I was moving some books around the other day, and stumbled across my old copy of Hunger by Knut Hamsun. If you haven’t read it before, I recommend it. It’s like a something a beat writer might have written, only 60 or 70 years before its time. Also, it’s actually good. (Zing! Take that, beat writers.)
The plot (such as it is) revolves around a freelance writer’s attempts to make enough money writing to buy food in Kristiania, Norway in the late 1800s . The only problem is, without food he can’t think straight, so he can’t write, so he can’t by any food, so he can’t think straight, so he can’t write etc. etc. What makes the book great is the way it captures the sort of fuzzy dream logic that one might find oneself using if one was driven mad by cold and hunger, a fuzzy logic which gets more and more pronounced as the narrator gets colder and hungrier. Then, he scores a quick crust of stale bread, and he’s back to only half mad, dreaming up new things to write about, once he scrapes up enough money to buy a pencil.
Like a lot of writers I enjoy reading, Mr. Hamsun was a jerk in real life, and I’m talking about a Nazi sympathizer-type jerk in this case [sounds like the results of one of those online quizzes: “What type of jerk are you? You are a Nazi Sympathizer-type jerk.” -ed.]. Still, an interesting guy. Consider these three facts:
1. While in America in the 1880s, Hamsun was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
2. He bought a train ticket, and spent most of the trip on the roof with his mouth wide open.
3. After that, he didn’t have tuberculosis anymore.
Or so the rumor goes, anyway.