Volym 125, 2004
Anna-Maria Rimm, Aktningsvärda vänners råd. Sociala och ekonomiska förutsättningar för Ulrica Carolina Widströms författarskap. (The Counsel of Respectable Friends. Social and Economic Conditions of the Literary Work of Ulrica Carolina Widström.)
This paper studies the Swedish author Ulrica Carolina Widström’s (1764–1841) authorship from a sociological perspective, focusing on her social network and her shifting financial circumstances in particular. Network theory and Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of social and cultural capital are used as analytical tools in the study.
Widström benefited from social contacts from an early age. She received an education, for instance — in spite of the fact that she did not come from a wealthy family — through her noble godmother Charlotta Fredrika Sparre (1719–1795). However, the social contact who seems to have been the most useful for Widström’s career as an author was Carl Christoffer Gjörwell (1731–1811). Not only did he publish her poems in his newspapers, he also helped to promote her works to his friends, as well as supplying Widström with literary assignments and contacts. Furthermore, Widström also mixed with some of the greatest Swedish authors of her time: Thorild, Kellgren, Lidner, Leopold, Franzén, and von Knorring. Widström’s literary acquaintances could be of use to her literary career in different ways. On the one hand, it is apparent that they could help her by reading and commenting her works, as well as distributing it and making her reputation as an author more widely known. On the other, we see that some parts of Widström’s poetry were written solely with a social purpose, so-called "social obligation".
The study also shows that it is likely that Widström used her writing as a way of earning money. Her translations of popular novels and the adaptation of the novel Victor for the stage serve as examples of this. Moreover, Widström’s poor financial situation was used as the main sales argument for her final collection of poems, Ulrika C. Widströms Samlade Witterhetsförsök. But it is nevertheless clear that an unsound economy restricted Widström’s career as an author. She was, for instance, forced to work as a governess during long periods of her life due to poor finances. The unfortunate case of the publication of Höstaftnarne at Widström’s own expense shows that the literary business could be an economically risky one for authors without sound economic resources.
Johan Svedjedal, Almqvist och namnen. En studie i litterär onomastik. (Almqvist and the Names. A Study in Literary Onomastics.)
This paper introduces the field of literary onomastics to Swedish literary scholars and analyses Carl Jonas Love Almqvist’s (1793–1866) use of proper names in various works. Psychological and symbolical aspects are treated, as well as Almqvist’s own conception of the term ‘name’. For him, the concept of ‘name’ tended to be wide, comprising many kinds of words, not only proper names. Nevertheless, he wanted proper names to reflect the ‘true’ or ‘inner’ nature of persons and places, effectively divining God’s will. Almqvist used both real names (of people and places) and fantasy names. Some examples of their realistic and thematic functions are discussed, as well as aspects of how Almqvist went about creating proper names.
Special emphasis is put on Songes (mainly written around 1830) and Drottningens Juvelsmycke (1834), two works where the use of proper names is a salient feature. The former (a cycle of fifty poems) is analysed as an onomastic universe, structured around various names (about 80% of them are personal names, mostly exotic or historical ones, often with religious connotations). The latter is interpreted as largely being a tragedy of lacking a proper name. The protagonist Tintomara’s lack of a Christian name initially indicates that she is separated from God, but her salvation comes when she accepts the name other people have given her. By the naming – and the semantics of the name itself – she is linked to Heaven and God.
The paper ends with the outlining of five main areas where further studies in the literary onomastics of Almqvist may be conducted.
Stig Bäckman, Viktor Rydberg som Erland Månesköld. Om Sven Delblancs läsning av Singoalla. (Viktor Rydberg as Erland Månesköld. On Sven Delblanc’s Reading of Singoalla.)
It was not until 1983 that Singoalla, Viktor Rydberg’s short romantic novel, was published as a book. It appeared originally in a literary calendar in 1857. When Rydberg himself first had it published as a book in 1865, he wrote a completely new ending to it and also made other changes. It was Sven Delblanc who at last saw to it that the original version was made available to the general public. He also wrote an introduction where he puts forward a biographical reading of it which, in condensed form, also appeared in the third volume of the important Swedish literary history, Den svenska litteraturen, in 1988. Delblanc argues that the changes Rydberg made were intended to obscure the fact that the novel reflected homosexual desires and impulses in Rydberg himself. Delblanc detects erotic overtones in Erland Månesköld’s relation to Sorgbarn, and the final murder of the child is seen by him as a masked representation of homosexual intercourse. The pestilence comes as a punishment for this sexual violation etc. The purpose of this essay is not to say that Delblanc is "wrong", but only to question his assertion that this is the only true reading of the novel, that this deeper level of meaning exists in the text and, unless it is discovered, the novel cannot be properly understood nor, in fact, be fully appreciated.
A close scrutiny of Delblanc’s argument reveals that he does not offer any substantial textual evidence to sustain his interpretation. Rather, his understanding and appreciation of the novel is derived from an empathic understanding of Rydberg’s biography. It is this context that makes him construe meaning in the way he does. The importance of context is illustrated by applying a different context which fully explains all that which Delblanc claims to be incomprehensible unless you adopt his "sexual" point of view. This context is derived, not from Rydberg’s private life, but from ideas he held concerning the role of Nature in medieval Christianity, his adherence to neo-platonic philosophy and his idealization of childhood as an age of purity that can never be regained. It is argued that Sorgbarn, that sickly and moribund child, can be seen as Rydberg/Erland’s inner child, a painful reminder of a purity forever lost. That is one aspect of the atmosphere of sadness that permeates the novel. Another is the loss of an uncomplicated and positive contact with nature which is illustrated in the beginning of the novel in the youthful love between Erland and Singoalla. What happens to Erland is that he is severed from nature. In his state of weakness and memory-loss after being poisoned by the gypsies, he is influenced by pater Henrik, who stands as a representative for the Christian medieval Church. According to Rydberg, Christianity, due to oriental influences, had adopted a dualistic view according to which nature was seen as evil, whereas Greek Antiquity, for instance, held a monistic view where there was no conflict between spirituality and nature. Erland is indoctrinated by pater Henrik into believing that images of Singoalla that torment him in his dreams are manifestations emanating from the devil. It is only when he is under the influence of Sorgbarn’s hypnosis that he is able to feel once again his love for Singoalla and thus regain contact with nature. The note of sadness and loss in the novel is reinforced also by reflections of Rydberg’s Neo-Platonic beliefs. In an epilogue to the novel, there is a lamentation on the plight of Man as forever imprisoned in the never-ending cycle of birth and destruction on Earth, having to look to Eternity above to find something truly stable and lasting.
Tobias Dahlkvist, Vad kan Borgs armband säga oss? Nietzsche och I havsbandet. (What Can Borg’s Bracelet Tell Us? Nietzsche and I havsbandet [By the Open Sea].)
This essay is an attempt to reinterpret the Nietzschean element in August Strindberg’s novel I havsbandet (1890). Earlier commentators had considered this element to be a response of some kind to Nietzsche’s notion of der Übermensch. In the essay, I argue that since Strindberg probably did not read Also sprach Zarathustra, but did read several other works by Nietzsche where this theme is presented, a reinterpretation which focuses on themes unfolded in the books that he actually did read seems sensible.
One such theme is decadence, a concept of great importance to Nietzsche’s criticism of modern culture. Nietzsche describes modern man as decadent, and his diagnosis is that Christianity in combination with Schopenhauerian pessimism has led him to a way of life where too little attention is paid to what is important in life: the strengthening of the body, for example, and a correct diet. Decadence can manifest itself as asceticism, but also as a love of luxury, as the need for sensual stimulation.
Axel Borg, fishery inspector and protagonist in I havsbandet, combines asceticism and love of luxury in a peculiar way. His approach to morality is remarkably similar to that of Nietzsche — instead of passing judgment, he forms himself into a person who acts in such a way that no regrets are necessary. But this is not enough to save him: through luxury and asceticism he has lost the capacity for overcoming (Überwindung) which is so central to Nietzsche, and which is what distinguishes him from the decadents. Since Strindberg was familiar with the decadence theme in Nietzsche’s thinking, as well as with the French discussion of decadence that Nietzsche took as his starting-point, and since Axel Borg exhibits characteristics that are prominently decadent, I propose a reading of I havsbandet as a response to Nietzsche’s criticism of modern culture, and of Borg as a Nietzschean decadent.
Håkan Möller, Författarsagan som blev verklighet. Pär Lagerkvists väg till debuten 1912. (How the Writer’s Tale Became Reality: Pär Lagerkvist’s Path to His First Publication, 1912.)
During the last weeks of December 1906 Pär Lagerkvist wrote a short story and called it "The Tale of a Writer". He was fifteen years old and had just finished his first senior term at high school. The story tells how fifteen-year-old Erik Burén succeeds in realising his dream of educating himself and — above all — of becoming a writer.
"The Tale" shows how early Lagerkvist resolutely determined to concentrate on becoming a writer. It also shows how soon he decided to make use of literary form to work through the violently conflicting feelings involved in his dream. "The Tale" also makes clear how far the aspiring writer had already staked out the path he had chosen for himself, a path which he then followed with remarkable single-mindedness right up to his debut in print in 1912, overcoming the obstacles harsh reality placed in his way.
As I hope to demonstrate, many traces of both a need and a determination to discuss and resolve, in one way or another, the problems raised by his dream of becoming a writer and by the role that being a writer would demand of him, can be found particularly in his early attempts at prose, but also in the school essays, poems and dramatic works he wrote during the period before his first published work. A series of themes closely connected with the dream and role of being a writer appear in one form or another in the texts he produced during this period: free thinking (especially in religion and politics), opposition/revolt/ breaking away (the need for revolt, and the guilt feelings this causes) together with the struggle, exclusion and individualism involved in breaking away. This thematic mix also includes a strongly idealised and romantically coloured conception of the writer’s role.
An essential stage in the development of a writer’s identity is making contact with existing literature and the work of established writers. Lakerkvist showed an early interest in literature that was considered suspect at home, and this orientation and his curiosity were considerably stimulated during his senior high school years. Classes in Swedish language and literature gave him a chance to deepen his knowledge of the work of writers who had already caught his eye: Strindberg, Geijerstam and Fröding, to mention the most important. During this period it was above all the Strindberg of the 1880s, and in particular the widely accepted Strindberg of Röda rummet, Mäster Olof, Svenska öden och äfventyr and Hemsöborna, that Lagerkvist developed a passion for. This Strindberg for the most part accords with what was early approved in the histories of literature and dominated teaching in secondary schools and universities well into the twentieth century. For Lagerkvist, Strindberg was first and foremost the pattern for what a writer should be: a heroic radical who, at the head of a new generation, breaks down what is old and opens up to the embryo writer a new road to the future.
Lagerkvist was a great admirer of Gustaf af Geijerstam, a colleague of Strindberg’s that Strindberg came to despise. Lagerkvist particularly valued Geijerstam’s descriptions of the lives of ordinary people, finding in Geijerstam’s work inspiration for his own writing.
At the turn of the century, the young in particular were specially interested in the truth-seeking social critics of the 1880s. Strindberg was the idol of many. We may see a connection between, on the one hand, Lagerkvist’s orientation towards what he considered this pioneering generation of eighties writers and the tendency in his own work towards social engagement and naturalistic description and, on the other, his attraction to those among his fellow-students who, during his senior school years, expressed themselves in various ways as radicals. We should not underestimate the importance of Lagerkvist’s circle of friends for the development of his view of himself as a man apart and a suitable subject for creative writing. Above all, the support and encouragement of his friend Pontus Fransson was clearly extremely important during the difficult and uncertain years after his matriculation in 1910, a time when he was working hard to make his dream of becoming a writer come true. Together with his brother Gunnar Lagerkvist, Fransson was his most important supporter in this connection.
But to succeed as a writer in the market-place one needs more than the encouragement of friends. Lagerkvist made great efforts to establish contact with people who would be able to add credibility to his work by offering good advice, being ready with letters of recommendation or, best of all, accepting his MSS for publication. He became his own salesman, diligent and dauntless. It is no surprise that Erik Burén in "The Tale of a Writer" succeeds in his attempts to find work as a journalist, educate himself, and become a writer. Lagerkvist himself failed to get a job as a journalist and his university studies led nowhere, but every setback seems merely to have renewed and reinforced his determination to write. In moments of defeat he took refuge in writing — as he was in any case compelled to do by economic circumstances. But it was not until 1913 that he became a regular contributor to Stormklockan, mostly with reviews. His second and third books, Två sagor om livet and Ordkonst och bildkonst, came out that year. When his first book, Människor, had been published the year before, he had been only 21. It was a debut that had forced the debutant himself to pay the cost of printing, but nonetheless a decisive step in making his Tale of a Writer come true. It brought him a special kind of victory: making him visible — as a writer.
English translation by Silvester Mazzarella
Peter Cassirer, Förintelsen såsom i en skrattspegel – om Imre Kertész Mannen utan öde. (The Holocaust as in a Funny Mirror. On Imre Kertész’ Fateless.)
Imre Kertesz’ novel Fateless (Swedish Mannen utan öde) has often been characterised as depicting life in a concentration camp. But even though the essential part of the story takes place in camps, the novel primarily deals with existential questions about what it means to be Jewish, a question evoked by the persecution of Jews in Hungary during World War II. The uniqueness of the novel lies not only in its questioning of the traditional way of dealing with these problems, but also and above all, the provoking manner in which these questions are posed.
The story is told through the perspective of a fourteen-year-old Jewish boy from Budapest. One may interpret the purpose of the storyteller’s attitude as a way of showing that the events in the novel (which depict what happened in Europe at that time) were truly unbelievable and become believable only in retrospect and only because they did indeed happen.
The title of Imre Kertész’ novel relates to the protagonist’s denial that his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald were the result of his "fate", i.e. the fate of being Jewish. Many of the storyteller’s reflections in dangerous and even life-threatening situations are so strange and unrealistic that the reader does experience them almost as if they were seen in a "funny mirror".
Kertesz’ main æsthetic intent seems to be to challenge the reader by confronting us with our prejudices and questioning these through provocation. The callous, insensitive, sometimes actually shocking manner in which the protagonist tells the events he witnesses, events that must have been indescribably horrible, makes him symbolic of all those who actually were uninterested, uninformed and unengaged during the time of the Holocaust, as well as those who persist in denial that it took place in the first place.
Magnus Ullén, En ironisk historia. Paul de Man och historiebegreppet. (An Ironic (Hi)story. Paul de Man and the Concept of History.)
This essay is an exposition of Paul de Man’s understanding of the concept of history, and argues for the continued relevance of his mode of reading. In the process, it traces the relation between his early notion of the interrelatedness of blindness and insight, with his later notion of the complementarity of allegory and irony.
Following the introduction, a section on "The Nature of Reading" presents de Man’s concept of reading as an act that is intrinsic to the notion of the text as such – that is why de Man can argue that the text deconstructs itself. Two subsequent sections, "Derrida and the Blindness of Insight" and "The Double Temporality of Misunderstanding," explicate this notion of reading and the way it relates to de Man’s critique of the concept of history by means of an analysis of de Man’s reading of Derrida in "The Rhetoric of Blindness." It is shown that de Man’s critique of Derrida is in part self-contradictory, yet these contradictions are read not as faults, but as a strategy devised to meet the ironical paradox that de Man’s own essay shows to be an inescapable feature of the critical discourse. Sharing the view of Derrida (held, according to de Man, by Rousseau as well) that no unmediated knowledge of reality is possible, it is the conviction of de Man that every attempt at understanding existence is in truth inevitably a misunderstanding. This misunderstanding derives from the double temporality characteristic of the text. The attempt to waylay this double temporality by means of the notion of the hermeneutical circle, which would appear to allow the critic to establish a concord between the beginning and end of the interpretive process, in de Man’s view is insufficient in that it can be shown to achieve this effect only by transposing temporality into a linguistic register, in e.ect turning temporality into a sign. A genuine attempt to devise a history of literature must try to develop a strategy for dealing with this ironical situation without simply rejecting it.
The penultimate section, "An Ironical (Hi)story," reads "The Rhetoric of Temporality" as a concrete attempt to write a literary history informed by such a strategic misunderstanding of the ironical foundation of the concept of history. Special attention is paid to the structure of the essay, particularly the way its second section constitutes a kind of cognitive stuttering, which keeps insisting that the tropes of allegory and irony are linked to each other, and that irony in turn is linked to the development of the novel. While this stuttering signals irony’s inability to depart from the realm of the present, the recurring references to the novel, it is argued, constitute a kind of inescapable historical modulation of this insight, ironizing irony in the very process of presenting it.
While thus manifestly unable to eschew the historical perspective altogether, it is argued that de Man’s critical practice nevertheless substantially transforms the concept of history, by making clear that the historical dimension of the text necessarily coincides with the act of reading itself. History, in this view, is not an object temporally distinct from the present moment, but should be seen as an ongoing process, in relation to which any act of reading is always an intervention. The closing section, "Deconstruction as Critical Theory," briefly suggests the historical case for treating de Man’s brand of deconstruction as a radical critique. Romanticism, it is suggested, can be looked upon as a response to a crisis in historical consciousness, brought on by the individualization of Christian faith. This crisis is even more apparent in contemporary society, manifested, for instance, in the eternal present evoked by advertising. In the all but a-historical moment of a society enwrapped in such myths, the essay concludes, the continued relevance of de Man’s critical perspective is all too apparent.