Sunday, March 16, 2014

101 in 1001: Doktor Glas

I've revamped how I'm doing the 101 in 1001 updates here. While it's helpful for me to be able to see and edit the list every time I update, a lot of RSS readers don't observe Blogger's "jump" feature and so who knows how many people I've inadvertently spammed with my weekly numerations of all of the things I wanted to accomplish with my life! My 101 in 1001 list now has its own permanent page, and updates from now on will contain only tasks that I've accomplished.

 Read 3 chapters of Doktor Glas in Swedish. (1 - 7)

I first encountered Doktor Glas in a course I took at Stockholms Universitet (in English) on Modern Swedish Literature. It was by far my favorite book of the course, and not just because it was the shortest. Since I liked it so much, I thought it would be a good introductory course to literary Swedish. While a lot of the vocabulary is a bit outdated and old-fashioned, it's still been a rewarding project. Perhaps I'll shoot for five chapters as a new goal in my next review.

Doktor Glas is the (obviously fictional) diary of Tyko Gabriel Glas, a young doctor in Stockholm at the turn of the last century. He writes extensive chronicles of his thoughts on medicine, euthanasia, sex, murder, love, abortion, punishment, and of his involvement in the unhappy marriage of young Helga to the odious minister Gregorious. Quite a lot for a slim little volume, and easy to end up sounding heavy-handed and preachy, but Söderberg keeps a deft, masterful touch over the whole thing. I cannot emphasize that enough: Doktor Glas is a literary masterpiece. Alas that it doesn't enjoy the same international celebration as Beyond Good and Evil or Crime and Punishment; life is truly unfair.

If you're interested in it, I highly recommend the translation by Paul Britten Austin. I don't know if other translations of this novel exist, but if they do, I'm not interested in them. Austin's translation is poetic and graceful and suffers none of the clunk and clumsy of a bad translation; I doubt it's possible to find anything better.

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