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Hunger: A Novel Paperback – February 19, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (February 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374531102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374531102
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Something new is happening here, some new thought about the nature of art is being proposed in Hunger. An art that is indistinguishable from the life of the artist who makes it . . . an art that is the direct expression of the effort to express itself." --Paul Auster (from his introduction)

"The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun. They were all Hansun's disciples: Thomas Mann and Arthur Schnitzler . . . and even such American writers as Fitzgerald and Hemingway." --Isaac Bashevis Singer

"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

About the Author

Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) was a Norwegian novelist, poet, and playwright.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Hamsun's techniques that propel the story along are simple, straightforward and very layered and interesting.
Mark M. Hladky
Hunger is a painful novel in that you find yourself hoping for the best and finding that while your protagonist does as well he endlessly tortures himself.
M. Zveris
I picked up Hunger because I am a fan of Charles Bukowski's writing, and he mentions several times in his works that Knut Hamsun is his favorite author.
D. Scott

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 52 people found the following review helpful By RSS on January 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
This translation is absolute garbage. Hamsun's rich language and unforgettable style have been washed away to make for an easier read. Nuances are erased and sentences made bland, time is distorted -- readers ignorant of the original are being robbed. This, like the Sverre Lyngstad translation, is a disgrace. I could translate better than this myself. Here's an example of his butchering, not chosen for being particularly bad; it is just a paragraph on the first page.

"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."

Here is the original (modernized spelling, and "at" written as "ĺ"):

Jeg ligger vĺken pĺ min kvist og hřrer en klokke nedenunder meg slĺ seks slag; det var allerede ganske lyst og folk begynte ĺ ferdes opp og ned i trappene. Nede ved dřren hvor mitt rom var tapetsert med gamle numre av Morgenbladet kunne jeg sĺ tydelig se en bekjentgjřrelse fra Fyrdirektřren, og litt tilvenstre derfra et fett, bugnende avertissement fra baker Fabian Olsen om nybakt brřd.

I realize that to those of you -- a majority no doubt -- who do not know any Norwegian, it will be difficult to trust any alternative translation I provide. Nonetheless I will make the attempt, sticking very closely to the original. The purpose is not to provide a pleasant read, but to illustrate the gap between what Hamsun wrote and the translation you're being served.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on November 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
Knut Hamsun's *Hunger* is a powerful study of a man too intelligent and too sensitive for his own good--or anyone else's for that matter. He's a younger version of Dostoyevsky's "underground man" driven by Poe's "imp of the perverse." Living hand-to-mouth, always down to his last kroner, reeling dizzy from hunger, Hamsun's narrator, a freelance journalist and would-be litterateur, is part crank, part brilliant eccentric whose hypersensitivity and untimely observations of the shortcomings of human nature seem to insure his failure among the society he loathes.

The victim as well as the author of his own misfortunes, the hero--properly speaking, the anti-hero--of *Hunger* can't even stumble into good fortune without somehow sabotaging himself. He pushes himself to indulge in the most offensive and inappropriate public behavior so compulsively you begin to wonder if he isn't insane, especially inasmuch as he often engages himself in conversation and goads himself to self-destruction as if he were really talking to and arguing with another person altogether. He even manages to spoil the beginnings of a most improbable love-affair with a woman who finds herself intrigued by such a strange and haunted man.

Is his poverty, his periodic homelessness, his ever-present hunger a consequence of his schizoid behavior or is his schizoid behavior a consequence of his hunger, grinding poverty, and brutal degradation at the hands of a society that doesn't recognize the geniuses among it? The question is left open to debate and that's one of the things that makes *Hunger* such an endlessly compelling novel.

By articulating such questions and outlining the contours of alienation, Hamsun paints a bleak landscape where genius struggles between mediocrity and madness and where each of us is not much more than a ham sandwich away from being swallowed up by utter destitution.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. Scott VINE VOICE on April 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
I picked up Hunger because I am a fan of Charles Bukowski's writing, and he mentions several times in his works that Knut Hamsun is his favorite author. After finishing Hunger, I understand why - its main character is very real, intensely psychological, living through what he must, learning what he has to learn to heal some broken part of himself. I now realize Bukowski took these themes for his work and made them his own. In the excellent afterword to this edition (must reading), Robert Bly says "...Hunger is a cathedral. It is a cathedral because the whole novel is a resonating chamber for an unknown part of the personality." The central focus of Hunger is precisely what is not there - the part of the main character's personality that makes him do the things he does, the unconscious. Where do the impulses of the unconscious come from, and what do they say about us and about the times in which we live?

Written in 1890, Hunger was a new kind of novel for the 20th century, later influencing Hemingway, Saramago, Kafka, Camus, and many others. Hunger is not symbolic. The main character is really hungry as he wanders the streets of Christiana (Oslo) with little in his pockets but a pencil nub and a few sheets of paper on which to write another article he hopefully can sell to the newspaper for a few kroner. He goes for days without eating, writes feverishly, wanders the streets at all times of day and night, contemplates eating his own pockets, tries to pawn the buttons off his own coat, sells some articles, is OK for a while, and then starves again. At times the protagonist seems to lapse into insanity, giving what little he has away and seemingly subverting his own efforts. At other times he appears to be a genius.
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