The Defence of a Madman

The Defence of a Madman

3.68 (787 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Translated by  , Translated by 
3.68 (787 ratings by Goodreads)

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This autobiographical novel is based on Strindberg's life in the 1870s and 1880s, and focuses on his marriage to Siri von Essen. It purports to be a vehicle for explaining to himself his role in the relationship from its ecstatic beginnings to its catastrophic conclusion. Strindberg was writing at the time of the modern women's movement and the intense Nordic debate on sexual morality, and the novel echoes on an anguished personal level the theme of the battle of the sexes. It is one of his many and varied attempts to write his own life, to use himself as raw material. The novel was written in French and published as Le Plaidoyer d'un Fou in 1895. However, the French editor had made radical alterations to Strindberg's text - how radical was not discovered until 1973, when the original manuscript came to light. Previous translations into English have been made from the published French version or the Swedish translation of it; this is the first translation of Strindberg's original text.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 326 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 17mm | 321g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1909408158
  • 9781909408159
  • 1,144,057

Review quote

The question has always been whether Strindberg crossed the line into insanity during the six months it took him to write the book. He said himself he had no idea. While writing it, he visited Knud Pontoppidan, a famous mind doctor, to be certified sane (Pontoppidan refused to pronounce unless Strindberg gave him more time, a commodity Strindberg couldn't spare). Strindberg described the six months of writing as if fiction and reality were indistinguishable, as if he were walking in his sleep with the feeling that if he discovered what was art, and what life, he would go insane or commit suicide through a sick conscience. Siri's response to Plaidoyer was: "It's all true and not true ... there is scarcely an incident in it that does not have some foundation in fact - only everything is so horribly twisted and distorted". The Defence of a Madman is now translated from the Oslo manuscript by Carol Sanders and Janet Garton. Their afterword is a model of its kind, demonstrating the detailed care they have taken over the dilemmas faced by translators that hardly need rehearsing, so extensively and recently have they been discussed in this paper in connection with Proust. Faithful to Strindberg's syntax wherever possible and preserving the vitality and occasional mayhem of the original, they have restored his idiosyncratic choice of words and his multilingual playfulness. Here we recognize the Strindberg who liked no place better than the brink of chaos, who deliberately untuned his guitar strings to see what music would result, and who was hailed by Gide, Sartre and Camus as prefiguring Freud and Existentialism. Sue Prideaux, Times Literary Supplement, 2015.
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Rating details

787 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 22% (177)
4 39% (305)
3 25% (200)
2 11% (85)
1 3% (20)
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