Something to do?” I answered and looked mightily surprised. “I am the bookkeeper at the Christie Food-store.”“Is that so?” he said, and drew back a little. “You have no idea how happy I am about that. Just so friends don’t get it all away from you. Goodbye.”A few seconds later, he turned around and came back. He pointed with his stick to my parcel and said, “Let me recommend my tailor for your suit. You’ll never, never find a better tailor than Isaksen. Just say I sent you.”Why was he sticking his nose into my business? What was it to him which tailor I used? I got angry. The sight of this aimless, painted-up creature somehow enraged me and I reminded him in a brutal tone of the ten kroner he had borrowed from me. Before he had even replied, I regretted having asked him for it; I felt ashamed and didn’t look him in the eyes. At that moment a woman came along, I stepped quickly back to let her go by, and then took the opportunity to slip away.What should I do with myself, waiting? I couldn’t sit in a café with an empty pocketbook, and I couldn’t think of any acquaintances I could go visit at this time of day. I headed instinctively for the upper part of town, got rid of some time on the way between the marketplace and Grænsen Street, read the Afternoon Times which had just been posted outside the office, made a swing down Karl Johan, turned around again, and walked straight to Our Saviour’s Church yard, where I found a quiet bench on the slope near the chapel. I sat there in privacy, dozing in the damp air, and daydreamed, half asleep and chilly. Time passed. Was it absolutely certain that my sketch was a small masterpiece and inspired? God knows it wasn’t free of faults here and there! Everything considered, it could very well not be accepted, no, simply not accepted! Maybe it was not entirely free of mediocrity, maybe it was downright bad—how did I know but that at this very moment it wasn’t already in the wastebasket? My peace of mind was shaken; I leaped up and rushed out of the cemetery.Once on Akers Street again, I glanced into a shop window and saw that it was only a few minutes past twelve. This made me despair even more. I had been so sure it was long past noon; there was no sense in visiting the editor before four. I had ominous feelings about the fate of my sketch; the more I thought about it, the more unreasonable it seemed that I could have written anything worthwhile in such a short time, and half asleep besides, and my brain wild and feverish. I had deceived myself, that’s all, had been overjoyed all morning for nothing! That’s all! … I walked with long steps up Ullevaals Street, past the St. Hanshaugen district, came to the edge of town, walked through building sites and farmers’ fields and finally found myself on a country road that went on farther than I could see.I stopped there and decided to turn around. The walk had made me warm, and I walked back slowly and extremely depressed. I met two hayracks, the drivers lying on their backs on top of the loads, singing. Both were bareheaded, with round faces untouched by grief. I thought to myself as I walked along that they were sure to say something, throw out some remark or other, play a practical joke. When I was near enough, one of them shouted, asking me what I had under my arm.“A blanket,” I answered.“What time is it?” he asked.“I’m not sure, about three I think.”The two laughed and drove by. As they did, I felt the flick of a whip on one ear and my hat was jerked off. They couldn’t let me get by without some sort of prank. Furiously, I reached for my ear, picked my hat up from the ditch, and went on. Farther on, in St. Hanshaugen, I met a man who informed me that it was already past four.Past four! It was already past four! I pulled up stakes for town and the newspaper office. Perhaps the editor had already been there and left! I walked and ran around everyone, stumbled, bumped against wagons, left all the other pedestrians behind, ran even with the horses, hurried like a madman to get there in time. I twisted in through the outer door, took the stairs in four leaps, and knocked.No one answered.He’s gone! He’s gone! I thought. I tried the door. It was open. I knocked once more and walked in.The editor was sitting at his desk, his face turned to the window, his pen in hand about to write. When he heard my panting good day, he turned halfway around, glanced at me, shook his head, and said: “I haven’t had time yet to read your piece.”I was so overjoyed that he hadn’t tossed it out yet that I said, “No, I understand that. There’s no hurry about it. A couple of days, maybe, or … ?”“Well, we’ll see. In any event, I have your address.”And I forgot to tell him that I no longer had an address.The audience was over; I stepped back, bowing, and left. Hope blazed up in me again, nothing was lost yet, on the contrary, I could still win, be utterly victorious, for that matter. And my brain instantly fell to imagining a great council in heaven where it had just this moment been decided that I should win, receive ten kroner flat for my story … .If I only had somewhere to stay tonight! I debated the best place to poke myself into, and was so absorbed in this question that I stopped still in the center of the street. I forgot where I was and stood like a solitary buoy in the middle of the ocean with the water flowing and roaring around it. A paperboy held out the evening paper Viking to me. “Get it here, sensational!” I looked up and started —I was outside Semb’s again.I quickly turned my back, hid the parcel in front of me, and hurried down Kirke Street worried and ashamed that they might have noticed me from the window. I passed Ingebret’s and the theater, and at the ticket office turned down toward the harbor and the fortress. I found another bench and started casting about again.How in God’s name would I find a room tonight? Maybe there was a hole somewhere I could slip into and stay hidden in until morning? My pride would not allow me to go back to the room I had: nothing could ever force me to go back on my word. I pushed that thought away with great indignation and smiled arrogantly to myself about the tiny red rocking chair. By an association of ideas, I suddenly found myself in a large, two-windowed room I had once had on Hægdehaugen Street, I saw a tray on the table full of thick slices of bread and butter. It shifted its features, now it was a piece of beef, a tempting piece, a snow-white napkin, all sorts of bread, a silver fork. The door opened: my landlady came in offering me more tea … .Delusions and dreams! I told myself that if I did eat food now, my head would get upset again, I would have the same feverish brain and ridiculous ideas to deal with. I simply couldn’t take food, I wasn’t made that way; that was one of my characteristics, a peculiar thing with me.Perhaps some possibility of a bed would turn up when it was nearer evening. There was no hurry; at the worst, I could always find a place out in the woods; the entire environs of the city were at my disposal and the weather could not be regarded as cold yet.In front of me, the sea rocked in its heavy drowsiness; ships and fat, broad-nosed barges dug up graves in the lead-colored plain, shiny waves darted out the right and left and kept going, and all the time the smoke poured like feathery quilts out of the smokestacks and the sound of pistons penetrated faintly through the heavy moist air. There was no sun and no wind, the trees behind me were wet, and the bench I sat on was cold and damp. Time passed; I settled down to doze a little; grew sleepy and a bit chilly in my back. Soon after, I felt my eyes begin to close. I let them close …When I woke, it was all dark around me, I jumped up confused and half frozen, grabbed my parcel and started walking. I walked faster and faster to warm up, beat my arms, rubbed my lower legs, which were numb, and came up near the firehouse. It was nine; I had slept several hours.What should I do now? I had to go somewhere. I stood gaping up at the firehouse, wondering if it would be possible to slip in one of the entrances and go through just the instant when the guard’s back was turned. I climbed the stairs intending to engage the guard in conversation; he immediately lifted his ax in present-arms position, waiting to see what I had to say. This ax, lifted with its edge toward me, was like a cold blow right through my nerves: I became mute with fright before this armed man and involuntarily started to retreat. I didn’t say a word, just slipped steadily backward. To save face, I rubbed my hand over my forehead as if I had forgotten something, and sneaked off. When I was standing on the sidewalk again, I felt saved, as if I had just escaped from a tremendous danger. I hurried away.Cold and hungry, more and more miserable, I pushed on down Karl Johan Street. I started to swear, not caring whether anyone could hear me or not. Near the Senate House, just where the trees begin, a new association of ideas called up a painter I knew, a young man whom I had once saved from a brawl in the amusement park, and whom I later had visited. I snapped my fingers and took off down Tordenskjold Street, found a door with a card on it reading C. Zacharias Bartel, and knocked.He came to the door himself; he gave off a ghastly reek of beer and tobacco.“Good evening!” I said.“Good evening! Is it you? Why in hell have you come so late? It can’t be seen really in artificial light. I’ve added a hayrack since you saw it last, and changed a few things. You must see it in the daylight, there’s no use looking at it now.”“Let me see it now anyway!” I said. Actually, I couldn’t think what painting he was standing there talking about.“Absolutely, totally impossible!” he answered. “The whole thing would look yellow! Also, there’s one more thing.” He leaned toward me, whispering, “I have a little girl visitor tonight, so we’ll have to give it up.”“Oh, yes, well, yes, you’re right, there’s no question then.”I stepped down, said good night, and left.So there was no way out of it then but to find some place out in the woods. If only the ground hadn’t been so damp! I patted my blanket and felt more and more relieved at the thought of sleeping out. I had spent so much time looking for a room in the city that I was sick and tired of the whole thing. I felt a delicious pleasure in letting it all go, just relaxing and floating along the street without a worry in my head. I walked to the clock at the university, saw that it was after ten, and from there I headed north. I stopped once on Hægdehaugen Street outside a grocery store that had some food displayed in the window. A cat lay there asleep beside a French loaf, just behind it was a bowl of lard and several jars of meal. I stood for a while looking at these groceries, but since I had nothing to buy them with, I turned away and pushed on. I walked very slowly, finally passed Majorstuen, walked on and on, walked for hours, and at last got out to the Bogstad Woods.I left the road here and sat down to rest. Then I started looking for a likely place, gathered together some ling and juniper boughs and made a bed on top of a little hill where it was moderately dry. I opened my parcel and took out the blanket. I was exhausted from the long walk and lay down immediately. I tried all sorts of positions before I finally got settled down: my ear smarted somewhat, it was slightly swollen from the crack the farm worker had given it and I couldn’t lie on it. I took off my shoes and put them under my head with the wrapping paper on top of them.The darkness brooded around me. Nothing moved. But high above my head rustled endless music, the air, that distant tuneless humming which never fell silent. I listened so long to this eternal feeble sound that it began to get me confused: it was certainly symphonies coming from the orbiting universes above me, stars that were singing a song … .“It’s not, more likely the devil!” I said, and laughed aloud to bolster me a little. “It is the night owls of Canaan hooting!”I got up, lay down again, put on my shoes, tramped around awhile in the dark, and lay down again, fought and battled against rage and terror till far into the morning hours, when I finally fell asleep.
 
 It was broad daylight when I woke, and I had the feeling it was near noon. I put on my shoes, wrapped up my blanket, and started back to town. No sun today either, and I was shivering like a dog. My feet were numb and water began to come out of my eyes as though they couldn’t bear the light.It was three in the afternoon. My hunger began to be painful. I was weak, and walked along throwing up here and there on the sly. I took a swing down to the Steam Kitchen, read the menu and twitched my shoulders in case anyone was watching, as though to say corned meat and pork were not food for me; after that, I walked down by the railroad station.All at once a curious confusion slipped into my head; I walked on, not wanting to pay any attention to it, but it grew worse and worse; finally I had to sit down on a doorstep. My whole consciousness underwent some change, a tissue in my brain parted. I took a couple of breaths and remained sitting there astonished. I was conscious, I could feel clearly a little pain in my ear from yesterday, and when an acquaintance came by, I knew him immediately and stood up to give him a small nod and bow.What sort of a new and painful sensation was this, which was being added to the others? Did it come from sleeping on the ground? Or was it because I hadn’t had breakfast yet? All in all, there was absolutely no sense in living in this way; and by Holy Christ I did not understand what I had done to deserve this clear persecution either! Suddenly it struck me that I could just as well make a rat of myself right now and take the blanket off to “Uncle’s” artesian well. I could pawn it for a krone and get three respectable meals, and keep myself going until I found something else—I would have to get around Hans Pauli later. I was already on my way to the well when I stopped in front of the entrance, shook my head doubtfully, and then turned around.After I was some distance away, I grew more and more glad that I had won this severe test. The awareness that I was honorable rose to my head, filled me with magnificent conviction that I had character. I was a white beacon tower in the middle of a dirty human ocean full of floating wreckage. To pawn someone else’s property for a single meal, to eat and drink oneself into damnation, to look in your own face and call yourself rat and have to drop your eyes—never! Never! I had never really seriously considered it; it had just occurred to me loosely; a man wasn’t really responsible for these accidental, floating notions, especially when he had a ghastly headache and had nearly killed himself dragging around a blanket that belonged to another person.There will certainly be some way to find help in any case when the time comes! For example, the grocer on Grønland Street, had I been pestering him every hour on the hour since I answered his ad? Had I rung his bell too early and too late and been sent away? I hadn’t so much as appeared there once for my answer! The effort might not be entirely in vain—maybe luck was with me this time. Luck had a habit of following curious paths. So I went off to Grønland Street.The last disturbance that had swept through my brain had left me a bit faint, and I walked very slowly, thinking about what I would say to the grocer. He could very well be a good soul. If the whim struck him, he might give me a krone in advance, even, without my asking for it: people like that now and then get wonderful notions in their heads.I slipped into a doorway and darkened my trouser knees with a little spit so I’d look respectable, stowed my blanket behind a box in one dark corner, strode across the street, and entered the small store.A man was standing there pasting bags together from old newspapers.I said that I would like to speak with Mr. Christie.“That is me,” the man answered.So! My name was such and so, I had taken the liberty of answering his advertisement, and I was wondering if he had been able to use me.He repeated my name several times and began to laugh. “Well, we’ll see now!” he said, and took my letter out of his pocket. “Would you be so good as to note how you deal with figures, my good man? You have dated this letter with the year 1848.” And he laughed from deep in his chest.“Yes, that was a shame,” I said, crestfallen, “a moment of absent-mindedness, distraction, I admit it.”“Well, you see I have to have a man who doesn’t make mistakes with figures,” he said. “I regret it—your handwriting is extremely clear, I liked your letter also, but …”I waited a little while; it was inconceivable that was the man’s last word. He went back to making his paper bags.“Yes, that’s embarrassing,” I said. “A gruesome embarrassment, but of course it won’t happen again, and this slip of the pen surely can’t have made me totally unfit to keep books?”“No, I didn’t say that,” he answered, “but for the moment it seemed important enough to me so that I decided on another man on the spot.”“So the position is taken then?” I asked.“Yes.”“Good Lord, then there’s nothing more to do about it!”“No. I’m sorry about it, but …”“Goodbye!” I said.Now a brutal rage blazed up in me. I took my parcel from the entry, ground my teeth, ran into peaceful pedestrians on the sidewalks and did not ask pardon. When one man stopped and scolded me in a sharp tone for my behavior, I turned around, screamed a solitary meaningless word into his ear, and shook my fist right under his nose. I walked on, frightened by a blind rage I could not control. He called to a policeman. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to have a policeman between my two hands for a minute, so I slowed my pace on purpose to give him time to catch me, but no one came. Was there some particular reason why absolutely every last one of a man’s most serious and most sincere endeavors should fail? Why had I written 1848 anyway? What was that damned year to me? Now I was walking around starving so that my intestines were curling up inside me like snakes, and moreover there was no guarantee that food would come to me by the day’s end either. And as time went on, I was becoming spiritually and physically more and more hollowed out, I let myself sink to less and less honorable deeds every day. I told blank lies without a blush, cheated poor people out of their rent, and fought against the grossest impulses to make off with someone else’s blanket, all without remorse, without bad conscience. Rotten patches were beginning to appear in my insides, black spongy areas that were spreading. And up in heaven God was sitting, keeping an open eye on me, and taking care that my defeat proceed after the correct rules of the art, evenly and slowly, with no break in rhythm. But in the pit of hell the evil devils roamed around bursting with rage because it was taking me so long to commit a mortal sin, an unforgivable sin, one for which God in His righteousness would have to throw me down … .I increased my pace, pushed myself faster and faster, swung suddenly to the left, and strode excitedly and angrily into a light, elegant entry. I did not stop, did not pause a second—yet my consciousness took in the whole decorative arrangement of the vestibule in that half second: every insignificant detail of the doors, molding, floor tiling was utterly clear to me inwardly as I sprang up the stairs. I rang a bell violently on the third floor. Why did I stop precisely on the third floor? And why did I choose this bell, which was farthest from the stair?A young woman in a gray dress, trimmed with black, opened the door. She looked at me astonished for a little while, then shook her head and said, “No, we don’t have anything for you today.” And she made a motion to close the door.Why had I thrown myself in the path of this person? She took me obviously to be a beggar; suddenly I became cool and calm. I took off my hat and made a proper bow; then as if I had not heard her sentence, I said in the politest conceivable voice, “I do beg your pardon, madam, for having rung so loud. I wasn’t familiar with your bell. I believe that there is an invalid gentleman here who has advertised for a man to give him outings in a chair?”She stood still awhile, trying out this fantastic lie on her tongue; she seemed to be undecided about me.“No,” she said finally, “there is no invalid gentleman here.”“Are you sure? An elderly man, two hours’ outing each day, half krone an hour?”“No.”“Then I must ask you for your pardon again,” I said. “Possibly it is the second floor. In any case, I merely wanted to recommend for the post a man in whom I have taken an interest. My own family is Wedel-Jarlsberg.” Then I bowed once more and withdrew. The young woman turned beet red and in her embarrassment could not move from the spot but stood rooted staring after me as I went down the stairs.My peace of mind was back, and my brain clear. The woman’s words saying she had nothing to give me today had affected me like a cold shower of rain. It had gone so far now that everybody in the world could glance at me and say to himself: There goes a beggar, one of those people who get their food handed to them through a door!On Møller Street I stopped outside a restaurant and sniffed the marvelous odor of meat cooking inside; I had already put my hand on the doorknob and was ready to drift in when I caught myself in time and walked away. When I got down to the main market square, I looked around for a place to sit but found all the benches taken. I walked around the church on all sides looking for a quiet place to flop down. Naturally! I said bitterly to myself, naturally, what else! I started to walk again. I made a swing past the corner fountain and took a swallow of water, started to walk once more, dragged myself along, one foot after the other, stopped a long while outside every store window, turned to watch every wagon as it rattled past. I felt a sort of shimmering heat inside my head, and the beating in my temples was strange. The water I had drunk did not agree with me, and I walked on, throwing up a little here, a little there, in the gutter. Finally I made it to the Cemetery of Christ. I sat down with my elbows on my knees, my head in my hands: bent over like that, it was better, and I didn’t feel the small gnawing in my chest any longer.A stonecutter was lying on his stomach on top of a huge granite slab nearby, cutting an inscription; he was wearing blue spectacles and reminded me suddenly of an acquaintance whom I had nearly forgotten, a man who worked in a bank; I had met him some time ago in the Oplandske Café.If I could just get rid of shame once and for all and go to him! Tell him the truth right out, that the situation was becoming desperate for me now, it was getting difficult to stay alive! I could give him my barber coupons … . Holy God, my barber coupons! coupons worth up to a krone! I rummaged anxiously for this valuable treasure. When I didn’t find it fast enough, I leaped up, searched, sweating with fear, and found them at last at the bottom of my breast pocket, along with other papers, some blank, some written on, all of no value. I counted the six coupons many times forward and backward. I didn’t have much use for them—it might be taken as a whim of mine, an eccentricity, that I no longer bothered to shave. I had help to the value of half a krone, a good silver half krone from the Kongsberg mine! The banks closed at six, I could probably find my man at the Oplandske Café around seven or eight.I sat up and warmed myself for a long time with this thought. Time went by, the chestnut leaves around me moved heavily in the wind, the day was ending. Wasn’t it really a little sordid to come sneaking up with six barber coupons to a gentleman who occupied a post in a bank? Maybe he had two barber books in marvelous shape in his pocket, coupons entirely different from mine, clean and crisp ones, very likely. I felt in all my pockets for a couple of things I could give him to boot, but found nothing. Suppose I offered him my tie? I could easily spare that now as long as I just buttoned my coat a little tighter, and I had to do that anyway since I no longer had a waistcoat. I took my tie off—it was the large formal kind and covered half my chest—brushed it off carefully, and wrapped it in a piece of white writing paper together with my barber coupons. Then I left the churchyard and started for the café.The clock on the city jail said seven. I hovered about the café, poked about along the iron fence, and kept an eye on everyone going in or out. Finally, at about eight I saw him coming, fresh and elegantly dressed, up the hill; he cut across the street toward the café. My heart beat wildly like a little bird in my chest as I caught sight of him, and without even saying hello, I blurted out something.“A half krone, my friend!” I said, becoming impertinent. “Here—here is fair exchange for it!” and I pushed the little packet into his hand.“Don’t have it!” he said. “Swear to God!” And he turned his coin purse inside out for me. “I was out last night, and I’m broke; believe me, it’s absolutely true.”“No, no, I believe you, old boy!” I said and took him at his word. There was in fact no reason for him to lie with so little at stake; it struck me, too, that his blue eyes were a bit moist as he rummaged in his pocket, finding nothing. I took a step back.“Forgive the whole thing!” I said. “I wasn’t in a really big fix anyway.”I was already half a block down the street when he called after me about the packet.“Keep it, keep it!” I answered. “You are very welcome to it! It is only a couple of small things, doesn’t amount to anything—about everything I own in the world.” I was moved by my own words, which sounded so pathetic in the early twilight, and I started to cry.The wind sprang up, the clouds hurried across the sky, and it became cooler and cooler as it got dark. I walked along crying down the entire street to its end, feeling more and more pity for myself, and I repeated again and again several words, a cry from the heart which would always start the tears once more when they were about to stop: “My God and my Lord, I have such tribulation!”An hour went by in this way, endlessly, slowly, sluggishly. I puttered about on Torv Street for a long time, sat on steps, slipped into doorways when anyone came by, or stood staring blankly into the shops where people were bustling around with merchandise and money; finally I found myself a cozy place behind a pile of lumber between the church and the market tents.Well, I definitely could not go back to the woods tonight, no matter what happened, I didn’t have energy enough for it, it was too far out there. I would get through the night as best I could, where I was—if it got too cold I could always walk a few times around the church. I didn’t need to make any elaborate plans for that. So I leaned back and dozed.The noise around me grew less, the shops were closed. I heard fewer and fewer steps of passers-by; finally all the windows around me were dark … .I opened my eyes and became aware of a shape standing in front of me; the shiny buttons that glittered in my direction made me guess a policeman. I couldn’t see the man’s face.“Good evening!” he said.“Good evening!” I answered, and felt afraid. I stood up somewhat embarrassed. He stood awhile without moving.“Do you live near here?” he asked.Without thinking, out of sheer habit, I named my old address, the little attic room I had left.He stood quiet a moment.“Have I done anything wrong?” I asked in anxiety.“Oh no, not at all!” he answered. “But I think it is time for you to go home now, it’s cold lying here.”“Yes, it is chilly, I can feel it.”So I said good night and instinctively made my way to my old place. Now if I were only careful I could go up without being heard—there were eight flights of stairs in all, and only the two top ones had creaky steps.I took my shoes off downstairs and started up. The house was quiet. On the third floor I heard the slow tick-tock of a clock, and a child who cried a little; after that, I heard nothing. I found my door, lifted it a bit on its hinges and opened it without using the key, as I often did; I walked in and closed the door silently behind me.Everything was just as I had left it—the curtains were pulled aside, and the bed was empty. On the table I caught a glint from some paper, probably my note to the landlady. The chances were she hadn’t even been up here then since I had left. I ran my hands over the white spot and found to my surprise that it was a letter. A letter? I took it over to the window and studied as well as I could in the dark the scrawl of the address, and at last made out my own name. Aha! I thought, the landlady’s reply, warning me not to set foot in the room again, if I had such an idea!Then I walked slowly, very slowly, out of the room, carrying my shoes in one hand and the letter in the other, my blanket under my arm. I tiptoed and grit my teeth on the creaking steps and made it safely down all the stairs and finally stood in the entryway once more.I put my shoes on again, taking a good long time tying the laces, sat for a moment motionless when I was done, stared blankly ahead of me, holding the letter in my hands.Then I stood up and walked away.A gas lamp was flickering up the street, so I walked right under it, rested my parcel against the lamppost, and opened the letter, doing it all with an exaggerated slowness.The letter shot through me like a stream of light, and I heard myself give a little cry, a meaningless sound of joy: the letter was from the editor, my piece was accepted, being set in type immediately! “A few minor changes … a couple of typographical errors corrected … shows real ability … will appear tomorrow … ten kroner.”I laughed and cried, leaped in the air and ran down the street, stopped and beat my legs, swore wholesale at no one about nothing. And time went by.The whole night until dawn I went yodeling around the streets, dumfounded with joy, and said over and over: shows real ability, actually a little masterpiece, a stroke of genius. And ten kroner!Translation and afterword copyright © 1967 by
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 11, 2010

    Very creative

    I would never think that a book about hunger could be this interesting. There are times that we are hungry but this time is almost never extended to days. The author describes hunger in a way that reading the book and not being able to share his feelings is almost impossible. The book does not only describes hunger but also talks about social interactions and self image, how human beings strive for achievement at all times. One of the most important thing about this book is, hunger can also stimulate our sense of creativity somehow. Things that we are able think and do when we are hungry changes. It affects human behavior in a way that nothing else can. Experiencing love, success, respect, disrespect and all possible emotions that we go trough on a given day, is explained when hunger exists. It take us to a point where there is no possible return point. We don't even think about eating but creating (writing in author's case) when we are determined to do it. I would recommend the book to anyone who would like to experience hunger from a different perspective

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2006

    Deep and dark trip to the recesses of the mind

    Knut Hamson takes the reader down a path of desolation, suffering, delirium, and a jumble of confused thoughts. The hero in the book (whom Hamson never names) is a struggling writer who is constantly working on his first major breakthrough to get into the door of the literary world. While struggling to find his masterpiece he writes for the local newspaper for five or ten Krone (Norwegian currency) per article. Sometimes it¿s published, other times it¿s rejected by the editor. He goes one day to the next hoping to hear from the newspaper that his article was accepted. Meanwhile he slowly but surely looses his apartment, and goes hungry, aimlessly walking the streets of Christiania (Oslo) doing everything his demented mind tells him to do. Most of it doesn't make sense to the reader. He stalks strange woman on the street, he pawns his only coat to give a beggar money for food (while he himself is starving), and he takes a cab throughout the city lying to the driver telling him he needs to find a certain person very urgently (he makes up a name). But the interesting part is, during all his delusionary acts, he clearly knows what he's doing, but is powerless to defy the voices in his head. Through all the depravity he experiences, the reader never at any point feels bad for the character, for it is evident that at any moment he could escape his miseries, and find a job. It also becomes abundantly clear to the reader that he is exceedingly smart, and can hold an intelligent conversation with the best of them. Why then we might ask is his starving on the streets of Oslo? There is a very surprising ending, one that I must admit left me unsatisfied, but maybe I'm missing something that Hamson was trying to relate. Read it, and decide for yourself.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2002

    The from the publisher notes must be about some other book!

    The from the publisher notes state 'Set in Norway and Iceland at the beginning of the eleventh century, this is the story of the beautiful, spoiled Vigdis Gunnarsdatter, who is casually raped by the man she had wanted to love. A woman of courage and intelligence, Vigdis is toughened by adversity. Alone she raises the child conceived in violence, repeatedly defending her autonomy in a world governed by men. Alone she rebuilds her life and restores her family's honor, until an unrelenting social code propels her to take the action that again destroys her happiness. More than a historical romance, Gunnar's Daughter depicts characters driven by passion and vengefulness, themes as familiar in Undset's own time - and in ours - as they were in the Saga Age.' What? Huh? I don't think the publisher read it! It is a great novel though....

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002

    Changed My Life!

    I'd never heard of Hamsun until I saw a recent Norwegian movie about his life (of the same name) with Max von Sydow, which was a superb, albeit little known, film released in 1996. As a consequnce, I was intrigued about the real Hamsun and decided to read 'Hunger.' I could go on for pages about what a wonderfully powerful novel this is, but suffice it to say that you will know yourself better by the time you reach the conclusion. 'Hunger' is not just about food, it's emblematic of all the hungers we feel: hunger for knowledge, connection, love, sex, money, comfort, etc. If you're open to the possibilities, this story may just change your life too!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2014

    Rowan

    Imman oc. District 12.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Alaura

    District 7.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Peeta

    Im peeta

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Bella

    Here?

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    A very powerful book about the struggles of a very poor writer w

    A very powerful book about the struggles of a very poor writer who finds it beneath him to ask for help / pity from people when his resources end. A strong insight into human nature, pride and a sort of vanity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2013

    Mmax

    Whioah

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  • Posted July 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Hunger is an extremely compelling novel, and powerful psychologi

    Hunger is an extremely compelling novel, and powerful psychological portrait. Our unnamed protagonist is a freelance writer living in Oslo (Christiana). When we first meet him he is in dire straits; penniless, late on the rent, and nearly out of possessions to pawn. Things will only get worse for him. We follow him as his situation degrades even further; forced to leave his apartment and pawn articles of clothing, he literally begins to starve. All the while his behavior becomes more and more erratic. He picks fights with strangers, revels in outrageous lies, battles himself over his sense of honor, and rages against god and society. What makes Hunger such a profound novel is the realization that our protagonist is doing all this to himself. For unknown, and unknowable reasons he is putting himself through the crucible. He dreams of the great (and valuable) articles he will write, and yet he will not allow himself to write them. He moans about his poor luck, but when on the few occasions luck drops some money is his hands he finds some reason to give it away. We don't know why he does this to himself, and neither does he. What we do know is that if he doesn't figure it out soon he'll die.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    &9811

    &hearts

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2012

    I read this because one of my favorite authors and many great au

    I read this because one of my favorite authors and many great authors loved Hamson's work. I have read half of it and find it boring. Its nice to see where all the authors I love got influenced but sometimes great books really are not that great.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    stark and frightening

    I had been meaning to read this novel for a long time. The protagonist's descent into starvation-induced madness is engrossing. Hamsun has given the reader a view into the inner workings of a man's mind unlike any before him and few after. This work reminds me of The Sound and the Fury, only Hamsun has combined Benjy, Quentin, and Jason Compson into one character. Disturbing and beautiful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005

    Powerful

    Hamsun's Hunger is, by far, the most disturbing novel I have ever read. Shocking and prophetic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2000

    Absolutely stunning

    A powerful story about an ambitious young man whose literary idealism condemns him to near-starvation on the cold streets of Oslo. One of the greatest books I have ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 1999

    lost in the words

    unlike books by my other favorite authors (percy, o'connor, and couplnad to name some) this did not leave me thinking for days afterwards....nonetheless i loved it...the prose is among the most beatiful i have ever read...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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