Hunger was the January pick of the International Reads Group I participate in over on YouTube. I had never even heard of this book before it was nominated. But apparently it’s a classic of World Literature! Knut Hamsun was a Norwegian author who won the Nobel Prize back in the early 20th Century.
This novel follows a male narrator (often thought of as Hamsun as the story feels semi-autobiographical) as he tries to make a go of being a writer in Kristiania (modern day Oslo). He literally walks around town starving to death, nearly homeless, locked into this self-imposed psychological torture as he tries to muster the motivation and energy to write something down that will earn him at least enough money to survive a few more days. And quite frankly, he gives starving artists a bad name. JUST GET A JOB ALREADY.
As a work trying to pull off a stream-of-consciousness narration, I give Hamsun props. I think meandering around inside the main character’s head as he thinks all his random thoughts and slowly suffers from severe hunger and dehydration is well-done and vaguely intriguing. His internal monologue amounted to an interesting voice and kept me reading. I liked seeing the random townspeople he met and what new ways his pride would intercede in his plight to rise above his struggle.
However, my brain just kept yelling at this kid that he should stop his moaning, his starving, his pursuit of some idealistic creative existence and go get a goddamn job. I don’t see anything noble about wandering around not eating because you believe you should make money simply off your writing talent. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this perspective more as a young college student. As a grown-ass woman expected to pay my own bills, PLEASE GET OVER YOURSELF. Ya know? Hell, even in college I worked and paid my own bills. I just had no sympathy or empathy.
So I don’t know why this has won awards and why people consider it a classic. I suppose I’m not smart enough or existential enough or liberal enough or hipster enough to give a shit. But despite all of my crankiness, I didn’t end up hating Hunger. In fact, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars over on Goodreads. His voice and his shenanigans kept me turning the pages of which there were only like 130 or so. I know I’ll never read it again and could not really recommend this thing to anyone else. Someone should turn it into a mockumentary about the delayed adolescence that is apparently a thing these days.
So big freakin’ BAH HUMBUG to you, Mr. Hamsun.