Read Tales of Love & Loss by Knut Hamsun Free Online
Book Title: Tales of Love & Loss|
The author of the book: Knut Hamsun
ISBN 13: 9780285633834
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.75 MB
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Loaded: 1518 times
Reader ratings: 6.1
Edition: Souvenir Press
Date of issue: April 1st 2007
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Early in his career, Nobel laureate Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) briefly experimented with the short story, releasing three short volumes before abandoning the venue entirely¹ Hamsun never put a whole lot of stock into his short story writing, although it is quite good, and claims the third collection had merely been written as a gift to his second wife. While lacking the full impact of works such as Hunger or Mysteries, Tales of Love & Loss, made up of 20 stories pooled from his three short story volumes that are available in English only through this collection, still delivers a completely satisfying array of stories that make a perfect companion to any Hamsun collection while demonstrating his wit, humor, and probing of moral dilemmas.
Much of Tales seems like early sketches of characters that would later appear in his novels. Stories such as John Tro or The Call of Life, read almost as deleted scenes from Hunger, while hints of Glahn from Pan appear in Ladykiller and hints of Nagel from Mysteries can be seen in the mysterious nuisance in the incredible Secret Sorrow. The latter story, as well as the unsettling A Real Rascal, are perfect examples of Hamsun practicing his depth of moral investigations. These stories read as if they were a laboratory of thought for Hamsun to test his ideas and abilities before expanding upon them in full length novels, yet the stories collected in this book are just as exciting and worthwhile as the novels.
Many of the concepts toyed with in these stories would not appear in novel form for another dozen or so years, especially the many tales of provincial life, such as Life in a Small Town or On the Prairie, that seem to be laying the groundwork for late-career novels like The Women at the Pump or Growth of the Soil. There are several stories that seem rather unique to Hamsun, such as A Ghost, which is a rather satisfying, creepy ghost story (as the name would imply) with a moral lesson attached, or the apolitical, politically charged (and almost gonzo-esk) Revolution on the Streets featuring a professor who just so happens to be caught up in student riots while trying to go about his daily habits as if all was normal. There is a lighthearted, comical side not typically thought of about Hamsun that shines through in many of these stories. The first, and earliest written of the stories, A Lecture Tour, follows an author attempting to give a ‘serious lecture about serious literature.’ After having nobody attends his lecture, having already paid in advance for the pavilion, while a man showing off animals has a sold-out audience down the street, the writer agrees to be part of the animal show to cover his losses. As translator Robert Ferguson asserts in his introduction, this story ‘shows Hamsun in the process of learning to laugh at himself and his literary pretensions and ambitions. This self-mockery would later be tinged with the tragic in Hunger as we watch a starving artist fall into crippling poverty all in the name of high-art.
Some of the best pieces in this collection are those that are not much more beyond sketches of people existing in a particular place. On The Banks, probably my favorite of the collection, is a simple overview of a fishing boat crewed by a group of men who all speak different languages. None of them are able to converse with each other verbally, and the only one that is able to speak enough of a different language to tell a story gets so excited by his own story that he can never spit it out. On the Banks is beautifully poetic and tragic in a way only Hamsun could provide. On the Prairie is another example of character sketches, that while having no plot other than the workers getting drunk at the end of a harvest season, gives so much insight to the characters and their lives through tiny observations that the reader comes away feeling as if they have read an entire novel about the coexistence of these men. It is truly astonishing.
There is an auto-biographical element to many of these stories that helps them to win the hearts of any Hamsun reader. Many of them discuss the various jobs Hamsun worked while at home and abroad in America, and his first hand experiences allowed him to paint such vibrant pictures of what it was like to be in those places at those times. Having just read James Wood’s article on Hamsun (graciously bestowed upon me by the great and wise Señor Puma) in which he discusses how Hamsun, while working for the railroads, would wrap his body in old bags underneath his clothes to help keep warm: ‘He was very poor and weathered the deep winter of Chicago by wearing newspaper under his clothes; his colleagues liked to touch him to make him crackle,’ it was exciting to read in A Woman’s Triumph that the narrators coworkers ‘prodded me to hear me crackle’. These little bits taken from his life are always sprinkled through his novels and add a certain joy upon discovery.
Hamsun’s short stories are more than just an added bonus to any Hamsun reader; this collection stands alone with the best of his novels and was far more entertaining and enjoyable that I had hoped for. It is interesting to watch the progression of his thoughts, to see him experiment with styles, narration, and ideas that would later go on to be part of his incredible novels. Certain motifs of his oeuvre, such as using the invention of the telegraph as a metaphor for human communication (something that is highly important to the plot of Growth of the Soil), are seen in their infant stages of development in these stories. Also, the reader learns little facts about the author’s life. For anyone with a love of Knut Hamsun, this is a wonderful addition to any Hamsun collection.
¹ Hamsun also briefly toyed with plays and poetry during his early career, abandoning both as well. Although his time spent sharpening his poetical verse is evident in the dramatic maturity of his prose in Victoria and the novels written afterwards, Hamsun never returned to plays and considered the genre rather inferior (a comment that is most likely fueled by his distaste for Henrik Ibsen, a distaste he gleefully made public on numerous occasions such as giving a lecture dismissing Ibsen’s work to a full audience that included the playwright in question who happened to be sitting front and center).
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Read information about the authorAwarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920 "for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil". He insisted that the intricacies of the human mind ought to be the main object of modern literature, to describe the "whisper of the blood, and the pleading of the bone marrow". Hamsun pursued his literary program, debuting in 1890 with the psychological novel Hunger.
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