It is true that many works of art in literature or other related disciplines deal with artistic expression. Artists often bring out themes, imagined or real, that enable readers (in case of written texts) and viewers (of films) to learn about them and the consequence of being artists. They employ a wide range of literary styles in communicating with their audience. More often than not, they use real life situations that they undergo themselves. Artistic expression enables one to learn much about them and what they face in their capacity as artists, even as they are affected by different phenomena, like the rest of the society. In light of this, it may be interesting to explore to what extent Knut Hamsun has employed artistic expression in his novel Hunger. Also to be examined in the same breath is Par Lagerkvist’s The Dwarf.
In Hunger, the artist wanders the streets as he struggles on the edge of starving. He inexorably slides into despair and paranoia as it overtakes him. The gradual descent into insanity is inevitable as he loses grip on reality. In as much as the novel is a literary experiment, its biographical aspect draws deeply on the author’s own loneliness and suffering, telling of his struggles both as a child and much later as an artist. It shows the artist-hero’s struggle to survive as he tries to maintain his inspiration and the purity of his own artistic thoughts. In real life, starvation is largely a consequence of real physiological lack, which it represents in the context of Hunger. Important to note is that starvation’s motif in the novel goes beyond mere physiological or ‘naturalistic’ level of meaning. It is a metaphor that signifies a more fundamental and deep-rooted lack and emptiness that form an integral aspect of the physiological deeps explored by the writer.
Similarly, Par Lagerkvist employs artistic expression to explore individual as well as social identity. Revolving around the court dwarf Piccoline, a social outcast, it enlightens the reader regarding the prurience of the court and ensuing political intrigue. This it achieves through Piccoline’s comments that are made from a special vantage point. The peak of it is when he is drawn even deeper into the conflict, inspiring hatred and fear all around him. Truly, with violence, he becomes a fascination of the masses.
Hamsun and Lagerkvist, like many other artists have succeeded in employing artistic expression to effectively communicate. Indeed, a strong link does exist between the authors and their works that in a big way are based on their personal experiences.