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Hunger [Paperback]

Knut Hamsun
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Aug 2006
Brand new edition of Knut Hamsun's most famous work, with an introduction by Paul Auster. Hunger is regarded as one of the major modernist novels, anticipating and influencing much fiction that was to follow, from Joyce to Kafka to Camus and Kelman. Set in Oslo, Hunger is a compelling journey into the mind of a young writer who is driven by starvation to constantly fluctuating extremes of euphoria and despair. It is a study of the psychological hinterlands - to the very edges of experience - where few writers have the courage to tread.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books (31 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760780870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760780879
  • ASIN: 1841958190
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Hunger is the crux of Hamsun’s claims to mastery. This is the classic novel of humiliation, even beyond Dostoevsky." -- Observer

"Hunger was published in 1890 and its power has not faded." -- London Review Of Books

"One of the most disturbing novels in existence" -- Time Out

From the Back Cover

Knut Hamsun's Hunger has come to be regarded as one of the major modernist novels, anticipating and influencing much fiction that was to follow, from Joyce and Kafka to Camus and Kelman.

Hunger is a compelling trip into the mind of a young writer who is driven by starvation to constantly fluctuating extremes of euphoria and despair. It is a study of the psychological hinterlands - the very edges of experience - where few writers have the courage to tread. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute 'must read'!! 8 July 2008
Intense! Moving! Unforgettable! - a few resonant 'power words' which could help me to describe Mr. Knut Hamsun's Hunger to some extent, but they do little to fully encapsulate my innermost feelings about this novel. Quite simply Hunger, is one of the most powerful books I've ever read, in any genre; whether fictional or factual, and given that I've read countless biographical accounts relating to some of history's most harrowing events, this is quite a statement to make, but it is one that I wholly stand by.

Stunning in its delivery, Hunger is one of the few books that has the ability to truly touch your soul. What makes the novel so intense is not the storyline; for the most part the story is devoid of plot. Rather the sense of sympathy and desperation one feels for the main character (a struggling writer on a psychological roller-coaster ride, stricken by poverty, who always seems as though he is about to draw his final breath), is, for me, the novel's crowning glory. This mechanism of `survival doubt' is superlatively engineered into the story by Mr. Hansum. There are times, usually at the start of a new `chapter' when the writer's survival seems assured (he himself proclaims many times that his latest work will be the one that end his dificulties). Inevitably however, the character's situation diminishes, and the reader's confidence can do nothing but diminish along with it, until, through some fortune turn of events, the main player draws himself back, if usually only temporarily, from the `abyss'.

As intense as Hunger is (and it really is intense at times, with the writer's moods elevating and lowering as often as the paragraphs change), I also found the novel to be quite humourous in parts.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare to be dazzled 3 Jan 2007
This is an amazing book which drags you into the murky world of the narrator and forces you to feel his anguish, despair and humiliation as he struggles to find enough to eat to keep himself alive. The emotions provoked by the book are so strong that at times I found myself confused about where I was so thoroughly did I feel transported to the Christiania inhabited by the author.

The writing is so vivid that it is impossible not to be completely drawn in. On a number of occasions the narrator takes what he perceives to be 'moral decisions' which left me furious with him - he would rather starve than betray his conscience - and I actually found myself trying to reason with him. At times I had to put the book down so infuriated was I with his actions - I think I was going through the anguish of hunger with him and when he had a chance to get food and passed it up, it was more than I could bear!

At other times I was captivated by the humour and eccentricity of the book ... the narrator's mood swings, delusions and interactions with others make for very entertaining passages.

I highly recommend this book - it is both disturbing and memorable and I know it will stay with me for a long time.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth is selfless subjectivity 20 Dec 2001
Published in 1890, "Hunger" represents a breakthrough from traditional romantic European writing. Influenced by Dostoievsky and Nietszche, and anticipating Kafka, Joyce, and Camus, Hamsun creates a novel with intense personal (partially autobiographical) narration (using first and third person), developing on the theme of alienation and artistic obsession. It represents Hamsun's masterpiece in his first literary production stage, in which social/political issues are of no concern, only the individual and his stream of consciousness.
It is a plot less novel, the setting is Christiana (now Oslo), and the main character is a starving, homeless young journalist, with a mercurial personality. His reactions have no middle term, he moves from extreme joy to acute depression, from arrogance to humility, on the verge of irrationality. It clearly reflects the author's early poverty, his pathological passion with aesthetical beauty, and an enormous driving force to perfect his concept that "language must resound with all the harmonies of music." "Hunger" anticipates Freud and Jung in their understanding of human nature, and creates a new literally hero, the alienated mind.
Of Norwegian nationality, Knut Hmsun won the Nobel Price for Literature in 1920. In real life he was ostracized by his countrymen and the literary community as a result of his radical individualism, and political/social views. Yes, Hamsun was a convicted Nazi, friend of Hitler and Goebbels, an advocate of the "pure" race (Jews should be expelled from Europe, Blacks should be returned to Africa), and he applauded German invasion of Norway. Needless to say, when WWII was over, he dearly paid the price: Imprisonment, confiscation, and poverty.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lesser-known masterpiece. 27 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This novel is quite unlike most things you have read before, and for anyone familiar with Henry Miller, the existentialists, the Beats, etc., it will make a lot of sense as to who exactly influenced those writers. Hamsun was Norwegian, and this is a gritty, horrific, painstaking exploration of a twentysomething writer's personal hell as he endures 'hunger' - both literal and in spirit. The fact that it is also a very funny novel may sound surprising, but such is Hamsun's originality and skill. His detractors must have had a field day denouncing this as a 'one-gimmick' book or a pile of self-indulgent tosh, but I thought it brilliant and a must for anyone interested in existential literature. It's incredibly vivid, incisive and self-aware writing, and one of those books which is still frighteningly relevant today.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Hunger
Book Group choice. Couldn't get into it and it doesn't seem that anyone else in the group could either. Won't be reading him again!
Published 7 months ago by Mrs. P. Killingsworth
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable yet addictive
"Hunger" is a novel where almost none of the characters have names. The first person narrator, veering wildly and sometimes uncontrollably between present and past tense,... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Bela Lugosi's Still Dead
4.0 out of 5 stars Comes with a caution.
Aspiring writers would do well to read this book in order to gain some insight of what to expect. The clue is in the title. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Gurjit
5.0 out of 5 stars Empathy for the Destitute Person ?
This intense portrayal of a destitute writer suffering extreme hunger evokes empathy for the human condition of destitution, and demonstrates the psychosomatic reality that our... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Geoff Crocker
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
Simply the greatest book ever written. So much so that I have now read this several times and it gets better each time.
Published 13 months ago by Ross Whitehead
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a masterpiece
Stunning. Original. Disturbing. Hamsun was Hemingway's favourite author and if you know the authors' works you can detect Hamsun's influence.
Published 15 months ago by David Evans
3.0 out of 5 stars An Influential Novel
Given that hunger was written in the late 1880's, it is certainly reasonable to call it a fore-runner of the artistic movement that came to be called modernism. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Herman Norford
3.0 out of 5 stars Mr Bean in Waiting for Godot
My nephew studied this on his Eng Lit degree course at York Uni and gave it to me, possibly because he felt i could benefit from some serious intellectual activity. Read more
Published 19 months ago by G. C. Kennaway
5.0 out of 5 stars Hunger by Knut Hamsun
Hamsun's masterwork, which inspired generations of up and coming authors, and in his own words was the reason Charles Bukowski took up writing, still resonates in the modern day. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Mr. D. Norton
5.0 out of 5 stars hamsun hunger
Read this book over 30 years ago and still makes me shudder whenever i think about it,feel hungry at the thought of it ,one of the truly great books of my life .a must .
Published 23 months ago by G. Charlton
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