The Inferno Crisis
– From the chapter ”Hardships” in The Inferno, 1897
Scholars have differed about the significance and consequences of the “Inferno Crisis” that Strindberg went through in the 1890s when he found himself wandering restlessly around the Continent, touching down in places like Berlin and Paris. If they are fairly unanimous that he was in the throes of artistic self-questioning, it was nevertheless a period of febrile production, even though the artistry sometimes fell short of his oeuvre in general.
The most notable result of his travails is The Inferno – one of his most extraordinary chronicles of the soul. The diary-like novel, which he wrote in French during a sojourn in Lund in 1897, was soon translated to Swedish by Eugène Fahlstedt. Strindberg’s encounter with the thought of Emanuel Swedbenborg looms large, and he advances the notion that hell is a state of mind rather than a physical place with rare conviction.
The putative chronicle of a disease in which Strindberg plays the role of an occultist and interpreter of signs prone to whims and bizarre associations is a kind of psychological case history. The combination of self-contempt and grandiosity gives rise to a pulsating literary work informed by a powerful vision of the connectedness, or disconnectedness, of worldly phenomena. Everything flows. This creative amalgam of life and art is a consistent feature of Strindberg’s writing. The synthesis is fundamental to his art, and the always contentious issue of his sanity or lack of it pales in significance.
The articles on Strindberg were written by Magnus Halldin. The timeline "Strindberg year by year " was compiled by David Gedin. Texts © 2012 the author and the Swedish Arts Council respectively.