“Hunger” by Knut Hamsun
(First publication: 1890 / This edition: Canongate Books 2011)
Taken before a day out at sea in Krabi, Thailand
I was on the verge of crying with grief at still being alive.
I read this about two months ago during a short vacation. It’s pretty heavy for a beach/vacation read, but enjoyable all the same.
Well, “enjoyable” might not be the right word for it. In ‘Hunger’ you will read about one of the most frustrating, complex, ridiculous, FRUSTRATING characters ever.
The main character—this ridiculously frustratingly complex one—drags you with him through his existential turmoil. He is struggling through poverty and extreme hunger, but not wanting to be humiliated and wanting to save face, he never lets others know it. The moment he feels a condescending or a pitying look thrown his way, he lashes back at the people and tries to humiliate them instead for “misjudging” him and for not knowing any better how noble and grand he is. There is only a handful of occasions where he is desperate enough to humble himself and accept help.
You know he’s losing (or has already lost) his mind, and you get frustrated and upset at the silly ways he deals with his money, his train of thought, his ego, and the pompous act he puts on. In a weird way, it actually exhausts you, but you still want to know how he will deal with everything.
I’d recommend it—but not for when you’re trying to relax at the beach.
As TIME OUT said about this book, ‘One of the most disturbing novels in existence.’
Here is my favorite line from the book:
It was not my intention to collapse; no, I would die standing.