restricted access The Illusion. An Essay on Politics, Theatre and the Novel by David Caute, and: Plays, Politics, and Polemics by Catharine Hughes (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS 401 ing, anticipating as it does many of the themes and dramaturgical devices of the later Chamber Plays. Where the two scholars really differ is in the kind of emphasis they lay on the material available to them. Brandell's excellent study is mainly of a psychological nature, taking a rather ironic view, for example, of Strindberg's own estimate of his debt to Swedenborg. For Stockenstrom, Brandell 's analysis quite underestimates the extent and seriousness of Swedenborg's impact on Strindberg, and stresses the personal psychological significance of the post-Inferno writing at the expense of the more general religious view of life that Strindberg evolved. If Dr. Stockentrom's thesis is at all controversial, the problem may lie in his description of Strindberg's post-Inferno view of life as "mystical ." However, how else can one describe a view of the world which seriously believes in "the return of the Powers," and which reads reality in terms of Swedenborgian correspondances? Scholarship has never been able to take quite seriously some of Strindberg's later esoteric views. The problem with such reservations , as Dr. Stockenstrom so ably demonstrates, particularly in Crimes and Crimes, is that they limit our understanding of much of the writing after the Inferno crisis. In a book which offers so much that is new, and which opens up so many avenues for further investigation, it seems ungenerous to complain. However, for the non-Scandinavian reader, the English-language summary, thirty pages in length, presents a very unsatisfactory impression of what Dr. Stockenstrom offers in the main text. Like many summaries, it makes congested reading, is often unconvincing in argument, and unclear in reference, no doubt partly because it is largely a translation of the summary pages that conclude each of the Swedish chapters. Further, its English is neither reliably accurate, nor stylistically correct. For example, the Mother in To Damascus is said to speak of "annihilation by the divine" rather than "the annihilation of the divine", meaning "spiritual death." There is a frequent and irritating use of word "namely," which while it is idiomatic in Swedish, is often quite inappropriate in English. Finally, the English summary is thickly peppered with typographical errors, including a few that may send the 4edicated reader reaching for a dictionary ("Intoxiocation" for "Intoxication " as a translation of Rus), or cause a mental double-take ("defectives" for "detectives"). In the main Swedish text, a few of the internal cross-references retain the original cyphers, rather than the page numbers that were presumably to be inserted at the page-proof stage. Also, although the table of contents is very detailed, an index - ifonly to proper names - would be invaluable in a work of this length. Perhaps this is an indication of the book's value: it is a study to which one will frequently wish to refer back. HARRY LANE University ofGuelph THE ILLUSION. AN ESSAY ON POLITICS, THEATRE AND THE NOVEL, by David Caute. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. 267 pp. $8.00 & $2.25. PLAYS, POLITICS, AND POLEMICS, by Catharine Hughes. New York: Drama Book Specialists, 1973. 194 pp. $7.95. To what extent can theater change social consciousness or incite political action? What makes political theater effective? Do the factors which contribute to its ex- 402 BOOK REVIEWS cellence as drama also serve its aim to persuade, or do they subvert that aim? To these questions David Caute and Catharine Hughes offer similar answers, one through a carefully reasoned argument, the other as the critical framework for her appraisal of twenty-two recent "polemical" plays. Caute, a British playwright, novelist, and political historian, insists that, based on the nature and structure of literature as a form of communication, committed writing must be dialectical. In his first four essays, he defines the meanings of commitment in art, describes the handicaps that realism (notjust socialist realism ) cause a didactic writer, considers the political implications of modernism and the Marxist bias against it, and attacks the fallacies that the meaning of a work resides soleiy in its form or in its content. Caute's positive proposals emerge in the final three chapters. "The struggle against social alienation (Entfremdung) and false consciousness requires an...