If you’re looking for a happy autumn read, then Hunger ain’t it. Set in Oslo before it was Oslo, a writer starves in the presence of plenty – the fragility of the human condition laid bare in a bleak and bizarre narrative of want. Pride and social conventions fight a losing battle with the need for food, and combine to create a sort of gallows humour that makes the reading bearable.
This is a desperate novel, in that you can feel the presence of a ticking clock whilst you read it. How long can the main character survive this time without a meal? How long before the onset of the madness, that separates the protagonist from his surroundings and alienates the reader? How much longer can you continue to read this twisted mess before the misery of it overwhelms you?
Knut Hamsun’s semi-autobiographical novel inspired the likes of Kafka and Hemingway with its groundbreaking psychological exploration of starvation, and is a fascinating if somewhat depressing read. Not to be read with a Mars Bar.
[Louise Wylie – @WomanPendulum]