Knut Hamsun Hunger Criticism - Essay

Hunter T. Stagg (review date 15 February 1921)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Stagg, Hunter T. Review of Hunger, by Knut Hamsun. Reviewer 1, no. 1 (15 February, 1921): 23-4.

[In the following review of Hunger, Stagg lauds Hamsun's powerful and vivid writing style.]

It seems inevitable that the conspicuous success in this country of a foreign writer hitherto unknown to us should be followed by an influx of other translations from distant and little exploited pastures of literary endeavor. Upon the heels of Blasco Ibanez's financially triumphant introduction to the American public came other Spanish authors, whose bids for favor proved less ingratiating. Then Latin America was raked—is still being raked—for material...

(The entire section is 704 words.)

Robert Coles (essay date 23 September 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Coles, Robert. “Knut Hamsun: The Beginning and the End.” New Republic 157, no. 13 (23 September 1967): 21-4.

[In the following essay, Coles summarizes the major action and themes in Hunger, concluding with a short history of Hamsun's literary career and political struggles.]

On February 19, 1952 a man of 93 died near Grimstad, Norway. He was a writer, indeed one who had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920. He was also at the time of his death an officially recognized traitor, allowed by his nation to live out his last years at home only because of the “permanently impaired faculties” that advanced age was supposed to have caused. Now,...

(The entire section is 8311 words.)

Robert Ferguson (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ferguson, Robert. “1888-1890: The Breakthrough: Hunger.” In Enigma: The Life of Knut Hamsun, pp. 99-121. London: Hutchinson, 1987.

[In the following essay, Ferguson creates an outline of events in Hamsun's life immediately preceding the publication of Hunger, including several anecdotes about Hamsun's relationships with other writers during this time.]

The question of anonymity, and Hamsun's lifelong violent ambivalence towards the concept and consequences of personal fame, brings us at once up against one of the central paradoxes of this strange man. So far, we have met a Hamsun who was a tireless promoter of himself as personality and...

(The entire section is 10227 words.)

Donald C. Riechel (essay date May 1989)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Riechel, Donald C. “Knut Hamsun's ‘Imp of the Perverse’: Calculation and Contradiction in Sult and Mysterier.” Scandinavica: An International Journal of Scandinavian Studies 28, no. 1 (May 1989): 29-53.

[In the following essay, Riechel studies two of Hamsun's early novels, noting that the narrative effects in both Hunger and Mysteries are achieved from a combination of ambiguity, irony, and self-contradiction.]

Nietzsche once wrote that becoming accustomed to irony and sarcasm spoils one's character: in the end one resembles a snapping dog that besides knowing how to bite has learned how to laugh1. Perhaps such...

(The entire section is 11958 words.)

Paul Auster (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Auster, Paul. “The Art of Hunger.” In The Art of Hunger: Essays, Prefaces, Interviews and The Red Notebook, pp. 9-20. New York: Penguin, 1992.

[In the following essay, Auster offers a thematic analysis of Hunger, characterizing the work as a pioneering text about artistic achievement.]

What is important, it seems to me, is not so much to defend a culture whose existence has never kept a man from going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas whose compelling force is identical with that of hunger.

—Antonin Artaud

A young man comes to a city. He has no...

(The entire section is 3722 words.)

Mark B. Sandberg (essay date fall 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sandberg, Mark B. “Writing on the Wall: The Language of Advertising in Knut Hamsun's Sult.” Scandinavian Studies 71, no. 3 (fall 1999): 265-96.

[In the following essay, Sandberg proposes that although Hunger is often regarded as a subjective novel of private literary expression, it is equally valid as a text that links itself, via its language, to the public world of news, economics, and advertising.]

Here is an opening scene: the unnamed main character of Sult [Hunger] awakens in his rented room. He hears the bells outside ringing six o'clock and people beginning to walk up and down the stairs. The walls of his room, papered...

(The entire section is 10676 words.)

Mark Axelrod (essay date 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Axelrod, Mark. “The Poetics of Peripatetics and Peripety in Hamsun's Hunger.” In The Poetics of Novels: Fiction and Its Execution, pp. 140-70. London: Macmillan, 1999.

[In the following essay, Axelrod examines the use of space, travel, movement, and change in Hunger.]

Published in 1890, Hunger is probably Hamsun's best known and, arguably, his best written novel. Sizeably autobiographical, it deals with the time Hamsun existed in Kristiania (Oslo) and is extraordinary in terms of psychological depth and poetic temperament. But one cannot easily dismiss the effect starvation had on Hamsun and to that extent one cannot discount...

(The entire section is 11100 words.)