The Wanderer Returns

The Wanderer
By Knut Hamsun
164 pp. Condor Books. $18.

Even the wanderer will, at some point, find the pull of domestic life impossible to resist. Even the wanderer will, when given the possibility for companionship, return.

This is what I took away from Hamsun’s “Wanderer” — the futility of trying to live a truly nomadic life. Sooner or later, someone will find you and you’ll no longer wish to escape life.

The shelves of today’s bookstores teem with novels attempting to advance a political or social agenda, to signal the virtues of the author. How nice then to read a novel that seeks simply to tell a story!

Our protagonist Knut Pedersen finds himself in thrall to the wife of a captain whose estate Pedersen finds work on. But this isn’t a tale of forbidden love. We quickly become aware that Pedersen’s infatuation will only ever be that, as being a “wanderer” and workman places him in a lower class than the object of his affection.

The reader can’t help but feel their own share of Pedersen’s powerlessness at this fact, and it makes for some frustrating reading as we’re made, like Pedersen, to mostly observe the events that play out.

But such is the life of the wanderer. To drift but never truly inhabit any one particular place. To never form any lasting relationships. To practice learning the movements of life in one town only to then be driven off to another.

And so, like the long, winding road, it goes.


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