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THE STTN, Sl'NDAY. .1 ANI'AHY l.Mt.
Hergesheimer on "The Great Hunger
THE tragic difficulty o notcls unan
nounced by adventitious circum
stanco or stereotyped names is to liiid
friends. They always exist, even in gen
erous numbers for really fine wriUng, but
Ibey are scattered, and there is nothing in
Uio exterior of a book to reassure the
thoughtful and of necessity sceptical
reader. Hundreds of "great" novels arc
published every season, novels surpassing
Conrad's or Hardy's, easily "better than
tbo Russians" at their own game; they are
purchased with the hope the vain hopo
that Uiey will at least fulfil a part of
the advertised promise. But even this
they fail to do, and a fresh assault is made
on the same terms.
If, for example, Mr. Galsworthy had
not departed from his invariable custom
and written a public commendation of
The Great Hunger (Moffat, Yard & Com
pany), I probably, should never have read
it. The quality of the review and of
his personal preoccupations, told me that
it was not the special form of creative
literature which most engages me; such
turned out to be fact, but there was so
much beauty, so much puns gold, in The
Great Hunger that to follow Mr. Gals
worthy's prauc was not only a pleasure
but an absolute duly.
I have spoken of tin: friends of a novel,
ami it will be immediately seen that, with
the novels, they must vary very widely.
The friends of one are not the friends of
all: the adherents of Tarzan would form
no warm attachment for Johan Bojers
book. It is common honesty here to admit
that in the accepted, yes, the vulgar,
sense it hasn't a happy ending. Natur
ally the popular human conception of a
happy end is the acquisition of fame and
fortune and what conventionally, is called
' love. Of course it. is not love, for there,
Um, a material symlHil is insisted on
either physical licauty, money or an amaz
ing chastity. Iove is different from this,
just as The Great Hunger is different
from volumes catching up and reechoing
the stupid, lying formulas of a gilded and
Nothing, except the splendid passionate
stle of The Great Hunger is easy: Peer
Holm, the illegitimate son of a captain
and ninn of fashion, fights all lus life for
the successive objects of his ends, and
Usually, at the point of success, they dis
solve into the slow dawning realization
that they were only cold mist. At the last
these veils, penetrated one by one in suf
fering, are put aside and Peer rises to
victory . . . but it is solely a vic
tory within himself the clamorers for
visible and impressive circumstance, like
the dull villagers among whom Peer Holm
finally became a blacksmith, will find un
relieved cause for dissatisfaction.
hike all novels true to the deeper quali
ties of Christ it will lc a cause of annoy
ance to a world of fat comfort, where re
ligion is conveniently held in an. automatic,
and calendared observance. Here, discard
ing every deadening reassurance, a man
is relentlessly drawn across the loud plaia
of life, through poverty, hunger nnd
loneliness and loss, through triumph and
riches if this were transposed to the end
all the requirements of wide popularity
would be assured sensual love, cham
pagne, gay music and thronged parties.
However, he moves on into the darkness
of utter material disaster and the most in
sidious suffering that men can endure.
Out of so much Peer emerges, a Peer
wasted and streaked with gray, wiio has
had to send his children to others for sup
port; Peer, who harassed the Nile, .ham
mering Uie steel sparks into an obscure
hut; with, at the last, only this for our re
wardthat he sows his bitter enemy's
field with barley. Only this, but it is my
foremost conviction, the foundation on
which eventually evervtlung else must
rest, that it is the most radiantly happy
When I mentioned that The Great Hun
ger was not precisely the type of novel to
which my preference was addressed I
meant and discovered that. Johan Bojer
had essentially a more optimistic mind
than my own; there was 'in him the seri
ousness of a writer convinced that men
were perfectable. This splendid feeling
carries with it an irresistible responsibil
itya duty outside the severe boundaries
of my, it may well be less important, en
gagement. In this his novel fulfils every
conceivable obligation; it is an authentic
document of heroic spirituality. Yet if it
had been that alone I should never have
undertaken to speak of it formally, now,"
acceptably, could If The Great Hunger
has another side, a quality of a different
beauty, and about which, with encourage
ment, I could write interminably.
Just exactly what that beauty is I an
unprepared, together with every one else
who has given a life to its mystery, to say.
Yet it has such a tangible reality, so.
many men may discern it in common, that
it is permissible to discuss it with only the
faultiest understanding. But here, again,
I am under an apparent disadvantage I
have no actual knowledge of Uie meaning
of practically all the words used in criti
cal efforts of this kind.
The reason for this may well lie that I
am not a critical writer, and that such an
effort on my part can be no more than
presumptuous. That has some truth, but
not an overwhelming amount; on many
sides the creative writer arid the mere
.reader are closer to the core of a novel
tlian the professional or temperamental
critic. This is a statement that I can af
firm with a certain painful security. The
stirring beauty of The Great Hunger, I
am convinced, can be best expressed in
terms of warm enthusiasm rather than
from remote position of fixed detach
ment. It would perhaps lie correct to say
that it is clearest explained in phrases of
its own kind.
Beauty, then, exists in it to a Uirilling
degree, the beauty that pinclies the heart
and interferes with breathing. It has the
inexplicable loveliness that rare individ
uals possess, and which by no means can
Se accounted for in set conventional at
tributes. In the first place, it is the book
if a singularly pure mind; not the opaque
jurity of a glazed white porcelain sur
face, but that of an undefined revealing
spaciousness; it is tho book of a mind
above-any bribe or mitigating lie or
quilted compromise. Consequently it i3
not. a novel for Uie bribed, tie liars or the
easily dogmatic. Its beauty, -for recogni
tion, dcmaruls something in. tho 'way of
' corresponding virtue.
My pleasure in it was incidental and
unmoral, a delight in the simple vivified life
of the passages: Peer, a country boy with
his little chest on his shoulder, comes to
town and finds a boarding place for coun
try folk; he is defrauded, for the moment,
of lus patrimony by a detestable individ-.
ual, and sturdily sets to -work, to work
and grind and blunder through technical
pages while youth is wandering through
the summer evening streets:
"And in the evening he would stick his
head out of his two paned window that
looked on to the street and "would sec
the lads and girls coming baelr, flushed
and noisy, with flowers and green boughs
in their hats, crazy with sunshine and
Impressed by a growing sen so of re
sponsibility, no more than a boy in a
u retched shell of a room, he sends for his
half sister, lonely like himself, and to
gether, after some scant bread and butter
and doubtful coffee, they drift happily
from waking dreams to sleep :
"Well, good night. Louise.''
"Good night, Peer.''
Why this, in particular, should be beau
tiful I am unprepared to say; yet that
pinching of the heart, the catch in breath
ing, were sudden and tyrannical. Such
notes are only fragmentary, but then any
thing beside the novel itself will be. There
are many such 'irradiated episodes; yet 1
must admit that I found those at the he
ginning and the end the most irresistible.
There is, curiously enough, something in
the spectacle of material success fatal to
the emotion I am attempting to indicate.
The more serious aspects, those, at least,
so generally regarded as more serious, o
The Great Hunger, I must leave for dis
cussion to abler abilities than mine. Mr.
Galsworthy has already done it very per
fectly. But no one could miss the utter
charm of Bojer's girls and women. In
spite of limitless protestations to the con
trary charming women are few in fiction;
perhaps, though, no scarcer there than in
life. Anyhow, their tenderness, their
lovely shyness and poignant surrenders,
the little vanities and wistful smiles and
muslins, pervade Johan Bojer's pages.
Louise and Merle, the saeter girl that
after she has finished Uie milking Peer
kissed, vibrate with reality and appealing
warmth. They are drawn with the magic
which is to me the supreme literary
gift; they and the momenta in which they
"It was near midnight when he stood
by the shore of a broad mountain lake,
beneath a snow flecked hillside. . . .
And, see over the lake, that still mir
rored the evening red. a boat appeared
moving toward the island, and two white
sleeved girls sat at the oars, singing as
they rowed. A strange feeling came over
him. Here here he would stay."
"Peer . . . watehed her as- she
stood in her long white gown before the
toilet table with the little green shaded
lamps, doing her hair for the night in a
long plait. Neither of them spoke. He
could see her face in the glass, and saw
that her eyes were watching him, with a
soft, mysterious glance the scent of her
hair seemed to fill Uie place with youth."
And this, at the end:
"There by Uie fence stood Merle, look
ing at inc. She had drawn a kerchief for--ward
over her brow, after the fashion of
Uie peasant women, so that her face was ia
shadow; but she smiled to me as if she,
too; Uie stricken mother, had risen up
from the ocean of her suffering that here,
in the daybreak, she might take her share
in Uie creating of God."
That, as I began by saying, will be
widely regarded as an unhappy ending;
but if Peer, and Merle had been left stand
ing on the terraee of their eountry house,
looking down over their gardens and or
chards and stables, if Uiey had been left
rich and arrogant and inert, "all would
have been well. As it is the whisper of
the only possible salvation, Uie utmost op
timismthe public will shift uneasily,
mutter or even -impatiently protest, and
turn with a sigh of forgetfulness and re
lief to Uie stupid formulas of a lying
triumph. Joseph HERfiEsnEiMER.
From "Chamber Music"
By James Joyce.
My love is in a light attire
Among the apple trees,
Where the gay winds do most desiic
To run in companies.
There, where the gay winds stay to woo
The young leaves as they pass,
My love goes slowly, bending to
Her shadow on the grass;
And where Uie sky's a pale blue cup
Over the laughing land,
My love goes lightly, holding up ,
Her dress with dainty hand.
Chamber Music. By James Joyce, -B..1V
The Human Touch
By William Rose Benet.
A saw a camel and a chimpanzee
And a tusked walrus sitting down to tea.
And suddenly I heard a noist and then
I knew, because they laughed, that thy were men.
JIuebseh. it :
By Sara Teasdale.
Alone, in the night,
On a great Kill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,
And a heaven fnll of stars
Over my head,
And misty red; y
Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
Cannot vex or tire..
Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill,
I watch them marching
Stately and still,
And I know that I
Am honored to be
Of so much majesty.
By Oliver Herford.
The tank's a kind of cross between
An agricultural machine
And something fierce and pliocene;
Over embankments, treesand walls,
Trenches, barbed wire and forts it crawls;
Nothing can stay its course the tank
Has not Uie least respect for rank
Or file; with equal joy it squashes
' All things alike men, beasts and Bodies.
From the Laughing Willow. George H. Doran Company.
"Did You Never Know"?
By Sara Teasdale.
Did you never know, long ago, how much you loved mc
That your love would never lessen and never go?
You were young then, proud-and fresh hearted.
You were too young to know.
Fate is a wind, and red leaves fly before it,
Par apart, far away in the gusty time of year
Seldom we meet now, but when I hear you speaking
I know your secret, my dear, my dear. j