At the first read, this is another tragic love story, set in the predictable surroundings. A poor miller's son with his childhood infatuation on the rich girl from the Manor. Love, separation, play act of flirtation and indifference, tragedy in life and the eventual death of one of them, writing a farewell letter. It all seem too familiar love story with a tragic end.
However, this short novel is considered a master piece and one of the best love stories told. Knut Hamsun , arguably the best writer from Norway ( after Ibsen), has written a rather simple love story ( in 1898 ) immediately after his marriage. He has named his daughter , born in 1902 , Victoria.
Johannes, son of a mill owner, and Victoria , daughter of the rich land owner lead a life of unfulfilled love. Hewas destined to love Victoria from a distance. The class system does not allow them to be together. Johannes leave his village to study in the town, but the love for his beloved follows him. Smitten, he starts writing poetry and novels. Soon become a famous writer with international repute. Victoria, on her part continue to torment him with hot and cold response. She even manages to invite him to the castle to a party, despite his class difference and honour him with praise in public. The manor and its people are now with dwindling fortune and to protect themselves from ruins her father decides on her engagement with the son of a rich lord. But the luck was against them , the young man die hit by a bullet during a hunting expedition. The tragedy completes with her father immolate himself and Victoria succumbs to cancer at a young age.
While it is another tragic love story what makes the book different from the usual love stories is in the expertise of Knut Hamsun in handling his characters and the portrayal , its lyrical prose and its unassuming simplicity. There is a subtle melancholy through out. None, Vicotia , Johannes and others are happy. They are continuously hurting themselves and each other.
Knut Hamsun ( Translated by Oliver Sallybras)
Further read : Damien Kelleher