cover image THE LAST JOY


Knut Hamsun, , trans. from the Norwegian by Sverre Lyngstad. . Green Integer, $12.95 (279pp) ISBN 978-1-931243-19-3

The Norwegian Hamsun won the 1920 Nobel Prize for Literature on the strength of novels such as Hunger (1890), Pan (1894) and his Wanderer trilogy (1906–1912). His reputation plunged after he enthusiastically embraced the Nazi occupation of his native country, but today he is firmly established as a minor master, a modernist pioneer whose work influenced Gide, Musil and Kafka, among others. This is the last novel in his trilogy, a brooding, intense work that revolves around Hamsun's most common themes: alienation, the lure of simple rural living and the restrictive nature of Norwegian domestic life. At the outset, an unnamed middle-aged writer has shrugged off the city to live in a mountainside hut with a mouse as his only companion. When a brutish man named Solem wanders by, the two travel together to a mountain lodge, where Solem finds work as a laborer and guide. There, the writer begins an acquaintance with Ingeborg Torsen, a pretty schoolteacher heading toward an uncertain, possibly unmarried, future. Solem, more manipulative than he seems, murders one of Ingeborg's suitors in an apparent hiking accident and casts a shadow over the resort with his dark presence. Eventually, all three make their way back to the city, where Ingeborg finally marries, only to have Solem show up once again. Throughout, the narrator remains more voyeur than participant and reveals little about himself, which may frustrate readers accustomed to today's more confessional narrators. But others will appreciate the strains of naturalism and early modernism present here, filtered through a cold, remote—and distinctively Scandinavian—sensibility. Lyngstad, who has translated several Hamsun novels, ably renders a smooth narrative voice. (Jan.)

Forecast: This new translation is the first English edition of the novel to be published since the 1920s. Though the book will be primarily of interest to students of literature, it will likely be eagerly received by a few reviewers and will be a valuable addition to library collections.