But I’d like to leave that aside, and concentrate on the actual book itself. Victoria – published in 1898 – is quite a short book. The translation I read comes across perfectly well, and I always wonder, when reading any translation, whether the translator has chosen the Constance Garnett route of unadorned translation, or chosen to “amend” the prose in the way they see fit.
The plot of the book is, on the surface, simple. Early on it’s established that the humble miller’s son is unworthy of the beautiful Victoria, daughter of the master of the local manor house. He, of course, is madly in love with her. And then, of course, he meets her fiance…
There are quite a few twists and turns, even in such a short space as 170 pages of fairly large print, and without wishing to spoil the ending for those that haven’t read it, there is plenty to think about. If you want a message from the book, maybe it’s that if people didn’t try and run other people’s lives, they might find out their own come out right by happenstance. Or maybe it’s that true love never (as the cliche has it) runs smooth. Or maybe that ambition, achieved vicariously, never prospers.
It’s a thought provoking book, and although it’s set in 19th century Denmark, it could be set anywhere. The characters are universal, and while we can’t necessarily imagine the same standards of behaviour applying these days through Facebook, they’re still comparable. After all, it’s always the things we don’t tell each other that are the most important.
And in case you’re wondering whether that’s true about Hamsun himself, then yes, maybe. There’s something very important I’m not mentioning about him. Feel free to click that link, but read the book first. Maybe another lesson is not to judge a book by its author?