I have been obsessed with Strindberg since I had to study his plays at school in Finland. Having lived in Sweden as a child my language skills were beyond those required by the curriculum and so my Swedish teacher decided that I should not only achieve a good mark in my Swedish Baccalaureate, but should learn something new. She set about encouraging me to write an essay on Strindberg. For a teenage girl the Swedish playwright was not an easy subject. The prolific, socially critical and revolutionary writer, who died in 1912, was generally known as a misogynist. Eivor Martinus’ motivation for Strindberg and Love is to try to refute this allegation. Strindberg’s three marriages and a last engagement to a fourth, young actress Fanny Falkner, could make this a difficult task.
Martinus describes the writer from the point of view of his women. She tries and succeeds in describing a passionate author living in a time with dramatic social change with fond detachment. Many of the sources the author has available to her are by Strindberg himself, which makes her task even more difficult. He had a tendency towards long periods of depression, often triggered by the end of an affair, or marriage. To combat these bouts of what I’m sure in today’s world would be diagnosed as bipolar episodes, he often retreated to writing. The resulting novels or plays were putrid, hostile, egoistic accounts of the previous relationships. But as Martinus points out, he made notes in his diary to remember not to let anyone see the writing; especially a new object of his love. Economic realities, however, often intervened and time and time again Strindberg had to sell the poisonous manuscripts to his publisher to pay for food and rent.
Martinus account of Strindberg is vivid, the writing is excellent, and the reader finds it easy to follow the loves and lives of the great writer without feeling she is reading a boring biography. I was sad to come to the end of the book and felt that the women in his life and Strindberg were deeply loved by each other as well as by the author.