Inferno (Strindberg novel)
Published in English
Inferno is an autobiographical novel by August Strindberg. Written in French in 1896-97 at the height of Strindberg's troubles with both censors and women, the book is concerned with Strindberg's life both in and after he lived in Paris, and explores his various obsessions, including alchemy, occultism, and Swedenborgianism, and shows signs of paranoia and neuroticism.
Inferno has often been cited as proof of Strindberg's own personal neuroses, such as a persecution complex, but evidence also suggests that Strindberg, although experiencing mild neurotic symptoms, both invented and exaggerated much of the material in the book for dramatic effect.
The narrator (ostensibly Strindberg, although his narrative variably coheres with and diverges from historical truth), spends most of the novel in Paris, isolated from his wife (Frida Uhl), children, and friends. He associates with a circle of Parisian artists and writers (including Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch), but often fears they are ridiculing and persecuting him. In his isolation, Strindberg successfully attempts alchemical experiments, and has his work published in prominent journals. He fears, however, that his secrets will be stolen, and his persecution mania worsens, believing that his enemies are attacking him with 'infernal machines.' He also dabbles in the occult, at one point casting a black magic spell on his own distanced daughter.
Throughout his studies and adventures, Strindberg believes himself guided by mysterious forces (attributing them sometimes to God, Fate, or vaguer origins). When returning to Austria to see his daughter, Strindberg is introduced to German mythology and the teachings of Swedenborg, which both influence his fatalistic beliefs and delusions. Through this newfound imagery, Strindberg sees his life as a living hell, hence the novel's title.
The novel is broken up into hundreds of short sections, which are arranged into chapters titled with divine allusions (Purgatory, Inferno). It has been referred to as a collection of prose poetry.
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