What Not To Read While Backpacking In Norway

Jacob goes on holiday, I lend him Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides’ light-hearted but well-written romp about a Greek-American hermaphrodite. I go on holiday, Jacob lends me Hunger, Knut Hamsun’s harrowing odyssey of physical starvation, moral degradation and mental disintegration.

Add to these contrasts the fact that Hunger is about slowly starving to death in Norway, and the fact that my holiday involved backpacking in Norway on a budget which, given that a Burger King meal cost 69 NOK (£5.94!/S$17.94!!), was necessarily shoestring, and I’m beginning to think Jacob doesn’t like me much.

But I forgive him. This would have been an impressive book even if written in 1990; when you realize it was written a century before that, before the works of Camus, Kafka and Hesse, the mind does rather boggle. And although I am, of course, dependent on reading all of them in translation, I must also mention that I found Hunger far more engaging than anything I have read by those authors. Don’t be put off by the clichéd idea of the starving artist that forms the basis of the plot – actually reading the book will remind you that things only become clichés when permitted to replace more original expression.

However, for your own wellbeing, I’d recommend only reading this after a full meal, or at least with snacks readily within your reach. Marshmallows. Marshmallows are good.

Norway: The Sun Shines In Bergen

According to the Lonely Planet, it rains in Bergen at least 275 days a year, and according to the guide on a walking tour I took today, even in summer most days get at least one shower. I guess jamminess has followed me from London, because in my one day in Bergen, I’ve had lovely blue skies and no rain.

The solo traveller thing is going totally fine, although I’m getting a little worried that I’m almost too self-contained for my own good. Sure, I have little chats here and there, and readily initiate conversation with people if the situation is conducive, but most of the time I’m quite absorbed in myself – writing my travel journal, reading the history/culture bits of my guidebook which I haven’t read yet, just sittin’ and thinkin’ – and I’ve found so far that I’m actually very happy that way.

I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, because I’m very much like that in Singapore or London as well. But I thought it might somehow be different in a situation where I’m totally alone. Still, it’s very early days yet. I’m sure loneliness will attack at some point, but for now I’m glad to say I’m doing great with just Michelle for company.