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Fam (1890)

de Knut Hamsun

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4,2721092,207 (4.04)1 / 283
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Anglès (99)  Noruec (2)  Neerlandès (2)  Suec (2)  Danès (1)  Noruec (Bokmål) (1)  Portuguès (1)  Francès (1)  Alemany (1)  Totes les llengües (110)
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Hunger (Sult) (1890) by Norwegian author Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) is, as Wikipedia and 1001 Books tells us, a very significant book in the history of the novel.
Hamsun's reputation has suffered from his Nazi sympathies, but his early, semi-autobiographical portrait of the writer as a hungry young man is a seminal modernist classic. Influenced by Dostoevsky, Hamsun here develops a kind of Nietzschean individualism that rebelled against both naturalism and the progressive literary politics associated with Ibsen. The urban angst of Hunger prefigures the alienated cityscapes of Kafka, but with an insistence on tensions between everyday economics and colloquial reverie worthy of James Kelman.
(1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Edited by Peter Boxall, ABC Books, 2006 Edition, ISBN: 9780733321214, p.206)

Wikipedia tells us Hamsun pioneered techniques of stream of consciousness and interior monologue and Isaac Bashevis Singer called Hamsun "the father of the modern school of literature in his every aspect—his subjectiveness, his fragmentariness, his use of flashbacks, his lyricism. The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Hamsun." He influenced numerous authors including Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Herman Hesse and Ernest Hemingway, and he won the Nobel Prize in 1920 "for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil."

But all of this is forgotten as you read the book. Reading this portrait of a distressed young man at the end of his physical and psychological tether is an intensely emotional experience. It's only 134 pages but it took four days to read it, because it is so overwhelming. It was written in the late 19th century but when we read it today it is with a consciousness of how serious poverty was before the Russian Revolution propelled capitalist economies into developing welfare reforms. In extremis, the unnamed narrator has nothing to turn to but judgemental charity and the spasmodic kindness of friends, and today in the 21st century that is still how it is in many countries around the world. His vivid depictions of the state he is in, are brutal.

Although there are comic episodes to relieve the tension, it is the poignant moments that will stay with me. Wandering about in a market where he has (literally) no money to buy anything, and indeed he has pawned his waistcoat to give some money to a beggar, he comes across the woman who had potted plants for sale.
The heavy crimson roses—the leaves of which glowed blood-like and moist in the damp morning—made me envious, and tempted me sinfully to snatch one, and I inquired the price of them merely as an excuse to approach as near to them as possible.

If I had any money I would buy one, no matter how things went; indeed I might well save a little now and then out of my way of living to balance things again. (p.22)
This yearning for roses despite his acute poverty, and his fantasy that he might save up for some from his non-existent earnings is quite heart-breaking. ( )
  anzlitlovers | Oct 26, 2021 |
The uncompromising portrait of the irrational mind, that either causes or is the cause of the extreme poverty our protagonist lives. We follow his thoughts and actions as the weeks go by and comedy and tragedy intertwine. Initially, I wasn't too invested in this novel, but by the time I got to the second half of part two, I was completely immersed in the life of the protagonist and the oddities that he goes through. Can be really funny at times, but mostly devastating with its descriptions of near insanity and misery. ( )
  yuef3i | Sep 19, 2021 |
Novel ( )
  jmhdassen | May 8, 2021 |
While it is surprisingly modern for a 19th century novel, this story was a bit esoteric for me. The main driver of the plot is a dynamic in which pride and an arbitrary moral code take precedence over basic sustenance: the protagonist would rather die from starvation than suffer the cognitive dissonance of doing something counter to his self image. But the delirium brought on by his hunger led him to commit erratic acts of self-sabotage that made his story frustrating to get through at times. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
Set in 1890 when Hamsun wrote it, the writing bears little of the hallmarks of the writing of this era. There is little plot to speak of and few characters. Our protagonist narrator believes himself to wear the noble title of 'writer' as his occupation, but in reality he is at best a hugely unproductive author of unsolicited newspaper articles. As a result he lives mostly with perpetual hunger, often on the brink of starvation, at which point he regularly cannot keep food down even when he's able to buy some. His hunger drives him to bouts of mania and erratic behaviour, but he's clearly not of sound mind anyway. When he has a little money - which is very much the exception rather than the norm - he is quick to find reason to give part or all of it away. He turns down opportunities for food when he's desperately hungry, and avoids pursuing other avenues for employment where he could receive regular pay.

This is a bleak, bleak novel, and certainly not one I could have continued with had it been longer. The depth of the narrator's poverty is difficult to read about at times. All he possesses in life are the clothes he's standing up on, and even some of those he has to pawn. But it is the mix of this extreme poverty with his crazy behaviour that make his story so desperately frustrating to read about, as he passes over small kindnesses that would make huge differences to his situation.

It is not an enjoyable novel, but there is a certain experience to reading it. It's narrated as bouts of despair bouncing into periods of mania; this mental instability can be exhausting to read (although it's not difficult prose).

3.5 stars - I'm glad I read it, but I certainly won't rush back for a re-read. ( )
  AlisonY | Feb 10, 2021 |
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» Afegeix-hi altres autors (78 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Hamsun, Knutautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Auster, PaulIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Björkman, EdwinIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Bly, RobertTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Chong, W. H.Dissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Egerton, GeorgeTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Kehlmann, DanielNachwortautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Lyngstad, SverreTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Marken, Amy vanEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Nesbø, JoIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Polet, CoraTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Singer, Isaac BashevisIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Weibel, SiegfriedÜbersetzerautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Worster, W. W.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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It was in those days when I wandered about hungry in Kristiania, that strange city which no one leaves before it has set his mark upon him. . .
Det var i den tid jeg gikk omkring og sultet i Kristiania, denne forunderlige by som ingen forlater før han har fått merker av den ....
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