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Mysteries Paperback – 27 Feb 1992


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Product details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd; New Ed edition (27 Feb 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285647296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285647299
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.3 x 12.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A rare understanding of human nature comes through, expressed in a
measured, elegiac and lyrical prose." -- 'Sunday Telegraph'

"I read these novels with the gently expanding recognition due only to the
great writers." -- Doris Lessing

"The most outstanding Norwegian writer since Ibsen." -- 'Times Literary Supplement'

"The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from
Hamsun." -- Isaac Bashevis Singer

"Hamsun is one of the great writers of this century... Hamsun's
novels have the simplicity of total self-possession." -- 'Sunday Times'

Hamsun has the qualities that belong to the very great, the completest omniscience about human nature. -- Rebecca West

Mysteries "is closer to me than any other book I've read." -- Henry Miller

The most outstanding Norwegian writer since Ibsen. -- Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Knut Hamsun was born in 1859 in Norway and after a period of travel he published his first successful novel, Hunger, in 1890. It became a sensation and as Isaac Bashevis Singer commented "the whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun." He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1920 and died in 1952.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Blackbeard on 27 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback
I should mention at the beginning of this review that I read this in the original Norwegian, so I unfortunately can't tell you if this translation is any better than others might be, but I will say that Hamsun uses some fairly advanced vocabulary in this book, which, along with some obscure references to specifically Norwegian customs and plenty of slang, might have made an accurate translation difficult.
The story focusses on one Herr Nagel, a highly eccentric person who shows up in an anonymous small coastal town for no apparent reason whatsoever. He soon grabs the attention of the townsfolk, not in the least for befriending the "village idiot", who is called "The Minute" in the original - a disfigured Dostoevskian "Idiot"-type character, who constitutes another of many mysteries in this aptly titled book. But Nagel is certainly the biggest mystery, from his extreme secret philanthropy to his fantastic imagination and almost constant mendacity. He seems to be interested in everyone and everything, and takes the purest delight in nature - his moods even seem to be affected by the weather. He falls for the betrothed priest's daughter (who wouldn't, right? Especially with that thick golden plait lying so firmly on her back), and does everything he shouldn't to try and win her over. Or I should say seemingly shouldn't, because Hamsun had a good grasp of psychology, and she is affected by his absurd behaviour.
I will give no more of the plot away here, but I will say that this is a very interesting book. There is so much mystery around the main character which never gets explained, mostly because he is so secretive and one can believe almost nothing he says.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mike Shanahan on 21 Oct 2007
Format: Paperback
The arrival in an unremarkable Norwegian town of Johan Nilsen Nagel, wearing a loud yellow suit and toting a violin case, is the first of many mysteries to unfold in Hamsun's masterwork, set and written in the late 1800s. Within the first few pages yet more enigmatic individuals, objects and events are introduced: a death in the woods, a white-haired beauty, a bottle of poison, allusions to a long-dead romance, and documents hinting at great wealth.

Nagel upsets the status quo of life in this "town-of-no-importance", at turns engaging and enraging the citizenry with his curious blend of brutal honesty and wild prevarication. "Man is certainly an ass," says Nagel, "You can lead him by the nose wherever you want him to go." Indeed, Nagel is a master of mind games, not necessarily malicious in nature and often employed in demonstration. Yet, in this, he is a paradox, whose lies are not always lies and whose motivations are often hard to discern.

As the story develops, more mysteries are introduced. There is a veiled woman who visits for a short time, a dead dog, and a broken chair that arouses unfathomable desire. Most mysterious of all though is Nagel himself, his actions fluctuating between the extremely philanthropic and the frighteningly sinister. Nagel is a non-conformist who is often dismayed with the company of his fellow men and seeks communion with nature during extended periods in the wild forests surrounding the town. These mental and physical wanderings provide an insight into the mind of this engaging character.

Despite occasional forays into politics, Mysteries is largely a social commentary and exploration of what it is means for Nagel, and others, to be outsiders - at times satisfied and at times disenchanted by solitude.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Lewis on 5 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback
Because it's undoubtedly one of the finest novels ever written. And that comes from someone who loathes hyperbole.

It's interesting reading the comments concerning Nagel's possible mental illness, although I doubt that's what Hamsun intended. From where i'm sitting, he's just trying to live his life as best he can. If he's enigmatic, it's because the people around him are going at one speed and he's going at another. He's not a cypher, like some of the great impentrable characters of modern literate sometimes seem [think of Stavrogin from The Devils or Gatsby].

But then I suppose that's what great literature does, right? A thousand different interpretations. Makes you question your own aims, identity, and sense of balance.

Absolute bloody genius.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Mar 2001
Format: Paperback
If William Blake had written reasonably accessible novels it may well have turned out like this.
It's dangerous, powerful and beguiling, describing an existence precariously balanced on the edge of the world. It feels like a novel going beyond literature, written by a man seeking to break out of humanity.
Sorry about the hyperbole, but it is the greatest book I've ever read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To dissect Knut Hamsun's Mysteries as one would an ordinary novel is impossible. This is a book in which nothing is quite as it seems to be, and the more closely the reader examines it or tries to make sense of it, the more inexplicable it becomes. At the core of the story is Johan Nagel, easily one of the most enigmatic characters in literary history. His arrival in a small Norwegian town in 1891, with no visible aim or purpose, is the first piece in a puzzle that doesn't ever quite fit together. Moreover, we are left wondering, at the end, if it was actually meant to.
Something that the reader cannot ever accuse Hamsun of is imitation. Many writers may have followed in his footsteps, but, in spite of the fact that he was inspired by a variety of sources, including August Strindberg and Dostoesvky, he was nonetheless an absolute original. Introspective, individualistic, uncompromising, he was a genius in every sense of the word.

Mysteries, a novel that the American author Henry Miller once said is "closer to me than any other book I have read" was published in 1892, two years after Hunger and two years before Pan. Hamsun garnered the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Growth of the Soil in 1920.

I first read Mysteries in my early twenties and twenty five years on I am still reading it and finding something new to take away after what must be ten reads. I can not recommend this book highly enough or indeed any works my the master of Norwegian literature
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