Marie Lundquist, author:

The island of Kymmendö in Stockholm’s southern archipelago is a place August frequently returned to. It was here that he wrote Master Olof and Natives of Hemsö. The island changed its character depending on how life treated the writer. In the autumn of 1873 he was on his own on the island, after his friends had returned to the city. In defiance of the evil powers which he believed were about to overwhelm him, he wrote: “Was he mad? No! He was only a poet who had composed in the forest rather than at his desk. But he hoped that he was insane, he wished for the darkness to put out his light, since he saw no hope light up the darkness.”

His pencil drawings of the island’s pines and firs illustrate his words. Thin, black veins of lead in all the whiteness. The pines’ many-fingered arms appear to reach out for the viewer in order to ensnare his gaze. The tree’s bodies sprawl out towards the surroundings but are kept in place by the sharply drawn contours. And look at the study of the creeping pine. The choice of motif is hardly arbitrary: a towering giant brought to its knees. Squatting down on the ground, it appears to long for the soil from which it once sprung. And everywhere this merciless white light, filtered through the paper. It is said that every motif bears the traits of its artist. So, who is this lonely pine, stripped and thin-skinned – so far removed from the polemic and narcissistic word-agitator? These fine nerve fibres, as fragile as dry branches, are they to be found under the skin of the rabble-rouser? Are they, possibly, the explanation for the fact that August’s texts, which creep along the ground, drawing nourishment, still appear so full of life?

Listen to Strindberg's niece talking about his life in the archipelago, work and habits (in Swedish).

Lyssna: Min morbror August Strrindberg

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