Samlade skrifter: Volym 28


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Dec 31, 1919
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The quarantine doctor was a man of five-and-sixty, well-preserved, short, slim and elastic, with a military bearing which recalled the fact that he had served in the Army Medical Corps. From birth he belonged to the eccentrics who feel uncomfortable in life and are never at home in it. Born in a mining district, of well-to-do but stern parents, he had no pleasant recollections of his childhood. His father and mother never spoke kindly, even when there was occasion to do so, but always harshly, with or without cause. His mother was one of those strange characters who get angry about nothing. Her anger arose without visible cause, so that her son sometimes thought she was not right in her head, and sometimes that she was deaf and could not hear properly, for occasionally her response to an act of kindness was a box on the ears. Therefore the boy became mistrustful towards people in general, for the only natural bond which should have united him to humanity with tenderness, was broken, and everything in life assumed a hostile appearance. Accordingly, though he did not show it, he was always in a posture of defence.
At school he had friends, but since he did not know how sincerely he wished them well, he became submissive, and made all kinds of concessions in order to preserve his faith in real friendship. By so doing he let his friends encroach so much that they oppressed him and began to tyrannise over him. When matters came to this point, he went his own way without giving any explanations. But he soon found a new friend with whom the same story was repeated from beginning to end. The result was that later in life he only sought for acquaintances, and grew accustomed to rely only upon himself. When he was confirmed, and felt mature and responsible through being declared ecclesiastically of age, an event happened which proved a turning-point in his life. He came home too late for a meal and his mother received him with a shower of blows from a stick. Without thinking, the young man raised his hand, and gave her a box on the ear. For a moment mother and son confronted each other, he expecting the roof to fall in or that he would be struck dead in some miraculous way. But nothing happened. His mother went out as though nothing had occurred, and behaved afterwards as though nothing unusual had taken place between them.
An American critic says "Strindberg is the greatest subjectivist of all time." Certainly neither Augustine, Rousseau, nor Tolstoy have laid bare their souls to the finest fibre with more ruthless sincerity than the great Swedish realist. He fulfilled to the letter the saying of Robertson of Brighton, "Woman and God are two rocks on which a man must either anchor or be wrecked." His four autobiographical works, The Son of a Servant, The Confessions of a Fool, Inferno, and Legends, are four segments of an immense curve tracing his progress from the childish pietism of his early years, through a period of atheism and rebellion, to the sombre faith in a "God that punishes" of the sexagenarian. In his spiritual wanderings he grazed the edge of madness, and madmen often see deeper into things than ordinary folk. At the close of the Inferno he thus sums up the lesson of his life's pilgrimage: "Such then is my life: a sign, an example to serve for the improvement of others; a proverb, to show the nothingness of fame and popularity; a proverb, to show young men how they ought not to live; a proverbÑbecause I who thought myself a prophet am now revealed as a braggart."
It is strange that though the names of Ibsen and Nietzsche have long been familiar in England, Strindberg, whom Ibsen is reported to have called "One greater than I," as he pointed to his portrait, and with whom Nietzsche corresponded, is only just beginning to attract attention, though for a long time past most of his works have been accessible in German. Even now not much more is known about him than that he was a pessimist, a misogynist, and writer of Zolaesque novels. To quote a Persian proverb, "They see the mountain, but not the mine within it." No man admired a good wife and mother more than he did, but he certainly hated the Corybantic, "emancipated" women of the present time. No man had a keener appreciation of the gentle joys of domesticity, and the intensity of his misogyny was in strict proportion to the keenness of his disappointment. The Inferno relates how grateful and even reverential he was to the nurse who tended him in hospital, and to his mother-in-law. He felt profoundly the charm of innocent childhood, and paternal instincts were strong in him. All his life long he had to struggle with four terrible inner foesÑdoubt, suspicion, fear, sensuality. His doubts destroyed his early faith, his ceaseless suspicions made it impossible for him to be happy in friendship or love, his fear of the "invisible powers," as he calls them, robbed him of all peace of mind, and his sensuality dragged him repeatedly into the mire.
August Strindberg is one of the founders of the modern theater. George Bernard Shaw considered him "the only genuinely Shakespearian modern dramatist," Sean O'Casey called him "the greatest of them all." And to Eugene O'Neill he was "the greatest interpreter in the theater of the characteristic spiritual conflicts of our lives today." Twelve Major Plays includes the most famous and most characteristic Strindberg plays.

This selection is particularly interesting in its depiction of the great range of Strindberg's moods and styles, from naturalism to expressionism, from ironic comedy to bitter tragedy. It displays his great gift for symbolic, mystical verse as well as his command of dramatic prose. In issues of sex and gender, Strindberg anticipated the modern temperament in society and drama alike.

These translations gave American readers their first opportunity to know the true genius of Strindberg. Most previous versions in English had been based on existing German translations. Elizabeth Sprigge's unique achievement was to render the original Swedish texts into English that is at once fluent and accurate and that captures the full vigor and impact of the original plays.

August Strindberg (1849-1912) was a Swedish writer and playwright and is credited and being one of the founders of modern theatre. His writings combined elements of psychology and naturalism. Some of his minor writings, not included in this book, include The Outlaw, Master Olaf, Pariah, The Comrades, and Among French Peasants.

Elizabeth Sprigge was educated in London and Ontario and was the author of a number of novels, biographies and children's books. She was co-founder of the famous avant-garde Watergate Theatre in London and lectured on literature and theatre in many parts of the world.

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