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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

By the Open Sea (1890) by August Strindberg

August Strindberg doing his best David Lynch impression.

Book Review
By the Open Sea (1890)
by August Strindberg
Penguin Classics Edition

  I've got a bad case of Sweden on the brain!  Swedish rock bands (Hologram show review), Swedish films (Bergman entirely) and Swedish novels.  By the Open Sea was a tough get- had to actually order the Penguin Classics edition off of Amazon to read it.  I've been thinking a lot about Strindberg because of all the Ingmar Bergman films I've been watching.  Strindberg got his start as a play wright, and surely it is no coincidence that Bergman directed many of his works while he ran the Malmo Civic Theater prior to his film career taking off.

 By the Open Sea is Strindberg doing a character study of a "nervous intellectual" with Nietzschian overtones.  He is no Nietzchian super man to be sure, quite the opposite, so sensitive is he that a bad cup of coffee disables him for hours at a time. Axel Borg is appointed the government fisheries adviser in a remote part of Sweden.  Upon arrival he strikes up an instant dislike for the populace, leavened only by his rapid engagement to the comely Miss Maria.

 Of course, it all goes wrong, up and down, for old Axel, and by the end of the 185 page book he is reduced to not showering, not bathing, and being pelted with rocks by the small children of the village.  By the Open Sea is another early entrant in the proto-existentialist world that was spurred by Nietzsche's work in the 1880s.

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