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August Strindberg

Translated by Peter Graves

ISBN-13: 9781870041713

133 pages     RRP £8.95    paperback    2007    Series B

August Strindberg (1849-1912) is best known internationally as Sweden’s greatest dramatist. Less well known outside Sweden is the range of his other writings - novels, short stories, essays, journalism and poetry. Tschandala, the novella translated into English here for the first time, was written in the autumn of 1888, the same year as the dramas Miss Julie and Creditors.

Tschandala has an historical setting: the time is the 1690s and the location is Skåne, the southern province that Sweden annexed from Denmark in 1658. A Swedish academic from the University of Lund, Andreas Törner, rents rooms for the summer with his family in a dilapidated manor house, owned by an eccentric baroness and managed by a gipsy named Jensen. Although puzzled by the peculiarities of the people and environment, initially Törner enjoys a good relationship with the people of the house, but he is drawn into conflict with Jensen, whom he suspects of lies, criminality and incompetence. The conflict intensifies, culminating in a struggle for survival between the two men. The atmosphere and setting of the story are thoroughly Gothic: the ruinous castle, mystery and suspense, inexplicable events, strange aristocrats and gipsies, baying hounds, and unexplained noises. All of this is, however, interwoven with ideas drawn from Nietzsche and Social Darwinism.

Strindberg, in parading his prejudices so nakedly, is simultaneously revealing many of the aspects of his age that would lead to tragic consequences in the century that followed. We may find Tschandala morally reprehensible in its attitudes, but it cannot be denied that its author had an acute ear for the music of his time.

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