“Hunger” is one of our Global Gathering Norway discussion books. For the Global Gatherings, we invite scholars to be our discussion facilitators because often these foreign classics can be quite challenging and we can use all the help we can get. “Hunger” is no exception with its atypical plot (or lack thereof) and disconcerting characters. Hamsun, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature wanted to write not just for Norwegians but for a universal human being. Hamsun’s anti- hero is an outsider at odds with society and in revolt against God.
First off, I’d like to alert everyone to the opportunity of meeting Margi Preus at the Bettendorf Public Library on Wednesday, October 21, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. She will be doing a presentation highlighting her books with a Norwegian element and her own Norwegian heritage as part of the Library’s two-month-long Global Gathering Norway project. She’ll talk about her other books too, like the Newbery Honor winner “Heart of a Samurai” and her newest out just this month “The Bamboo Sword”.
This is the first in the Inspector Sejer (pronounced SAY-ear) series and the first mystery to be discussed as part of the Library’s Global Gathering Norway project (next month we’ll discuss “The Bat” by Jo Nesbo). Having read some pretty grim and graphic Scandinavian mysteries previously, I was pleasantly surprised to find this one much more concerned with solving the puzzle of a crime rather than describing dark goings-on in intricate, disturbingly gory detail. Inspector Sejer is not depressed or dysfunctional, but well-liked, a widower who loved his wife. He’s well-mannered, a bit shy, and, most importantly, has such compassion that he feels the pain inflicted on victim, perpetrator, and investigator alike. His main weapon is not a gun, but a belief in justice and a need to understand the criminal mind.
This is a slim book that can be read over and over with delight and pondering. Forget doing any Google searches. No website’s going to give you the answers to what “God” (or “god”) is, why there’s pain, why we exist. We can only find answers to those questions within ourselves. And they change from day to day just as we do.
The main theme could not be more serious: deciding what’s really important in life and following your heart. This is a very Finnish book. Our fragile connection with nature is examined, and nature seems to play an important and almost magical role in the national identity of Finns. They don’t seem to mind snow–it comes with the territory. There is a tension between individual freedom and government regulation and allusions to Finland’s traditional enmity with and distrust of Russia.