Page:Hunger (Hamsun).djvu/14

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Prefatory Note

juggler tossing up the old-world values as if they were jingling balls of no particular worth; who could pause suddenly, casting aside his motley, to scourge his listeners with a sermon on the "superstitions" of the day, with a truly sardonic humour. No one, no thing escaped him; he pilloried Gladstone as gaily as Carl Marx; "Novelist Maupassant" as "Missionary Tolstoy." Sometimes one had to shut the book, with flaming cheeks, as one was met by an episode so coarse, a jest so unseemly, a blasphemy so surprising as only a wanton irresponsible peasant lad could tell it; but one opened it again to discover an exquisite lyrical word-painting of some mood in nature, or emotion in man, that made one's heart warm and one's eyes wet.

Hamsun has proved himself a master at probing into the unexplored crannies in the human soul, the mysterious territory of uncontrollable, half-conscious impulses. He has no consideration for the weak places in humanity; he is merciless in his exposure of dark places of all that borders on the abnormal, the insane. It takes strong will and sound intellect, and an iron tenacity of purpose to psychologise in Hamsun's manner. Then he is not afraid,