Knut Hamsuns breakthrough novel Hunger (1890) is often read, and from the 1980s on unequivocally canonized, as a protomodernist text. The starting point of this article is a discussion of how the category «modernism» has been used, and what purposes it has served, in the post-War reception of Hamsun and Hunger. Secondly, the article focuses on the novels pre-War reception, pointing out how most earlier studies of Hunger considered it a positive story of survival, and of the protagonists victory over hunger, barren city-life and individuation. Finally, the article argues that there may indeed be something to learn from these vitalist perspectives on Hunger, suggesting a more literal approach – focussing less on hungers existential effects on the protagonist and more on its physiological ones.
This article reads Coetzees Foe (1986) as a reflection on the novels generic debt to shipwreck narratives and thus to a certain mythology of Empire. It argues that Coetzee challenges these ideological affinities through a radical shift in narrative poetics leading to the breakdown of novelistic discourse in the last section of the book. Drawing on Slavoj ieks association of the wreck and the «sublime symptom», these final scenarios are seen as the impossible irruption of the subaltern Fridays speechless voice into the novels symbolic totality, in a way which echoes Coetzees reflections on the unspeakable truth of apartheid.