Reading: ‘Doctor Glas’ by Hjalmar Söderberg. Below, an extract from the introduction by Margaret Atwood:
July 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
The introduction opens with the following quotation from the novel:
“Now I sit at my open window, writing–for whom? Not for any friend or mistress. Scarcely for myself, even. I do not read today what I wrote yesterday; nor shall I read this tomorrow. I write simply so my hand can move, my thoughts move of their own accord. I write to kill a sleepless hour. Why can’t I sleep? After all, I’ve committed no crime.”
From Atwood’s text, that follows, on the subject of the novel’s protagonist, Doctor Glas:
“We follow him through his memories, his desires, his opinions of the mores of his social world, his lyrical praises or splenetic denunciations of the weather, his prevarications, his self-denunciations, his boredom, and his yearning. Glas is a romantic idealist turned solitary and sad, and afflicted with fin-de-siècle malaise–a compound of fastidious aestheticism, longing for the unobtainable, skepticism concerning the established systems of morality, and disgust with the actual. He would like only beautiful things to exist, but has the sordid forced on him by the nature of his profession. As he himself says, he’s the last person on earth who should have been a doctor: it brings him too much contact with the more unpleasant aspects of human carnality.
“What he wants above all is action, a feat to perform which might fit the hero he hopes he may carry around inside him.”