The Last Joy
The Last Joy (1912) brings to a close Hamsun’s “Wanderer Trilogy,” preceded by Under the Autumn Star (1906) and A Wanderer Plays on Muted Strings (1909), the latter also available from Green Integer. With its richly varied contents, this work straddles the lyrical Hamsun of Pan (1894) and the epic creator of Growth of the Soil, the book after whose publication he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The middle-aged narrator of The Last Joy is a Hamsun double, who leaves the wild, where he has lived in a turf hut, for a tourist resort and, subsequently, the city, where he resumes contact with Miss Torsen, a beautiful young school-teacher he met at the resort. He follows her sexual escapades, including rape, with the intense, vicarious interest of a voyeur. Considering himself too old for love, he encourages Miss Torsen’s interest in Nikolai, a hulk of a man like Isak of Growth of the Soil, whom she marries, thereby escaping the supposedly sorry lot of a career woman. The novel combines a rapturous celebration of nature with excoriating satire of modernity, and ends with a call to return to the soil.