17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hunger Artist.
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...
Published on 25 July 2004 by Michael Murphy
3.0 out of 5 stars Hunger
Bought for a book group review. It's practically new and arrived in good time but I'm afraid I'm not enjoying it particularly. Not sure I'll finish it!
Published 13 days ago by Mrs. P. Killingsworth
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hunger Artist.,
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)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!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I will make my character laugh",
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.
Thus Auden ("In memory of WB Yeats").
Hamsun's hero in Hunger is restless, provocative, insolent, egotistical, given to swoops of joyful lyricism and the utmost humiliation and despair as he begs,borrows,starves,lies and cheats his way through his days in Kristiana in the late 19th century. His moods change like the weather,laughing, shouting,talking to himself,anger, crying. His bouts of starvation empty and hollow him out,make him hallucinate,give him delusions of writing the next masterpiece,a refutation of Kant in 3 parts,which he doesn't do,it gives his frenzied mind a goal.The key poles in his existence are the landlord,the editor,the pawnshop,the baker and the policeman.
His lies become as truthful to him as the truth and he acts them out. God both exists for him to rail at or doesn't exist. Andreas Tangen(we only learn his name half way through) most definitely does exist! He starves for the next crust of bread while searching for work,he also starves for inspiration to write. He swings between pride and humility. His pride will not allow him to take money when he needs it, and makes him charitable when he can't afford it.He pawns the clothes off his back to give the money to another wretch.He perverts and distorts the Christian ethic and as in Dostoyevsky's 'Notes from the Underground' hopes of gaining salvation through degradation and suffering.
His attention is seized by everything,riding on a chain of moods through the back streets of Kristiana,'flies and gnats stuck to the paper...I blew on them to make them go away,then blew harder and harder,but it was no use. The little pests lean back and make themselves heavy,putting up such a struggle that their thin legs bend'. He is given over to bouts of elation while writing. He sucks on stones when he is hungry. He wanders aimlessly in Hamsun's plotless novel,his poverty becomes a lodestone of wealthy perceptions.Without the stub of a pencil he is lost.His clothes are thread-bare and shabby. He plays pranks on women to embarrass them.He has fun at other people's expense.He invents new words and new names. He is at one with animate and inanimate nature in her changing cycles.
We do not get the sociology of hunger as in Orwell(`Down and Out in Paris andLondon') but we get the physiology and the effects on the unconscious.Tangen is an aristocrat of the spirit,grandiose and self-elevating. Nietzschean.He moves and annoys us.This novel explores the dark,nether regions of the human mind in its overture to the 20th century.Hamsun wanted to create a new literature:"My hero is no type but a complete modern being".He spent 10 years after doing many jobs and trips to America before he produced this first novel.He suffered great humiliation because of his pro-Nazi views in his 80s but he was anti-English rather than anti-semitic.He heralded modernism through his subjectiveness,his fragmentation,his use of flashback,lyricism,and stream of consciousness. No other novel will make such an impact.
3.0 out of 5 stars Hunger,
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)Bought for a book group review. It's practically new and arrived in good time but I'm afraid I'm not enjoying it particularly. Not sure I'll finish it!
5.0 out of 5 stars a very modern piece written in 1890,
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)Don't miss the opportunity to read this book, the first one written by Knut Hamsun and probably his best one. He wrote it in 1890 at a time when romanticism was booming but this book is really modern. It is simple and has a strength that reminds me of many books written by Austrian and German authors in the 30s. Plus that Hamsun has something of their positivism. His realism has a raw way to depict the feelings and the suffering of the young and educated man who was starving in a city called Christiania in Norway, this city is called Oslo today. What is sad in this story is that history repeats itself so we should all read this book to enrich ourselves and avoid making the same mistakes.
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible translation,
This review is from: Hunger (Kindle Edition)Hamsun must be turning in his grave. But then apparently he never liked the English. As James Wood writes in LRB: His Nazism was (...) based more on his irrational hatred of England than on any natural Fascism; he and his wife (...) wanted Germany to ‘bring England to its knees’, as he madly implored in one wartime newspaper article.
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrated author,
This review is from: Hunger (Kindle Edition)I saw Knut Hamsun's book on list of 100 books to read and liked the synopsis. While the book is a very good study of one man's slide into wretchedness it left me a little disappointed. Perhaps it's because I had recently read a similar tale of poverty in Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserables; perhaps it was because Robert Noonan's Ragged Trousered Philanthropist remains one of my favourite books that I expected too much from this tale.
The short story is quite enjoyable without ever really hitting top form. The tales of the main protagonist falling week with hunger are excellent but his conduct at times left me feeling frustrated, as if I'd want to tell him to take more care and finish his work. Ans spend his money, when he did find it, more wisely.
Ultimately a good read, not a great one.
5.0 out of 5 stars Sick of being Sick,
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)"Hunger" is breakthrough prose as Knut travels with aimless self debasement of mind, directing his journey within his body whilst traversing with feet the thoroughfares of Oslo. Cataloguing the slow gradients of disintegration, self belief and esteem, through his desire to obtain power on his personal terms. There is to be no artistic surrender. Meanwhile the acidic humility of poverty saps away self belief, holing his clothing and eroding his talent.
Coupled with internal fragmentation he holds his presentation together by still projecting a "front" of self reliance. This is a display of pride to the everyday world. This tension between outward apparent disdain and his internal self repugnance of is the key to the tension.
Paradox it is not, but an initimately observed connection creating for me, the reader, a personal wince moment when the rawness touches a nerve. This is the beauty of "Hunger" it is not just a story but induces a personal confrontation.
There is no linear morality to be swallowed. He highlights how crafted and constructed senses are imported from the past to justify whatever actions lie in the present. It is no vindication of either Freud or Jung. Both are fallacious in Knut's world, although the harkening back to a collective Norwegian memory may just stike a chord.
Chiefly Knut strives to present another form of psychological insight, the power of presentation and its dislocation with what is felt inside. This is a crucial issue. The individual at the centre of his personal/moral maelstorm. The oscillation between joy and despair bounces throughout the novel, testing the polarities of existence.
Underneath the bitterness is romanticism. The vision of self expression balanced against having no power, no belief to change personal circumstances and trapped in a myriad of contradictions. The only truly real is art and literature. At least these pay the bills and assists in externalising the self loathing, disgust and dreams.
Ultimately the "front" of pride drives all before, forcing friends into the wayside, masking internal suffering, the price to be paid for sustaining the self.
Hamsun ushered in a new era in writing, the harbinger of the 20th Century. Next to pick up the cudgels was the good doctor, Dr. Destouches, Ferdinand Celine. A more ambiguous National Socialist, Celine's cynicism drove him to the extremeties in bitterness and coated in layers of bile.
Hamsun longed for less complex worlds of preindustrialism, when magic and superstition existed in everyday social interaction. His canon is bleak, stark and magical, a man who traverses the extremes. Ultimately his National Socialism is a product of his hark back to past magical projections involving vilifying fellow outsiders for the perceived current malaise. Hamsun turned into the coward, knowing it was not the Jews or the Blacks but his fellow countrymen who sold the world. He knows because he documented it. Not facing his own truths is his literary sin.
Hamsun's secret desire to transcend his outside status and claim the throne of power is hidden in this subverted will to power. Interestingly he was the favorite author of another wandering outsider who wanted to be on the inside. Hitler made a special journey to meet Hamsun following the conquest of Norway.
Does the art transcend the individual? Does "Leader of the Gang?" transcend the offence? Does "Thriller?" Does "Journey to the End of the Night? Does "Chinatown?"
Time it appears is the healer, coupled with a publicity machine. Hamsun's power is not to entice you to read Mein Kampf as a follow up, but to confront the Little (Wo)Man inside us all and make personal choices on what type of humans we want to be.
5.0 out of 5 stars Confused,
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)Just finished this and boy has it made an impact! We all feel down and depressed some times but on reading this I realised just how awful life can really be to some. It has made me even more depressed. I can identify with this guy in that pride can be our biggest enemy sometimes. But, the rebuke we can feel when we do let down our guard is even more hurtful to us sensitive souls. This guy was sensitive and yet his anger built up gradually and was expressed in strange ways sometimes. I felt so sad for him - especially the experience he had with the woman. However, he was also incredibly stupid and arrogant in some respects. The way he expected the woman to just give herself to him was rather strange. He obviously was mentally disturbed because of his experiences but he wasnt insane. I cant get him out of my mind. I wish I had been there and met him and could talk to him. He so needed a friend! Yes, I can identify and sympathise with him and know that life can be lonely when the chips are down and you dont want to expose your vulnerability. He felt shame and yet being impoverished was not entirely his fault. The real fly in the ointment about reading this book is that when I looked up some information about Hamsun it turns out he is a convicted Nazi! How can that be? How can someone with so much soul be connected with such evil? Now I have the dilemma of whether I read more of him or abandon him on account of his unrepented beliefs.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars bad translation,
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)the novel is excellent, but this translation is rubbish. get the other version with the bench on the cover. somebody nicked that version off me, and my sister got me this as a replacement. i no longer love her.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor translation - stopped reading after the first few pages,
This review is from: Hunger (Paperback)After reading the other reviews posted here I thought this would be an excellent read, but when it arrived I found it took a lot of effort to read (I'm presuming) because of the poor translation. Just couldn't get into it, stopped trying after the first few pages.
Possibly a great book unfortunately, at least for now, I won't be finding out.
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Hunger by Hamsun Knut (Paperback - 1 Nov 2003)