Friday, January 22, 2010

August Strindberg

Today is the birthday of August Strindberg, born January 22, 1849. Strindberg is best known as one of the greatest and most influential Swedish authors. His work was pivotal in the development of modern theatre, and he is regarded as a pioneer of at least two major literary styles, Naturalism and Expressionism. Throughout his life Strindberg held fierce political opinions, his politics changing considerably as he aged. He varied from socialism to anarchy to a radical Christianity, but he was never an ideological writer. Rather, his work savages a long list of enemies - the military, the church, the monarchy, politicians in generals, and bureaucrats. For the most part, Strindberg wrote in order to point a finger at the myriad unjust systems that did harm to ordinary people. He wrote more than 30 plays, 5 novels, and dozens of short stories. His best known work includes the early novel The Red Room, the wonderful novel Natives of Hemsö and the plays Miss Julie, The Dance of Death and The Dream Play, all of which are available in English translations.

Strindberg's creativity was not limited to writing. He was also a fascinating painter and photographer. Strindberg's expressionistic paintings were unique for their time, and are now seen by some as among the most original works of nineteenth century art. He was fascinated by photography, and was taken with the idea of photographing the human soul, writing at length of "psychological portraits" to be taken with a lens-less camera.

During Christmas 1911, Strindberg became sick with pneumonia, and he never recovered. He died in May 1912 at the age of 63.

"I have no wish at all to be a 'great' writer, let alone a 'great' man. It would just embarrass me and betray a false position. I want to go in nightgown and underwear and be known as a scandal-writer, that wouldn't embarrass me."

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