Söderberg states at the end of this short work that it will probably prove more interesting to him than to others. It is certainly an unsatisfactory book from the reader’s perspective and this dissatisfaction derives at least in part from the very thing that makes it interesting to the author: as a young writer he started the story and put it away. Much later he came upon it and decided it was worth carrying on with. Consequently it is rather disjointed in tone and subject, rather confusing to this reader until I came upon Söderberg’s explanation.
The point of reading this might be as much sociological as literary, it serves to detail much about social life around the late nineteenth century in Sweden. It might also be used as a warning – and this will come as no surprise to those who have had close up experiences with poets – that the species is to be avoided at all costs. With the possible exception of Ted Hughes, what person has ever deserved the fate of being involved with one? I exclude from this general observation those like Roger McGough who think poetry should be fun, but Söderberg does not think life – or poetry – a laughing matter. He is – reading into the text of the story – a mere amateur poet, but no less to be avoided for that and parts of this make one cringe as he acknowledges without shrinking from the task himself, the ways in which Young Men of a Certain Sensitive Disposition think. Oh dear.
Certainly not in the class of Dr Glas, but worth a look all the same.