At first there’s a strong resemblance to Raskolnikov from Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, with both characters’ grandiose and volatile emotional states pouring out in deluge of verbiage (and what makes the readings of each enthralling). Although, as pointed out in the introduction by Robert Bly, there is a major difference between Hunger and Crime and Punishment, and is what also sets Hamsun off from a large portion of Western literature. Where Dostoyevsky has his characters beating their heads against a wall of brick to crack out a moral solution to life’s problems, Hamsun lets the internal states of his character’s ride through and run their course, allowing heroic experience over efforts to control or prevent, even allowing his characters to occasionally give into the madness of their desires without much of a second thought. If you're hungry, you're hungry. That simple. Hamsun is not interested in moral guidance, instead wants to linguistically represent the pinball contraption we like call our minds, where we on occasion can keep the ball in play but to only then have it carry on in its own flabbergasting speed of ricocheting whirls and largely beyond one's conscious control.
18 March 2006
Five Branch Tree examines Knut Hamsun's Hunger: