Tying the Knut

All of this happened while I was walking around starving in Christiania - that strange city no one escapes from until it has left its mark on him...
I was lying awake in my attic room; a clock struck six somewhere below; it was fairly light already and people were beginning to move up and down the stairs. Over near the door, where my wall was papered with old issues of the Morning Times I could make out a message from the Chief of Lighthouses, and just to the left of that an advertisement for fresh bread, showing a big, fat loaf: Fabian Olsen's bakery.
As soon as I was wide awake, I took to thinking, As I always did, if i had anything to be cheerful about today. Things had been a bit tight for me lately; one after the other of my possessions had been taken to my "uncle" at the pawnshop; I was becoming more and more nervous and irritable, and several mornings lately I had been so dizzy I had had to stay in bed all day. Occasionally when my luck was good I took in five kroner or so from one of the newspapers for an article.
"Hunger", translated by Robert Bly in 1967 for Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG)

It was in those days when I wandered about hungry in Kristiania, that strange city which no one leaves before it has set its mark upon him...
Lying awake in my attic room, I hear a clock strike six downstairs. It was fairly light already and people were beginning to walk up and down the stairs. Over by the door, where my room was papered with old issues of Morgenbladet, I could see, very clearly, a notice from the director of Lighthouses, and just left of it a fat, swelling ad for freshly baked bread by Fabian Olsen, Baker.
As soon as I opened my eyes I started wondering, by force oh habit, whether I had anything to look forward to today. I had been somewhat hard up lately; my belongings had been taken to "Uncle" one after the other, I had grown nervous and irritable, and a couple of times I had even stayed in bed for a day or so because of dizziness. Every now and then, when I was luck, I managed to get five kroner for an article from some newspaper or other.
"Hunger", translated by Sverre Lyngstad in 1996 for Penguin Books

As you can see the same book can be approached in different ways. This is "Hunger" by the Nobel prized Knut Hamsun. Is one of my favorite books. It tells the story of a man who lives in permanent hunger which can by sustained by writing. If he writes he eats, but he needs to eat to write. This was Hamsun's own recollection of hard times back in Oslo (Christiana by the time) in the 1880's. While also a poet and playwright, Hamsun made his mark on European literature as a novelist. Finding the contemporary novel plot-ridden, psychologically unsophisticated and didactic, he aimed to transform it so as to accommodate contingency and the irrational, the nuances of conscious and subconscious life as well as the vagaries of human behavior.
On a Translator's Note in the Penguin edition we can read: "Robert Bly's American translation (the one from FSG) , while based on the more authoritative revised Norwegian edition of 1907, is extremely faulty and inaccurate. It contains a myriad of errors and misreadings, confuses the geography of Kristiania and generally does violence to Hamsun's technique and style (...) and fails to observe his subtle use of free indirect discourse in rendering dialogue."
It seems that Bly's didn't knew some of the aspects of Hamsun's life, time and space. As a Norwegian who lived many years in Oslo, Lyngstad, now a Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, knew all of this by his heart. I've read Bly's version and I was taken aback by the story and the words of painful starving. I felt the hunger has Hamsun's did. It's a remarkable book I will never forget. But then I can have a second chance now, with this Penguin Classic, which will be an extension of the world I stepped in before.
For Bloom's customers you can choose by yourself. We hold both editions. The FSG has an introduction by Paul Auster called "The Art of Hunger" that by itself is worth of all the investment.


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