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The Humo(u)r of Hunger

Chris Killen is my new hero - a fellow traveler who also appreciates the great humor in Knut Hamsun's otherwise bleak Hunger.

I think comedy often comes from dark places, and I think there's a very fine line between something being funny and something being horrible.

I've read Hunger from many different angles during the past twenty-plus years, humor being just one of them. The fact that the book works so perfectly on so many levels - including being funny and bleak at the same time - is one reason it's still the greatest book I've ever read.

(Via Dogmatika.)

April 23, 2008 in Books | Permalink


Ah, "Hunger." I read this last year, and was pleasantly surprised that it was humorous. I've always thought that the best humor comes from horrible, ironic situations (case in point: Dave Chappelle's "Black White Supremacist" skit--hilarious, as long as you're not easily offended). Granted, "Hunger" didn't have me laughing up a storm, but there were a few chuckles--a nice break from the bleakness of the story overall.

I'm curious: what translation of "Hunger" would you recommend? The translation I read was really stilted. I don't remember who the translator was, but I know a bad translation when I read one.

Posted by: Brandon at Apr 27, 2008 11:38:43 AM

Another thing: I like reading your sidebar, and I noticed that you said "The Great Gatsby" is "less than classic." I'd like to shake your hand and buy you a drink. I thought I was the only person in America who was less-than-enchanted with that one.

Posted by: Brandon at Apr 27, 2008 11:47:53 AM

i would recommend the sverre lyngstad translation. he even has a thing at the back showing how the other translations are not as good or accurate or whatever.

Posted by: chris killen at May 1, 2008 5:11:22 PM

Chris, thanks for weighing in (and thanks for the original piece as well!). As I mentioned to Brandon via email, I love Robert Bly's 1967 translation. Though it's the only version I've read, I think Bly did a great job with it. I suspect that the "stilted" translation Brandon read was George Egerton's from the 1930s.

Posted by: Pete at May 3, 2008 7:17:07 AM