Sweden. Day 26. Strindberg's Stockholm.
August Strindberg was born in Stockholm in 1849. At that time, it was still a relatively small and provincial place, at least compared to the main cities in continent. Its total population was 93,000 people and still had a rural feel.
Although he lived a large part of his life in Stockholm, he left for France in 1883 and then took residency in different European cities, returning definitely to Stockholm only seventeen years later, by the end of 1899. When he returned, his shock was immense at the transformation of the city: it had grown and developed quite a lot, inspired by other European capitals. Strindberg apparently hated the changes, as it no longer resembled the city of his youth.
I imagine that he would be horrified to find out that Stockholm, today, is a large cosmopolitan city with 1.6 million inhabitants in its urban area only, not counting the suburbs, and a city that has nothing to envy from any other European capital. Its National Museum, which I visited this morning, is a world-class art museum with excellent paintings by many European masters. It is also free.
Of course, my main objective for the day was the Strindberg Museum, as I did not have much time to spend in the city. But I did walk along its dock and old town, and I was impressed at how beautiful it is. The day was sunny, perfect for a stroll.
On the way to the museum, I passed through the Intimate Theatre, a small theatre that was originally founded by Strindberg in his later years and where he performed his famous chamber plays that inspired Ingmar Bergman so much. The theatre has been remodelled with new seats and new lights, but it still shows mainly plays by Strindberg or about related subjects. In fact, there was supposed to be a performance that day, a modern reinterpretation of Strindberg’s “Gustav Vasa”, a historical play about a famous Swedish king.
The theatre was the only place in Stockholm where I saw that, at least according to the notice on the entrance and the website, seemed to require “vaccine passes”. Ironically, the play had to be cancelled because some (vaccinated?) members of the cast tested positive for Covid… When I went in to ask for information, there were just technicians removing all the equipment, and there will be nothing playing this week.
Just a few blocks from the theatre, there is a park where there are two famous statues. One of them is of classic children’s author Astrid Lindgren. The other one is of August Strindberg. Erected by Carl Eldh in 1943 and called “The Titan”, it is a curious bronze sculpture showing a giant, muscular and nude Strindberg, looking more like an Atlas or Hercules really, sitting in a somewhat tense position, with his hands pushing down against a rock as if about to raise up to conquer the world. Apparently it caused a certain scandal at the time because of the nudity. But Strindberg was an author used to scandals, so I suppose it fits him.
Just across from this park we find the Strindbergmuseet. It is a nice little museum which includes Strindberg’s last apartment in Stockholm, where he lived from 1908 until his death in 1912. The building still has a beautiful Art Deco elevator and the apartment was recreated with most of its original furniture and many of his personal objects. Lively sound effects as you get closer to some objects — a piano that starts playing, a telephone that ringing, footsteps, even a voice — provide the illusion that Strindberg, or a least his ghost, may still be living there. (A short video tour of the apartment that I made can be seen here.)
The museum is completed by a large collection of several books, objects, manuscripts, photographs, and a lot of other material about Strindberg. I bought a nice book, a few postcards, and Strindberg’s own brännvin essens, a sort of herbal mix that he used to put in his drink to flavour it. The shop, by the way, still exists, a couple of blocks from the museums, and they still sell those and many other essences there.
I didn’t have time for much more; next morning I would be leaving for Uppsala, and that’s what I did, but I’ll leave that for the next journal entry…