Saturday, 2 November 2013
In 1906 Strindberg started work on a book that was to occupy him practically up to his death in 1912. It ran to more than 1000 pages and is a kind of diary where he broods over the existence of God, the meaning of life and where he also feels free to jot down some scathing portraits of friends and acquaintances. The book was called En blå bok, A Blue Book.
A few months after he had started on it he wrote to Carl Larsson, the painter: ‘This summer I have solved once and for all the question of religion, in 300 pages which will never be published. Now I feel anchored and I shall quote Luther who said that neither the pope in Rome nor the Devil in Hell is going to lure me onto some new philosophical currents.’
He dedicated the book to the 18th century Swedish philosopher and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, who had spent much of his life in England and who had died in London where his ashes were buried in the Swedish cemetery. As Strindberg was writing the first volume of En blå bok Swedenborg’s ashes were being brought to Sweden with great ceremony.
In A Blue Book Strindberg also set out to prove that all languages originated from one world language and God had given Man that original language. Some fanciful articles about linguistics make up a large part of the later volumes of En blå bok. But in the end the book spans the whole human experience, or Strindberg’s life experience at least. In 1906 he was living alone and recapturing the years of marriage and bachelorhood. Under the heading ‘The Most Secret’ he wrote:
‘Some years ago a young man came up to me, asking for advice in sexual matters. My answer was and remains: I know nothing about it. Experience has given me so many contradictory answers that I can’t have an opinion in the matter. But about love I know something and the cardinal points are: Don’t play with love. Don’t look at another man’s wife. Be faithful to your spouse.
In marriage it is very tricky. Sometimes it is supposed to be one way, sometimes another. Sometimes you have to pay a price for your virtue, other times for your transgressions.
I have lived as a married man and as a celibate. Afterwards I thought it was equally good, but while it was happening both states were just as difficult. The marriage tied me to the ground so that it felt as if I would never be free, the celibate state gave me freedom which I could use and which emanated in a suicidal mania – which I believe to be the reverse side of the creative force.
But to the ordinary man marriage is necessary. It offers interest in life, keeps your spirits up, creates warmth around you and keeps your egotism in check. It is a tough school which leaves beautiful memories behind, even if, at times, it was very ugly.
People should not analyse and judge each other when it comes to the hidden erotic aspect of life. One person was born with a greater need for reproduction than someone else. There is no scale. And nature is best at getting it right.’
Strindberg’s various entries or posts in this mammoth book are, on the whole, the size of a normal blog. As in so many other areas he was obviously before his time. He would have been a keen blogger.