AUTHOR: Knut Hamsun
PUBLISHER: Penguin Classics
Quote: “All of this happened while I was walking around starving in Kristiania - that strange city no one escapes from until it has left its mark on him.”
Overview: Hunger follows an unnamed narrator, a down on his luck writer, as he wanders around Kristiania (Oslo, Norway) in search of food. The book is divided into four parts in which he is usually walking the streets of the city, meeting various people and trying to write or sell his writing. The book delves deeply into the narrator’s psyche as his physical and mental well-being continue to decline from lack of food, the cold weather and his general poverty. Even in the midst of a large city, the narrator is alone and living mostly inside his own head. Throughout the story he exhibits a chivalrous or moral code that he lives by which includes giving away money and food that he needs to others and turning himself in for stealing. Hunger was first translated into English in 1899 but the definitive translation was not until 1996 when completed by Sverre Lyngstad.
Analysis: This was a quintessential psychological read. The majority of the book focused on the narrator’s intense and usually irrational thoughts as he traversed the city in a partially decrepit state. As he slowly descends into further poverty and hunger, he slowly descends into madness. And the wheels keep turning page after page. If you are a fan of Russian literature and enjoy the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, this book felt familiar when compared to such works as The Death of Ivan Ilych or Crime and Punishment. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading classics, especially Russian literature.
Conclusion: It’s a classic - if you enjoy classics that dive deep into the psyche of its characters then pick up Hunger.