Posted on: February 16, 2009
Alexis Wingate — The Mystery of Mysteries
To dissect Knut Hamsun’s Mysteries as one would an ordinary novel is impossible. This is a book in which nothing is quite as it seems to be, and the more closely the reader examines it or tries to make sense of it, the more inexplicable it becomes. At the core of the story is Johan Nagel, easily one of the most enigmatic characters in literary history. His arrival in a small Norwegian town in 1891, with no visible aim or purpose, is the first piece in a puzzle that doesn’t ever quite fit together. Moreover, we are left wondering, at the end, if it was actually meant to.
Hamsun’s initial description of Nagel paints a portrait of a rather ordinary individual:
“He was below average in height; his face was dark-complexioned, with deep brown eyes which had a strange expression, and a soft, rather feminine mouth.