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Reviews151 perspicuity, and from too much imprecision and vagueness of reference. The exegesis mixes plausibility with extravagance and the philosophy is not adept. The writing is singularly unrelenting. There are deplorably few aids to the reader to help him through great tracts ofanalysis, tracts which are impenetrable at all points except the very beginning. It is a book that is likely to appeal only to Plato specialists. University of Canterbury, New ZealandDerek Browne Selected Plays, by August Strindberg; translated by Evert Sprinchorn; xvi & 842 pp. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986, $39.50. This collection of twelve Strindberg plays isjudiciously chosen and set forth to show him as an artist of dynamic versatility rather than the half-mad misogynist , die anathema of feminists, portrayed in popular myth. In Strindberg, the artist and the philosopher coalesce. He was, as Sprinchorn says, ". . . like all great writers, a profound moral philosopher" (p. xiii). His versatility as an artist was grounded in the philosopher's search for keys; his restless experimentation in forms followed from a quest for truth, not from a mere search for theatrical excitations. In his instructive general introduction and short introductions to each of the plays, Evert Sprinchorn develops a sharp picture of this artist-philosopher. We come to understand his struggle to escape the suffocations of Scandinavian culture, and his vivifying contacts with the French naturalists, the new currents in psychology, and the feminist movement. He saw theatre as a potent medium for philosophy, indeed, as the supreme way of bringing philosophy out of arcane recesses into the public arena. His plays, like Ibsen's, became intense foci of debate. Sprinchorn's introductions, though brief, help us locate each play in the successive phases of this intense union of philosophy and art. TL· Father (1887), too often dismissed as the overheated product of a mad woman-loather, is presented as a Greek-like tragedy in a broad context of ideas. "Not only does TL· Father suggest that a Nietzschean transvaluation of values is about to occur in European civilization; it adumbrates . . . certain ideas that were to form the cornerstone of the new psychology of the unconscious" (p. 138). Miss fulk (1888) is a seething compendium ofAntoine dieatre, Zola, Darwin, Nietzsche— all the main noetic agitations of an emerging world of "ethical relativism and a world without values" (p. 200). Moving to the later plays, Sprinchorn provides a thesis statement that helps us grasp more clearly the weird formal experi- 152Philosophy and Literature mentation in A Dream Pky (1901): "Earthly existence is a dream, a Platonic non-reality; reality exists in the life of the spirit; and the artist who creates dreams is closest to the source of all being" (p. 643). TL· Ghost Sonata (1907) is suffused with Strindberg's late Swedenborgian mysticism as he senses his approach to the Isle of the Dead. However, his plays were not attenuated by discursive abstractions; they were vivid as art and theatre. Rhythm, tone, and nuance were of great importance; he saw them as vital aspects ofmeaning—as were gestures, shadows, movements in the physicality of the stage. Thus, his plays can be exceedingly difficult to translate. In general, Sprinchorn's renditions are superior. His voice accomplishes The Father considerably better than the "old chap" versions of the past, where too often Scandinavian forthrightness or cursing come forth stilted and silly. However, no translator gets the captain in The Father quite right, and Sprinchorn only comes close. He smudges the character with small flubs such as having him say, "The girl is guilty to some extent" (p. 144), when the Swedish says, "The girl is guilty." Period. But then, as a dog breeds fleas, almost all translations can breed cavil and quibble. After all, Sprinchorn does suggest much of the demonic energy of the play, and that is what matters. He has the plastic language and imagination thatcan almost cope with Strindberg's range— even with the thirty-odd diverse voices of A Dream Play, and with the rich theological dialectic of Master Ohf. Since he can only subsist in translation, this volume is a welcome and valuable contribution to our experience of Strindberg. Whitman CollegeWalter E. Broman Problems ofDostoevsky's Poetics...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 151-152
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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