At the end of the nineteenth century, a new literary tradition began to emerge that we now popularly call existential fiction. Authors like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Knut Hamsun began portraying absurd, vile, or illegal acts to highlight man’s free will, and highly unreasonable approach to life. They no longer created their heroes out of the traditional mold; their protagonists were no longer passive agents being carried through the story by plot lines, they became active agents of their own making. Insidious thoughts freely pass though the narrative, and interpretations and choices carry them through the story. These new heroes, though not always liked by the reader, appealed to readers because of their humanity.
The reader is invited to look upon the thoughts and actions of the narrator as he wanders the streets of Kristiania broke, hungry, often destitute, and always trying to come up with something to write in order to survive. Hunger is about one man’s struggle against god and the human condition. This Nobel Prize winning book explores the depths of the individual psyche as hunger and solitude consume the narrator’s reason. Hamsun’s lively description of madness will keep you reading.
Written in the first person, and autobiographical in nature, Knut Hamsun’s Hunger is a story about a poverty stricken, hungry, and frequently destitute writer’s engagement with the city of Kritiania during the 1880’s. It traces the thoughts of the central character as he lies incessantly, curses god, plays the fool, mocks cops, and finds mostly failure in trying to write an article for the local paper that will earn him enough just to feed himself for a couple of days—though he just as often gives the money away. This is a struggle of a man against himself.