Hamsun penned an interesting take on the tragic muse tale. However it’s not the story itself that really captures the reader, but how Hamsun digresses from it, through Johannes’ inner musings and the poems and stories that Johannes is writing throughout. It is these sections that transform the basic tale, making it indeed something truly special. There are so many layers of meaning that the reader can extrapolate from these sections...psychological vs. social commentaries on one’s sense of place and how this in turn affects the identity of oneself and others’ perceptions of that identity. How these sections are able to demonstrate Johannes’ inner turmoil are wonderfully achieved.
That said, unfortunately I don’t think Hamsun succeeded in writing a convincing love story, or at least, this translation doesn’t really portray a passion that is equally felt by the two doomed lovers. Throughout the story Johannes is haunted by his feelings...a curse he can’t be rid of, no matter what he does. Victoria is his inspiration and his muse, without her in his constant thoughts, he wouldn’t be able to write. In essence, Johannes lives and breathes her. Victoria’s feelings on the other hand, are not so readily apparent. Despite the span of years in which the story takes place, Victoria never seems to grow or change. She very much reminds me of a child who has too many toys...doesn’t know which one she wants to play with, only understanding that she wants them all to be close at hand, ready to be played with. Every move Victoria makes in regards to Johannes seem to be little tests of assurance. Is he still within her grasp? Whenever Victoria is near, Johannes becomes her little puppet. These sections of the text are embarrassing to read, since he essentially fails to recognize his situation. There’s a childlike selfishness attached to Victoria’s every move, and when the reader does come to the final proof of her affections towards Johannes, there can be multiple readings—both good and bad—of what’s said and left unsaid. Heathcliff and Cathy they are not—the love between Victoria and Johannes simply fails to transcend all boundaries.