Jul 16, 2015

August Strindberg: Nude Statues and Dream Visions

Growing up in Rock Island, where most people were of Scandinavian ancestry, I heard constantly about Vikings, runestonesPeer Gynt, Knut Hamsun, Hans Christian Anderson, lukefisk, The Elder Edda, and especially August Strindberg (1849-1912), the Swedish playwright who explored subconscious drives and secret desires.

You'd expect a lot of same-sex interest among those secret desires, but mostly there are heterosexual longings and battles of the sexes.
The Father (1887): a father-daughter relationship goes wrong.
The Dance of Death (1900): a heterosexual marriage gone wrong.
The Ghost Sonata (1907): A young student discovers that the girl he likes is not what she seems.

His most famous play, Miss Julie (1888), is a standard rich-poor romance with a psychosexual twist, as the wealthy Julie and the footman Jean vie for power.  It has been filmed a number of times, and there are various stage productions, including a black/white version, Mies Julie, and a gay version set in 1905 South Carolina, Miss Julie(n).

A Dream Play (1901) strays from the formula. It's about the surrealistic journey of Agnes, daughter of the Hindu god Indra, who comes to Earth to see what men are like.  She runs into lots of them, of various sizes and shapes, with various ambitions, desires, traumas, and cruelties. Most fall in love with her, but some might be gay.

By the way, Strindberg is the only writer I know of who is immortalized in two different nude statues, both in Stockholm.  The massive, muscular "Titan" by Carl Eldh in Tengerlunden Park.

And this more realistic version, in a group with two other equally nude writers, Gustaf Frödingshöjd and Ernst Josephson, in Stadhusparken (City Hall Park).

There are also about a dozen non-nude statues of Strindberg scattered around town.

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