The Red Room (Strindberg)
The Red Room (Swedish: Röda rummet) is a Swedish novel by August Strindberg that was first published in 1879. A satire of Stockholm society, it has frequently been described as the first modern Swedish novel. While receiving mixed reviews in Sweden, it was acclaimed in Denmark, where Strindberg was hailed as a genius. As a result of The Red Room, Strindberg became famous throughout Scandinavia. Edvard Brandes wrote that it "makes the reader want to join the fight against hypocrisy and reaction."
A young idealistic civil servant, Arvid Falk, leaves the drudgery of bureaucracy to become a journalist and author. As he explores various social activities—politics, publishing, theatre, philanthropy, and business—he finds more hypocrisy and political corruption than he thought possible. He takes refuge with a group of "bohemians", who meet in a red dining room in Berns Salonger to discuss these matters.
The novel has been translated into several languages. An English translation by Ellie Schleussner, translator of several other works by Strindberg, was published in 1913 in London and is now in the public domain. There is also a 2009 translation by Peter Graves.
The Red Room is a satire on life in Stockholm, on life everywhere. The pathetic struggle of the artistic and literary career, its follies and pretenses, the fatuity of politics, the dishonesty of journalism, the disillusion that awaits the aspiring actor, all these things run riot through the lively pages. Strindberg's satire is severe, it is sometimes hard, but it is not mean. He has a large if rather distant sympathy for the poor fellows whose aspirations, failures, dissipations, and friendships he portrays. Of two young critics he says: “And they wrote of human merit and human unworthiness and broke hearts as if they were breaking egg-shells.” He writes of their unconscious inhumanity and blindness in a way that reveals his own clearness of vision and fundamental humanity. The laughter of a somber humorist has in it a tenderness unknown to merry natures.
The dramatic and literary critic may profitably read the chapter called "Checkmate," in which the young journalist is made to say: "The public does not want to have an opinion, it wants to satisfy its passions. If I praise your enemy you writhe like a worm and tell me that I have no judgment; if I praise your friend, you tell me that I have. Take that last piece of the Dramatic Theatre, Fatty, which has just been published in book form... It's quite safe to say that there isn't enough action in it: that's a phrase the public knows well; laugh a little at the 'beautiful language'; that's good, old disparaging praise; then attack the management for having accepted such a play and point out that the moral teaching is doubtful—a very safe thing to say about most things."
- Meyer, Michael. 1985. Strindberg: A Biography. Oxford Lives ser. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987. ISBN 0-19-281995-X.
- Gutenberg.org: The Critical Game, by John Macay – page 125, Strindberg Retrieved 2012-09-19
- Schluessner, Ellie, trans. 1913. The Red Room. By August Strindberg. London: Howard Latimer Ltd Available online.