Monday 28 February 2022

Book Review: Hunger by Knut Hamsun (Modern Classic)

Title: Hunger
Author: Knut Hamsun
Publisher: Canongate
Publication Date: 2016 (1890)
Pages: 261
Genre: Modern Classic
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Lying awake in his attic room, a young aspiring writer prepares himself for the day ahead. He dresses and then descends into the unforgiving streets of Kristiana, one of many journeys he will come to make through this strange city, looking for inspiration and sustenance. As the narrator's behavior becomes increasingly irrational and absurd, the reader is drawn deeper into his intense world. First published in 1890, Hunger is Hamsun's first novel, a disturbing and darkly humorous masterpiece of existential fiction that anticipated and influenced much 20th-century fiction, including the work of Camus, Kafka and Fante.


Having previously seen the film Sult, I knew roughly what to expect from Hunger in terms of the storyline, but I enjoyed reading it for the emotion and psychology of the character as he narrated his tale. It was a character-driven piece and was captivating for that. The only small thing that bothered me was the fact that the text, though predominantly in past tense, would occasionally throw out a line or two in present tense, which felt jarring and made the editor in me want to grab a red pen and change it. I don't know if this was something the translator brought in or if he was being faithful to the original, but it irked me and pulled me out of the story every time I encountered it. The notes on the translation at the back were interesting and all in all this was a nicely presented edition. It gets 4.5 stars from me.

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