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Book Review - The Hunger

Contemptuous of contemporary novels and what he saw as stereotypical plots and empty characters, in 1890 Knut Hamsun wrote "Hunger", which is a searing excursion into the realm of the irrational. In a moment-by-moment internal monologue, Hamsun reveals the profound anguish of a struggling writer facing the possibility of death in a world indifferent to his existence.
Yevgeny Bazarov, Resident Scholar

This book is set in Oslo, Norway in the year 1890. The unnamed narrator is a young man who has come to the city to live and to write. The action takes place over a few months in the late fall, during which time the narrator struggles to write, to eat, to keep a roof over his head, and to make some kind of human connection with the strangers he meets on the street.
    The novel opens with the narrator living in a tiny attic room at a bording house. He is forced to pawn one item after another in order to pay rent. He occasionally earns a little money by selling an article to the newspaper, but soon, with the rent overdue, he leaves the bordinghouse to live on the street. He is unable to find a job or sell much of his writing. He starves. He wanders the streets, writes and talks to himself. He begins to wonder if he is going insane. He cuts the buttons off of his coat to sell to the pawnbroker. He gnaws on bones. At last he meets a stranger on the street, a woman, and it seems for a while that he may have found a friend.
    After months of starving, it is unclear how the narrator's story will end. He will either die, go insane, fall in love, or else he somehow creates a new option of escape from the city and its hunger. The novel is mostly a character study, with little in the way of a conventional plot.
Matthew Christensen, Resident Scholar

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