Strindberg : Biography

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Called "that greatest genius of all modern dramatists" by Eugene O'Neill, Strindberg was one of the founders of the modern theater--a prolific author whose works prefigured those of Pinter, Beckett, and Ionesco. Yet, despite their admiration by such contemporaries as Ibsen, Chekhov, and George Bernard Shaw, Strindberg's works were misunderstood and rejected by his fellow Swedes, who throughout his life considered him a crank and a failure. In this definitive biography, Michael Meyer, the foremost translator of Strindberg's plays into English, presents a full and honest portrait of Strindberg as man and artist. Concentrating on his contribution to the theater, Meyer has sifted through Strindberg's voluminous autobiographical writings as well as published and unpublished letters to discover the source of his art and its meaning to both Strindberg and the theater. He also gives a sense of Strindberg's troubled life--his three tempestuous marriages, his exile, his often disputatious relations with other artists-- and sheds new light on the playwright's supposed misogyny, his bouts with madness, and his more

Product details

  • Paperback | 672 pages
  • 129.54 x 190.5 x 35.56mm | 680.39g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • bibliography, index
  • 019281995X
  • 9780192819956

About Michael Meyer

About the Author Michael Meyer, the author of Ibsen: A Biography, was awarded the Gold Medal of the Swedish Academy for his English translations of Ibsen's and Strindberg's more

Review Text

The impact on a reader coming afresh to his encounter with the fearsomely obsessive Swedish playwright-novelist can be soul-searing and profound. And even for the reader renewing his knowledge of Strindberg's great paranoid swings from exaltation to suicidal distraction, from battering misogyny to infernal occultism, Meyer's restraint herein, his avoidance of hyperbole and baroque inflation, allow a stinging, bare-fleshed intimacy with tormented genius that feels ever fresh. Where Olof Lagercrantz's recent August Strindberg (1984), translated from the Swedish, had a readable, densely researched style, Meyer's work somehow brings off a harder, more compact figure of Strindberg page for page. Also, Meyer focuses far more strongly on Strindberg's plays and theatrical history than Lagercrantz. Who was Strindberg (1849-1912)? A giant of tragic drama, who dug with a surgeon's bloody fingers into his own madness for artistic subject matter. Seeking the bare truth about himself, he put his sexual autobiography on stage with characters so wound up they shivered the boards. He wrote about sex, says Meyer, "with a realism which none of his predecessors in the theatre, not even Ibsen, had matched. He knew, and said, that people can fuck each other and bate each other; he even suggested that that is what marriage often means." He was a pioneer in symbolic and expressionistic drama, "another border country, that in which reality and fantasy merge"; he was, in bis own words, trying "to imitate the inconsequent yet transparently logical shape of a dream." He also invented a jagged, terse dialogue like nerve-fragments, which takes both actors and audience into an earthbound hallucination full of strangling wives and killer mothers. He says of his monstrous Captain in The Dance of Death, "The Captain! What a part!. . . A refined demon! Evil shines out of his eyes. . . His face is bloated with liguor and corruption, and he so relishes saying evil things that he almost sucks them, tastes them, rolls them around his tongue before spitting them out. He thinks of course that he is cunning and superior. . ." Strindberg was also, off and on, crazy. Thrice married wretchedly, leaving each wife. Held his schnapps poorly. A Swedenborgian spiritist. A man with sapphire-blue eyes, a shy smile, wildly hated and slandered, much loved; 10,000 came to his funeral - at eight o'clock in the morning. Strindberg found it ever harder to separate his real life from his artistic fantasies, but Meyer neatly parts the rebel from his romance. A spellbinder. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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