brilliant and still fresh, February 11, 2004
Reviewer: mark twain "vandal101" (San Marcos, TX United States)
This is a sketchy book to recommend. I've recommended it to friends who say it is among their favorites, others who say they don't get it, didn't like it. Arguably there is no plot to the story, yet something beckons you to keep turning the pages. For me it's the kind of book that I can open to any page and I'm into it. Hamsun has a tricky wit, his characters are quirky and unpredictable, and I guess that's the appeal -- you keep reading just to find out what the characters are capable of.
What I think is amazing about this book is that it had no forerunner (or so they say). Hamsun just decided he was going to sit down and change the course of fiction, and he did it. Basically, he was tired of the predictable course of Victorian literature, the predictable style, predictable endings, and wanted to shake it up, and in the process efforts like Mysteries became the forerunner of the Modern age in literature. The string of modern novelists that count Hamsun as one of their prime influences is too long to list here, and Mysteries (along with Hunger) are the classic favorites.
I don't know if this is my favorite novel of all time (it's close) but Johann Nilsson Nagel is my favorite character. I doubt you'll find a more tragically passionate character. And if you are a self-taught writer this is a tremendous book to learn from.