Knut Hamsun's Hunger: A Psychological Novel

In Knut Hamsun's Hunger, the narrator and protagonist roams the streets of Kristiania (Oslo) and searches for food and later lodging. A writer of questionable success, he submits his writings to a journal but rarely gets the story accepted. Without money, he often doesn't eat for days.

As we read the novel, we dwell into the mind occasionally delusion of a man trying to maintain his dignity in poverty. Though he had no food, he gives money to children and vagrants. And though he fancies a girl, he feels unworthy of her. His unstable state of mind reminds us of Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. And indeed, Hunger is as much a psychological novel as Dostoyevsky's classic work but it dwells into the unstable mind in greater details.

Kristiania (Oslo)

Through the novel, Hamsun comments on Oslo's coming of age and on civilization crossing into the twentieth century. The narrator's interactions with others reveal the alienation in a modern city. His plight and despair, and his suffering and struggles are those of modern men and women. In the end, he leaves Kristiania, a symbol of his escaping from the modern life.

Knut Hansum

Hunger is a powerful tale of the currents of history sweeping individuals off their grounds of existence and tossing them into an ocean of despair. Even now, more than a hundred years later, we confront similar challenges and the novel remains relevant. The question was and is: how shall we respond to such challenges?

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