Thursday, January 05, 2006

curiously bared of every conceivable thing

Despite his questionable thoughts on Hitler, one of the most underrated writers, in my opinion, is Norwegian realist Knut Hamsun. He won the Nobel Prize in 1920, but after I read his bleak, fascinating 1890 novel Hunger years ago, I would usually bring him up in conversation and be met with blank stares. So it's interesting to see the Hamsun bandwagon seems to be hitting the road. The New Yorker has a look at the author's "return":

When “Hunger” came out, in 1890, Hamsun informed reviewers that he was trying something different; he was not, he insisted, interested in marriages and balls—the book was not really a novel at all. Rather, as he told a friend, “What interests me are my little soul’s endless emotions, the special, strange life of the mind, the mysteries of the nerves in a hungry body.”

Hamsun’s narrator, a writer, is a careful cataloguer of his own psychological states—no victim but, like Hamsun himself, a subversive, generational voice. Not a great deal happens, and yet from the first line—“It was in that time when I walked around hungry in Kristiania, that strange city no one can leave without being marked by it”—the novel’s oddly joyful desperation never flags.

The latest issue of Boldtype (The Obsession Issue) also features a review of Hunger. You can read the whole novel on-line here.

(Thanks to S. for the NYer link.)