Art: A Spatula & a Vague Idea

In the tormented life of the playwright Johan August Strindberg, the darkest time fell between the years 1893 and 1895. The government of his native Sweden—"the land of the nonadult, the disenfranchised, the mutes"—had tried to suppress his work as "blasphemy." Penniless, he settled in Paris with one summer suit to his name, for summer or winter wear. His second marriage was going badly, confirming his obsessive distrust of women who, he said, "admire swindlers, quack dentists, braggadocios of literature, peddlers of wooden spoons—everything mediocre." He himself was close to madness —a...

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