Sult

SultSult by Knut Hamsun
Publisher: P. G. Philipsens Forlag
Released: June 1, 1890
Pages: 158
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One of the most important and controversial writers of the 20th century, Knut Hamsun made literary history with the publication in 1890 of this powerful, autobiographical novel recounting the abject poverty, hunger and despair of a young writer struggling to achieve self-discovery and its ultimate artistic expression. The book probes the psychodynamics of alienation and obsession, painting an unforgettable portrait of a man driven by forces beyond his control to the edge of self-destruction. Hamsun influenced many of the major 20th-century writers who followed him, including Kafka, Joyce and Henry Miller.

A Norwegian classic I finally got around to reading. The book is about a struggling writer who runs out of money and goes hungry. It didn’t take me long to start feeling desperately sorry for this man. The really raw way in which his desperate hunger and, as a result, often miserable and sometimes deranged state of mind is described, made this book a very uncomfortable, but also a very thought-provoking read. Reading about the main character’s unwillingness to ask for or accept charity out of pride and a sense of personal dignity genuinely frustrated me. I found myself urging the character to steal, rather than preserving his lawfulness at the risk of dying of hunger.

Unfortunately, even though this book was published in 1890, it remains relevant. It will stay relevant as long as there are people who have to go hungry. Through telling a story it makes a very powerful point. No moral is stated, nor is any lecture given. It is just a story. A story which serves as a poignant reminder that no matter how uncomfortable one might be made to feel by that person sitting on the street, asking for ones money, one is extremely privileged to be the one being asked.

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