This is one of those novels that’s been in my collective TBR list of my mind for more than a decade and if you want a young writer to feel like abjectness and poverty and being a wastrel are a priori to being successful, I have to imagine that this is going to be one of the earliest good examples to give them a copy of. It’s almost like a Letters to a Young Male Writer in that it’s a journalist trying to make it as a writer, selling piecemeal odds and ends, and hoping against hope to make enough from writing to survive day by day. As he moves forward in his pursuits he begins to fall further and further into destitution while also being willing to commit greater and greater sins to make it.
It’s hardly along in glamorizing this kind of life, and it’s a life that I still see plenty of glamorization of in all kinds of media. It’s seen as shameful in some cases, romantic in others, and ultimately to me it feels a combination of both. I feel like this is definitely a young man’s novel, and Hamsun was 3o or so when he wrote it, and speaks to that kind of heartsick ambition that’s not usually punctuated with sense or discretion. It reminds me a lot of a novel I read earlier this year, and I have to imagine that there’s some influence happening here. But this is pretty much the framework for Jack London’s Martin Eden, if you take the love interest out. Maybe that’s the European sensibility at play, as well as the effect of the much colder climate in Norway.