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The Great Hunger   By: (1872-1959)

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The Great Hunger by Johan Bojer is a powerful and emotionally charged novel that explores the depths of human suffering and resilience in the face of immense adversity. Set against the backdrop of a small Norwegian fishing village in the late 19th century, the story follows the intertwined lives of several families as they grapple with the harsh realities of poverty, hunger, and social injustice.

Bojer's writing is hauntingly beautiful, filled with vivid descriptions that bring both the natural landscape and the characters to life. His portrayal of the endless struggle for survival in the face of an unforgiving environment paints a stark and unflinching picture of the human condition. The characters are richly developed and multifaceted, allowing readers to connect with their hopes, dreams, and fears.

At the heart of the novel is the theme of hunger, both literal and metaphorical. Bojer masterfully explores the physical hunger that plagues the villagers, chronicling their desperate attempts to find enough food to sustain themselves and their families. But it is the metaphorical hunger for justice, opportunity, and a better life that truly drives the story.

Through his characters, Bojer invites readers to reflect on the systemic injustices that perpetuate poverty and exacerbate the divide between the haves and the have-nots. The wealthy and privileged are not spared Bojer's critique, as their indifference and arrogance are exposed in stark contrast to the suffering of the less fortunate.

One of the most striking aspects of The Great Hunger is its honest portrayal of the human spirit. Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges they face, the characters exhibit an astonishing resilience and determination to survive. The bonds of family and community are highlighted as a source of strength, providing moments of hope and solidarity amid the darkness.

While the novel's pacing may feel slow at times, this deliberate approach allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in the atmosphere of despair and desperation. The narrative unfolds with a quiet intensity that steadily builds towards a climax that is both heart-wrenching and cathartic.

In conclusion, The Great Hunger is a poignant and deeply affecting novel that explores themes of poverty, injustice, and human resilience. Bojer's masterful storytelling and vivid characters make this a book that will stay with readers long after they turn the final page. It serves as a stark reminder of the power of hope and the enduring strength of the human spirit in even the most challenging of circumstances.

First Page:


By Johan Bojer

Translated from the Norwegian by

W. J. Alexander Worster and C. Archer


Book I

Chapter I

For sheer havoc, there is no gale like a good northwester, when it roars in, through the long winter evenings, driving the spindrift before it between the rocky walls of the fjord. It churns the water to a froth of rushing wave crests, while the boats along the beach are flung in somersaults up to the doors of the grey fisher huts, and solid old barn gangways are lifted and sent flying like unwieldy birds over the fields. "Mercy on us!" cry the maids, for it is milking time, and they have to fight their way on hands and knees across the yard to the cowshed, dragging a lantern that WILL go out and a milk pail that WON'T be held. And "Lord preserve us!" mutter the old wives seated round the stove within doors and their thoughts are far away in the north with the Lofoten fishermen, out at sea, maybe, this very night.

But on a calm spring day, the fjord just steals in smooth and shining by ness and bay. And at low water there is a whole wonderland of strange little islands, sand banks, and weed fringed rocks left high and dry, with clear pools between, where bare legged urchins splash about, and tiny flat fish as big as a halfpenny dart away to every side... Continue reading book >>

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