Hunger

Hunger

by Knut Hamsun

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Overview

Since the death of Ibsen and Strindberg, Hamsun is undoubtedly the foremost creative writer of the Scandinavian countries. Those approaching most nearly to his position are probably Selma Lagerlöf in Sweden and Henrik Pontoppidan in Denmark. Both these, however, seem to have less than he of that width of outlook, validity of interpretation and authority of tone that made the greater masters what they were.
His reputation is not confined to his own country or the two Scandinavian sister nations. It spread long ago over the rest of Europe, taking deepest roots in Russia, where several editions of his collected works have already appeared, and where he is spoken of as the equal of Tolstoy and Dostoyevski. The enthusiasm of this approval is a characteristic symptom that throws interesting light on Russia as well as on Hamsun.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497519794
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 04/02/2014
Pages: 116
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.24(d)

About the Author

Knut Hamsun (1859–1952) was a Norwegian author whose best-known works include Hunger, Pan, Under the Autumn Star, and Growth of the Soil. His writing is characterized by deep investigation into the human mind and skepticism about the value of modern civilization, and his novel Hunger is often cited as the literary beginning of the twentieth century and a seminal work in the development of psychologically driven fiction. In 1920 Hamsun was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Gunnar Cauthery is a British actor whose film and television credits include War Horse and The Demon Headmaster.

Read an Excerpt

Hunger


By Knut Hamsun, George Egerton

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12017-1


CHAPTER 1

IT was during the time I wandered about and starved in Christiania; Christiania, singular city, from which no man departs without carrying away the traces of his sojourn there.


* * *

I was lying awake in my attic and I heard a clock below strike six. It was already broad daylight, and people had begun to go up and down the stairs. By the door where the wall of the room was papered with old numbers of the Morgenbladet, I could distinguish clearly a notice from the Director of Lighthouses, and a little to the left of that an inflated advertisement of Fabian Olsen's new-baked bread.

The instant I opened my eyes I began, from sheer force of habit, to think if I had any reason to rejoice over the coming day. I had been somewhat hard-up lately, and one after the other of my belongings had been taken to my "Uncle." I had grown nervous and irritable. A few times I had kept my bed for the day with vertigo. Now and then, when luck had favoured me, I had managed to get five shillings for a feuilleton from some newspaper or other.

It grew lighter and lighter, and I took to reading the advertisements near the door. I could even make out the grinning lean letters of "winding-sheets for sale at Miss Andersen's," on the right of it. That occupied me for a long while. I heard the clock below strike eight as I got up and put on my clothes.

I opened the window and looked out. From where I was standing I had a view of a clothes-line and an open field. Farther away lay the ruins of a burnt-out smithy, which some labourers were busy clearing away. I leant with my elbows resting on the window-frame and gazed into open space. It promised to be a clear day—autumn, that tender, cool time of the year, when all things change their colour, and die, had come to us. The ever-increasing noise in the streets lured me out. The bare room, the floor of which rocked up and down with every step I took across it, seemed like a gaping sinister coffin. There was no proper fastening to the door, either, and no stove. I used to lie on my socks at night to dry them a little by the morning. The only thing I had to divert myself with was a little red rocking-chair, in which I used to sit in the evenings and doze and muse on all manner of things. When it blew hard, and the door below stood open, all kinds of eerie sounds moaned up through the floor and from out the walls, and the Morgenbladet near the door was rent in strips a span long.

I stood up and searched through a bundle in the corner by the bed for a bite for breakfast, but finding nothing, went back to the window.

God knows, thought I, if looking for employment will ever again avail me aught. The frequent repulses, half-promises, and curt Noes; the cherished, deluded hopes, and fresh endeavours that always resulted in nothing had done my courage to death. As a last resource, I had applied for a place as debt collector, but I was too late, and, besides, I could not have found the fifty shillings demanded as security. There was always something or another in my way. I had even offered to enlist in the Fire Brigade. There we stood and waited in the vestibule, some half-hundred men, thrusting our chests out to give an idea of strength and daring, whilst an inspector walked up and down and scanned the applicants, felt their arms, and put one question or another to them. Me, he passed by, merely shaking his head, saying I was rejected on account of my sight. I applied again without my glasses, stood there with knitted brows, and made my eyes as sharp as needles, but the man passed me by again with a smile; he had recognised me. And, worse than all, I could no longer apply for a situation in the garb of a respectable man.

How regularly and steadily things had gone down-hill with me for a long time, till now, in the end, I was so curiously bared of every conceivable thing. I had not even a comb left, not even a book to read, when things grew all too sad with me. All through the summer, up in the churchyards or parks, where I used to sit and write my articles for the newspapers, I had thought out column after column on the most miscellaneous subjects. Strange ideas, quaint fancies, conceits of my restless brain. In despair I had often chosen the most remote themes, that cost me long hours of intense effort, and were never accepted. When one piece was finished I set to work at another. I was not often discouraged by the editors' "no." I used to tell myself constantly that some day I was bound to succeed; and really occasionally when I was in luck's way, and made a hit, I could get five shillings for an afternoon's work.

Once again I raised myself from the window, went over to the washing-stand, and sprinkled some water on the shiny knees of my trousers to dull them a little and make them look a trifle newer. Having done this, I pocketed paper and pencil as usual and went out. I stole very quietly down the stairs in order not to attract my landlady's attention (a few days had elapsed since my rent had fallen due, and I had no longer anything wherewith to raise it).

It was nine o'clock. The roll of vehicles and hum of voices filled the air, a mighty morning-choir, mingled with the footsteps of the pedestrians and the crack of the hack-drivers' whips. The clamorous traffic everywhere exhilarated me at once, and I began to feel more and more contented. Nothing could be farther from my intention than to merely take a morning walk in the open air. What had the air to do with my lungs? I was strong as a giant; could stop a dray with my shoulders. A sweet, unwonted mood, a feeling of lightsome happy-go-luckiness took possession of me. I fell to observing the people I met and who passed me, to reading the placards on the wall, noted even the impression of a glance thrown at me from a passing tram-car, let each bagatelle, each trifling incident that crossed or vanished from my path impress me.

If only one had just a little to eat on such a lightsome day! The sense of the glad morning overwhelmed me; my satisfaction became ill-regulated, and for no definite reason I began to hum joyfully.

At a butcher's stall a woman stood speculating on sausage for dinner. As I passed her she looked up at me. She had but one tooth in the front of her head. I had become so nervous and easily affected in the last few days that the woman's face made a loathsome impression upon me. The long yellow snag looked like a little finger pointing out of her gum, and her gaze was still full of sausage as she turned it upon me. I suddenly lost all appetite, and a feeling of nausea came over me. When I reached the market-place I went to the fountain and drank a little. I looked up; the dial marked ten on Our Saviour's tower.

I went on through the streets listlessly, without troubling myself about anything at all, stopped aimlessly at a corner, turned off into a side street without having any errand there. I simply let myself go, wandered about in the pleasant morning, swinging myself care-free to and fro amongst other happy human beings. The air was clear and bright, and my mind too was without a shadow.

For quite ten minutes I had had an old lame man ahead of me. He carried a bundle in one hand and exerted his whole body, using all his strength in an effort to get along speedily. I could hear how he panted from the exertion, and it occurred to me that I might offer to bear his bundle for him, but yet I made no effort to overtake him. Up in Graendsen I met Hans Pauli, who nodded and hurried past me. Why was he in such a hurry? I had not the slightest intention of asking him for a shilling, and, more than that, I intended at the very first opportunity to return him a blanket which I had borrowed from him some weeks before.

Just wait until I could get my foot on the ladder, I would be beholden to no man, not even for a blanket. Perhaps even this very day I might commence an article on the "Crimes of Futurity," "Freedom of Will," at any rate, something worth reading, something for which I would at least get ten shillings ... And at the thought of this article I felt myself fired with a desire to set to work immediately and to draw from the contents of my congested brain. I would find a suitable place to write in the park and not rest till I had completed my article.

But the old cripple was still ahead of me, making the same sprawling movements up the street. The sight of this infirm creature constantly in front of me commenced to irritate me—his journey seemed endless; perhaps he had made up his mind to go to exactly the same place as I had, and I must needs have him before my eyes the whole way. In my irritation it seemed to me that he slackened his pace a little at every cross street, as if waiting to see which direction I intended to take, upon which he would again swing his bundle in the air and peg away with all his might to keep ahead of me. I follow and watch this tiresome creature and get more and more exasperated with him. I am conscious that he has, little by little, destroyed my happy mood and dragged the pure beautiful morning down to the level of his own ugliness. He looks like a great sprawling reptile striving with might and main to win a place in the world and reserve the footpath for himself. When we reached the top of the hill I determined to put up with it no longer. I turned to a shop window and stopped in order to give him an opportunity of getting ahead, but when, after a lapse of some minutes, I again walked on, there was the man still in front of me—he too had stood stock still. Without stopping to reflect I took three or four furious onward strides, caught him up, and slapped him on the shoulder.

He stopped directly, and we both stared at one another fixedly. "A halfpenny for milk!" he whined, twisting his head askew.

So that was how the wind blew. I felt in my pockets and said: "For milk, eh? Hum-m—money's scarce these times, and I don't really know how much you are in need of it."

"I haven't eaten a morsel since yesterday in Drammen; I haven't got a farthing, nor have I got any work yet!"

"Are you an artisan?"

"Yes; a binder."

"A what?"

"A shoe-binder; for that matter, I can make shoes too."

"Ah! that alters the case," said I. "You wait here for some minutes and I shall go and get a little money for you, just a few pence."

I hurried as fast as I could down Pyle Street, where I knew of a pawnbroker on a second-floor (one, besides, to whom I had never been before). When I got inside the hall I hastily took off my waistcoat, rolled it up, and put it under my arm; after which I went upstairs and knocked at the office door. I bowed on entering, and threw the waistcoat on the counter.

"One-and-six," said the man.

"Yes, yes, thanks," I replied. "If it weren't that it is beginning to be a little tight for me, of course I wouldn't part with it."

I got the money and the ticket, and went back. Considering all things, pawning that waistcoat was a capital notion. I would have money enough over for a plentiful breakfast, and before evening my thesis on the "Crimes of Futurity" would be ready. I began to find existence more alluring; and I hurried back to the man to get rid of him.

"There it is," said I. "I am glad you applied to me first."

The man took the money and scrutinised me closely. At what was he staring? I had a feeling that he particularly examined the knees of my trousers, and his shameless effrontery bored me. Did the scoundrel imagine that I really was as poor as I looked? Had I not as good as begun to write an article for half-a-sovereign? Besides, I had no fear whatever for the future. I had many irons in the fire. Why on earth should an utter stranger stare if I chose to stand him a drink on such a lovely day? The man's look annoyed me, and I made up my mind to give him a good dressing-down before I left him. I threw back my shoulders, and said:

"My good fellow, you have adopted a most unpleasant habit of staring at a man's knees when he gives you a shilling."

He leant his head back against the wall and opened his mouth widely; something was working in that empty pate of his, and he evidently came to the conclusion that I meant to best him in some way, for he handed me back the money. I stamped on the pavement, and, swearing at him, told him to keep it. Did he imagine I was going to all that trouble for nothing? If all came to all, perhaps I owed him this shilling; I had just recollected an old debt; he was standing before an honest man, honourable to his finger-tips—in short, the money was his. Oh, no thanks were needed; it had been a pleasure to me. Good-bye!

I went on. At last I had freed myself from this work-ridden plague, and I could go my way in peace. I turned down Pyle Street again, and stopped before a grocer's shop. The whole window was filled with eatables, and I decided to go in and get something to take with me.

"A piece of cheese and a French roll," I said, and threw my sixpence on to the counter.

"Bread and cheese for the whole of it?" asked the woman, ironically, without looking up at me.

"For the whole sixpence? Yes," I answered, unruffled.

I took them up, bade the fat old woman good-morning, with the utmost politeness, and sped, full tilt, up Castle Hill to the park.

I found a bench to myself, and began to bite greedily into my provender. It did me good; it was a long time since I had had such a square meal, and, by degrees, I felt the same sated quiet steal over me that one feels after a good long cry. My courage rose mightily. I could no longer be satisfied with writing an article about anything so simple and straight-ahead as the "Crimes of Futurity," that any ass might arrive at, ay, simply deduct from history. I felt capable of a much greater effort than that; I was in a fitting mood to overcome difficulties, and I decided on a treatise, in three sections, on "Philosophical Cognition." This would, naturally, give me an opportunity of crushing pitiably some of Kant's sophistries ... but, on taking out my writing materials to commence work, I discovered that I no longer had a pencil: I had forgotten it in the pawn-office. My pencil was lying in my waistcoat pocket.

Good Lord! how everything seems to take a delight in thwarting me to-day! I swore a few times, rose from the seat, and took a couple of turns up and down the path. It was very quiet all around me; down near the Queen's arbour two nursemaids were trundling their perambulators; otherwise there was not a creature anywhere in sight. I was in a thoroughly embittered temper; I paced up and down in front of my seat like a maniac. How strangely awry things seemed to go! To think that an article in three sections should be downright stranded by the simple fact of my not having a pennyworth of pencil in my pocket. Supposing I were to return to Pyle Street and ask to get my pencil back? There would be still time to get a good piece finished before the promenading public commenced to fill the parks. So much, too, depended on this treatise on "Philosophical Cognition"—mayhap many human beings' welfare, no one could say; and I told myself it might be of the greatest possible help to many young people. On second thoughts, I would not lay violent hands on Kant; I might easily avoid doing that; I would only need to make an almost imperceptible gliding over when I came to query Time and Space; but I would not answer for Renan, old Pastor Renan....

At all events, an article of so-and-so many columns has to be completed. For the unpaid rent, and the landlady's inquiring look in the morning when I met her on the stairs, tormented me the whole day; it rose up and confronted me again and again, even in my pleasant hours when I had otherwise not a gloomy thought. I must put an end to it, so I left the park hurriedly to fetch my pencil from the pawnbroker's.

As I arrived at the foot of the hill I overtook two ladies, whom I passed. As I did so, I brushed one of them accidentally on the arm. I looked up; she had a full, rather pale, face. But she blushes, and becomes suddenly surprisingly lovely. I know not why she blushes; maybe at some word she hears from a passerby, maybe only at some lurking thought of her own. Or can it be because I touched her arm? Her high, full bosom heaves violently several times, and she closes her hand tightly about the handle of her parasol. What has come to her?


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Hunger by Knut Hamsun, George Egerton. Copyright © 2003 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii(20)
Suggestions for Further Reading xxvii(2)
Translator's Note xxix
HUNGER
PART ONE 1(52)
PART TWO 53(44)
PART THREE 97(60)
PART FOUR 157(42)
Explanatory Notes 199(4)
Textual Notes 203

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Hunger (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
elitaES More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I came to Knut Hamsun by way of George Egerton. Two writers few modern readers have heard of outside of academia and Norway. George Egerton (Mary Chavelita Dunne Bright) wrote two volumes of wonderful short stories, Keynotes and Discords, in the late 1890's and became one of the prominent figures in the feminist literary movement known as the "New Women." She had a romantic attachment with Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun, whom she listed as a strong influence on her own writing. In fact, she translated his first novel, Hunger, into English. Mr. Hamsun went on to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1920, while Ms. Egerton faded into obscurity until modern critics such as Elaine Showalter rediscovered her work. I found her through Ms. Showalter's book A Literature of Their Own. Hunger is based on the ten years Mr. Hamsun spent in Christiania, now modern Oslo, trying to become a writer, earning very little money for the few articles and stories he could sell, and going without food much of the time. The novel's subject is hunger and its effects on the psychological and physical state of those who endure it. As such, it's an excellent work. Because Mr. Hamsun believed that the subject of literature should be the intricacies of the human mind, Hunger focuses on the experience and thoughts of its un-named narrator almost to the exclusion of other characters. There are other people in the book--the editor at the magazine, a landlady, an old friend who tries to offer help, a woman he meets on the streets a few times--but these characters are of little interest to Hamsun and to the reader. What interests Hamsun is the narrator's state of mind, the delusions his hunger causes, and his own desire to keep up appearances as he insists on surviving only by writing instead of taking on a profession which he feels his beneath a man of his sensibilities.Photo of author from WikipediaHunger is interesting reading, and this insistence on writing as the sole source of income eventually worked for Hamsun himself, eventually. But midway through the book, one starts wishing the narrator would simply get a job. I suppose it may be of those moments when a modern perspective intrudes on the experience of reading classic literature, but I suspect many of Mr. Hamsun's contemporaries had the same reaction. Even Franz Kafka took a job with an insurance agency, for heaven's sake. No one ever accused him of selling out.
akeela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Translated from Norwegian by Sverre Lyngstad. This classic was written in 1890 and is a simple story about a struggling but talented writer who often finds himself homeless, and starving for days on end. The writing is astonishing, and it is a joy to read.Much of the book was poignant, but the brashness and creativity of the affable protagonist also produced many laugh-out-loud moments. And then quite honestly, the young man's pride and obsession with being honourable and honest infuriated me at times ¿ it caused him such grief. In spite of the dark subject matter, this was a light, quick read, and it is a book I recommend highly.A note on the author: The 150th celebration of Knut Hamsun¿s birth was widely celebrated in Norway in 2009. Many negative things have been said about his political leanings, but I was interested to learn that he had virtually no education and at 12, lived with an uncle who beat him regularly. He escaped from this man¿s clutches as soon as he could and took to the road, doing menial jobs to survive, often experiencing virtual starvation during that time. So the book may be somewhat autobiographical. A wonderful read.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the things I've discovered in recent years is that without other characters for your protagonist to interact with, your story can get old very quickly. I certainly found that to be the case with 'Hunger'. Although it's relatively short I struggled through most of it because it was not fun to be in the narrator's head. His troubled relationship with the woman he calls Ylayali is captivating, though it only lasts a few pages.
BlackSheepDances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an older novel, written in the 1930's or thereabouts. It was originally in Norwegian, and the author later won a Nobel Prize for Growth of the Soil, which I haven't started yet.All the reviews said this was a disturbing novel of isolation. It was, and is, fascinating.The protagonist, writing in the first person, describes his life as a writer who has suffered hunger and starvation long enough that his mental faculties are injured beyond repair (it would seem). He writes occasionally for a newspaper, makes enough to get by a few days if his story is purchased, or goes without food for days if it doesn't get picked up. The malnourishment causes a variety of problems, from extreme mood swings to paranoia to hallucinations. He takes to chewing on wood shavings, then stones, then a piece of his jacket pocket to try and defy the hunger. When he does eat, he is usually ill from the food. He gets to a point where he visualizes taking a bite out of his hand to eat, and does so. He comes out of his trance when he does, but it shows how far out of reality he became. A few times he either finds money or is given some by a benevolent person; he simply can't accept this, and gives it away.The insanity is beyond anything I imagined. Perhaps because it's told in first person style, where every thought and inkling is described and explored. The people he harasses, the fights he starts, his visions of his own talent (highly inflated) and his paranoia are frightening. He has tremendous pride, not wanting to take help from others, even when he hasn't eaten for days. One shopkeeper, realizing his situation, actually pretends to make a mistake and gives him too much change...rather than take this for food, he gives it to a more 'impoverished' soul than him. It's not that he's selfless, far from it. His pride consumes him. He can't bear to imagine anyone thinking badly of him, even when he is selling off his clothing and the buttons on his coat. He even has the opportunity to make use of a homeless shelter to get food and a bed, and he refuses rather than to look bad.Physically, the starvation manifests itself in losing his hair in clumps, a peeling skin rash and raw skin from his dirty clothes rubbing his skin, blackened nails, lost teeth, and a chronic dizziness and fever.I was amazed in that while he did write to earn money, he never seemed to try and seriously find a job. And he never seemed to consider stealing, which would have occurred to me before I would be chewing on stones. Again, it wasn't out of honor, it was about his perception of what others would think of him, and he wanted to be thought of as honorable, even though he wasn't. He was truly isolated. No family is mentioned, his only friends are actually acquaintances that avoid him because of his strange behavior and pathetic appearance, exactly what he was hoping to avoid. I couldn't help but wonder what kind of child he was (okay, I know it's fictional but I still think this way) and what made him so prideful and vain. It's said that everyone has a story they tell themselves about themselves. How they account for their choices and actions in their own head, and how they justify or condemn themself. In this I wondered, since I could clearly see the story he was telling himself, and how inaccurate it was from his reality, how far off is my perception of myself? Is the way I think as completely out of touch? Is my inner voice as flawed and stubborn as his?
deebee1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I approached this influential work with high expectations, and i was not disappointed. The novel is raw, stark, spare -- the effect is visceral. It is psychological realism at its best. We follow a short phase in the life of an impoverished but talented young writer in the streets of Christiana (Oslo) in the late 19th century, who is reduced by his condition to borderline madness. Indeed it seemed that his flashes of brilliance are occasioned by extreme starvation when delirium brings on inspiration and creativity. We witness his misadventures at finding work or something to eat, his humorous encounters with some characters, his sometimes infuriatingly schizophrenic behavior, his spinning of a small world around him rushing from heights of ecstatic revelry and hope to pityingly low depths of self-pity and mockery, and back, always in a mad dash. His is a complex character -- irritatingly self-possessed and proud but also generous to a fault, literally giving away the last shirt on his back. In an unforgettable passage, he challenges God for the injustice of withholding opportunities from a toiling, hardworking, and well-intentioned person as he. We feel his isolation, his torment, self-deception, his caprices, his small joys, his passions, his dignity. He is a man destined to write, and he lives because he writes. With such themes, the novel could easily have been dark and depressing, but it is not. There is plenty of comic relief and the mood is exhilarating, fast-paced, rebellious. The character reminded me of Dostoevky's Raskolnikov but without the drama. Definitely a must-read.
ubaidd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry but I disagree with what seems to be the general consensus on this book. I read the 1920 edition with a translation by George Egerton and that may very well be the problem. A translated piece of fiction is subject to the skill and finesse of the translator, and perhaps the person to blame here is not the author but the translator.In any case, I found Hunger to be a bit meandering and frustrating. I don't really know what the Norwegian society of the time described in the novel was like but it certainly did not have much to recommend for it. The scenes where the author describes chewing on wood shavings to dampen his pangs of hunger and where he throws up a perfectly healthy (and necessary) meal because his body can't process the food are almost depressing.I found some of the protagonists actions difficult to understand, for example why doesn't he just beg? Or steal? Or engage in some sort of manual labor? Why is there not any friend our relative who will throw some scraps his way? Surely the concept of dying from hunger must have been a rare event in nineteenth century Norway? Or was it?Another hindrance in relating to the book was the fact that I have no idea what "half a soverign" or half a crown could buy in that time. The romance half way through the novel also did not quite make much sense to me, did I miss something there?The one thought the book forced was about the role of food and money and the bigger question of why we work. Do we work only to put food in our bellies? Certainly not. But the first requirement that must be met with the fruit of our labor is the filling of our bellies. The book however doesn't really make that (or any other) case with much conviction. The dénouement is also almost anticlimactic.I was left unimpressed. Not recommended.
araridan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Extremely likable unnamed protagonist falls on some hard luck and finds himself homeless in the streets of Christiania, Norway. A lot of the book does focus on being really hungry and stressed out about trying to find a place to sleep. However, this guy also has a hilarious habit of harmlessly lying to or harrassing someone and then finding himself unable to stop it. He's also the type of guy who really doesn't want to beg for money (in fact he often gives away money to other people in need) he tries to make ends meet by writing articles for a local paper...all though the subject matters indicate that he may be losing his mind throughout the novel. This book also includes a "scandalous"/funny sorta sex scene. Recommended.
michaelmurphy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This compelling novel will strike a chord with anyone who, for whatever reason or turn of circumstance, has found themselves completely isolated in life, knowing no-one at all, suffering extremes of loneliness, virtually bereft of human interaction and discourse - stranded helplessly among people like a ghost doomed to wander in a phantom zone. Written in 1890, Knut Hamsun's novel "Hunger", is a disturbing journey into the mind and soul of a young writer. With no plot or characters (other than the young writer narrator) to speak of, the novel, written in the form of an interior monologue, recounts each moment-by-moment thought or impulse running through the young writer's mind. The reader observes in the interior monologue, the steady deterioration of the young writer's mental state as his thoughts swing erratically between extremes of elation and despair.For the nameless young writer, clothes falling apart, existing precariously on the brink of starving to death, evicted from his room when rental payments lapsed, not knowing where his next mouthful of food will come from, pawning the vest off his back (but making rash, extravagant handouts as soon as he comes into any money), each day represents a vast desert of dead and empty time in which he wanders, lost, blown about the streets of the city like a paper in the wind, dogged by unremitting hunger - with brief periods of respite when his starvation is temporarily quelled with what little money he makes flogging the odd article to a local newspaper. In his drastically weakened state, on the verge of physical collapse, unable to eat without throwing up, only able to write in patches, the young writer begins to lose his reason, his irrational state of mind marked by wild impulses and violent mood swings as he slips into paranoia and despair. A relationship with a girl quickly fizzles out and in the end he leaves the city.While the novel gives an account of the young writer's sufferings and privations, his desperate struggle with hunger and hardship, occupying a plane of existence on the edge of starvation, themes of loneliness and alienation lie at the heart of it - the young writer completely isolated, virtually existing inside his own head, his introspection developing thought-patterns grotesquely magnifying trivial events out of all proportion, manifested in bizarre and preposterous behaviour. Highly recommended!
391 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was almost painful to read the narrator's descent into madness - I cringed at certain points, hoping he would just use the money he had been given, or beg for bread, or do something to alleviate his condition even though he considered it below him. Hamsun's prose is utterly fantastic, though - the page or two where he curses God is just incredible.
lalaland on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Definitely a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Hard to follow only because the protagonist is hard to follow. You want him to succeed, and you believe he can succeed, but he doesn't. Frustrating and disheartening.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hunger by Knut Hamsun is a startling narrative told by a young journalist who is literally starving throughout the novel. Hamsun's technique, achieved in this first novel of his published in 1888, is to present a first person narrative that demonstrates a man subject to delusions and psychological stress that almost reaches the breaking point. This is not unusual for a contemporary author, but in the late nineteenth century it was very unusual.Written after Hamsun's return from an ill-fated tour of America, Hunger is loosely based on the author's own impoverished life before his breakthrough in 1890. Set in fin-de-siecle Christiana, the novel recounts the adventures of a starving young man whose sense of reality is giving way to a delusional existence on the darker side of a modern metropolis. While he vainly tries to maintain an outer shell of respectability, his mental and physical decay are recounted in detail. His ordeal, enhanced by his inability or unwillingness to pursue a professional career, which he deems unfit for someone of his abilities, is pictured in a series of encounters which Hamsun himself described as 'a series of analyses.' In many ways, the protagonist of the novel displays traits reminiscent of the underground man and Raskolnikov, whose creator, Fyodor Dostoevsky, was one of Hamsun's main influences. In Hamsun's story you have the unnamed narrator imagining actions of others, impersonating other people and living on the brink of an existence that seems surreal. In effective clear prose this rises to the level of a nightmare in print. The beauty and power of this book makes it a great read and one that I will not forget.
JimmyChanga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
pride, honor, shame, self deception, self delusion, mania, idiosyncratic logic, a very enjoyable, and at times hilarious, read. Even though at first the narrator seems like quite an oddball, i can see a little bit of myself in him, even at his most irrational.
wilsonknut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charles Bukowski said that this was one of his favorite books, and old Charles didn't give praise lightly. The book was certainly ahead of its time, reading like something from the height of modernism, rather than the 1890s. I understand why Bukowski like it. He always held to the ideal of the poor, mad artist and this book is a psychological study of a poor, insane writer. The protagonist is so irrational and insane at times it's just irritating. Was he insane because he was poor and hungry, or was he poor and hungry because he was insane (and in my opinion an idiot)? I don't know. I respect the book, but it's not a favorite of mine.
raggedprince on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
written in a straightforward way, in the first person, it ends up being liberating - whether you're going to eat or not brings reality into focus - cuts to the chase
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cscow90 More than 1 year ago
This is a very good inner dialog book with interesting insights about suffering and social stigma. I would recommend this book for anyone seeking a plot-driven story. This is a psychological ride, and a very good one. As the title suggests, it is about hunger and the many facets connected with it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
District 7.
AmandaCollier More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whioah
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
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.