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THE LAST JOY

« I’ve gone into the forest now. Oh, it’s not that I’m offended at anything, or been especially hurt by the evil ways of my fellow men; but when the forest doesn’t come to me then I must go to it. That’s how it is. This time I haven’t gone as a labourer or a wanderer. I’ve got lots of money, I’m overfed and drowsy with success, with luck, do you see? I left the world the same way a sultan leaves behind the rich food and the harem and the flowers and puts on his hair shirt. I might perhaps have made a little bit more out of it. Because as I walk and think here I’ll be readying irons for the fire. Nietzsche would probably have put it something like this: The last word I said to the people they agreed with me, the people nodded. But that was my last word, I went into the forest. Because I realized then I must have said something that was either dishonest or stupid … I didn’t say anything like this, I just went into the forest.»

1912
2017-04-2613:17 Viktor Håkonsen

The Last Joy (1912) is the final volume of the wanderer trilogy, and the last of Hamsun’s novels to be written in the first person singular.

The narrator is staying at Torahus, a guest-house in the mountains. Here he falls in love with a young schoolteacher, Ingeborg Torsen, but his love remains platonic. Ingeborg becomes an image of the new woman, the Torsen type, a professional woman wasting her life on trivialities. Salvation for Ingeborg Torsen comes in the form of her encounter with the stolid farmer, Nikolai, and life as a farmer’s wife and a mother.

The social criticism of A Wanderer Plays on Muted Strings is accentuated here, but The Last Joy lacks both the melancholy and lyricism of the two earlier wanderer books.

«To go away and sit alone in the forest with the good darkness all around me. That is the last joy.»

Front cover, first edition of Den siste glede (The Last Joy). Photo: The Hamsun Centre.