I will exile my thoughts if they think of you again, and I will rip my lips out if they say your name once more. Now if you do exist, I will tell you my final word in life or in death, I tell you goodbye.
Knut Hamsun’s Hunger was recommended to me by a very good friend, whom I never associated with reading. I started reading it at one of the most difficult times of my life a couple of months ago and suffice to say, it’s not the book that will help you get up. It’s probably the book that will convince you that life is pretty much awful and hardly worth the trouble of living. So i threw it away for a time when I might be more stable to adequately appreciate it beyond the This book is so depressing it makes me want to kill myself type of attitude.
Knut Hamsun must be read for at least two reasons – he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920 and he was a strong and outspoken supporter of the Nazi regime and Hitler himself. Disregarding the latter (or at least attempting to separate distinctly the writer from the human being) Hamsun possesses an immense talent and a vocabulary good enough to make you lose your mind.
In his powerful somewhat autobiographical novel Hamsun follows the slow alienation and obsession of an unnamed male character living in Oslo. The man is an aspiring author to be (much like Hamsun before his debut in 1890 precisely with this novel) but is somehow unable to adapt to life. The young writer struggles to achieve self-discovery and its ultimate artistic expression but fails every time, even worse than the time before.
It was extremely painful to read Hunger. Beyond the actual, physical hunger of the main character, there was a more painful despair and strive for self-destruction. The novel goes beyond the insanity of an unsuccessful young writer – it goes on to explore that particular time of one’s life when you are thrown into adult life and you realize you not only have to work to survive, but you might be actually forced to exchange your time and ideals for money. And food.
The protagonist of Hunger acts more like a child than like a grown up man. He refuses to accept the rules of the game. In his idealistic mind he can write about whatever he wants to and be celebrated about it. In his idealistic mind the woman he loves will love him back despite of his poverty and alienation. Hamsun paints an unforgettable portrait of a man driven by forces beyond his control to the edge of self-destruction. The feelings of anger and frustration are almost palpable in a man who doesn’t know how to live life and whose irrationality and instability cause his ultimate destruction. It’s difficult to survive in a world when you don’t play by the rules. Hamsun’s Hunger I would assume is the author’s rebellion against the rules. His ultimate struggle to live the way he wants to without confirming to society’s rules. I know for a fact this doesn’t work – you either adapt or you die. Thanks, Darwin.