Strindberg A Life Sue Prideaux

Publication date:
15 Mar 2012
Yale University Press
352 pages: 235 x 159mm
20 color + 50 b/w illus.

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Novelist, satirist, poet, photographer, painter, alchemist and hellraiser - August Strindberg was all these, and yet he is principally known, in Arthur Miller's words, as "the mad inventor of modern theater" who led playwriting out of the polite drawing room into the snakepit of psychological warfare.

This biography, supported by extensive new research, describes the eventful and complicated life of one of the great literary figures in world literature. Sue Prideaux organizes Strindberg's story into a gripping and highly readable narrative that both illuminates his work and restores humour and humanity to a man often shrugged off as too difficult. Best known for his play Miss Julie, Strindberg wrote sixty other plays, three books of poetry, eighteen novels, and nine autobiographies. Even more than most, Strindberg is a writer whose life sheds invaluable light on his work.

Prideaux explores Strindberg's many art-life connections, revealing for the first time the originals who inspired the characters of Miss Julie and her servant Jean, the bizarre circumstances in which the play was written, and the real suicide that inspired the shattering ending of the play. Recounting the playwright's journey through the "real" world as well as the world of belief and ideas, Prideaux marks the centenary of Strindberg's death in 1912 with a biography worthy of the man who laid the foundation for Western drama through the twentieth century and even into the twenty-first.

More about this title

Read an article by author Sue Prideaux in the Yale Books Blog

Strindberg was shortlisted for the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize and won the 2012 Duff Cooper Prize

Sue Prideaux is a writer living in Sussex, UK. Her book Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in biography.

"You can see in the prose how much fun [Sue Prideaux] is having with Strindberg. Anyone reading her marvellous book will have that much fun too."—Sam Leith,. "An absorbing new study... Prideaux is a deft guide to the absinthe-heavy bohemian underworlds of Berlin and Paris which Strindberg inhabited for much of the 1980’s."—Claudia FitzHerbert, "What an absolutely extraordinary man August Strindberg was, and what a tormented, demented life he led! I haven’t read such a fascinating biography for ages."—Sam Leith, "A rich and absorbing biography... Writing the biography of a frenzied, unstable genius like Strindberg is an enormous challenge, and Prideaux rises to it with fine authority."—John Carey, "In Prideaux’s hands, Strindberg, a vulnerable but also naively determined man, with striking chaotic hair like a combed back walnut whip, comes vividly to life. Indeed, the joy of her book is in the detail, from quoted letters and diaries and some stunning photography."—Tim Auld,"A deeply researched and engrossing biography…The copious selection of his elemental canvases and celestographs is one beauty of this outstandingly well-produced book…Prideaux opens her book with a bravura chapter on the origins of Miss Julie, excels in relating his characters to their living originals, and in showing how they were transformed by the processes of post-naturalism."—Irving Wardle, "The Strindberg portrayed in this detailed, accessible biography which coincides with the centenary of his death on 12 May 1912, reveals a man and a writer few in the English speaking world will have the notion of…Sue Prideaux’s lively account of a wilful, passionate, often deranged pilgrimage in search of truth, artistic honesty and finally, God, will change our narrow perspective on the astonishing polymath."—Robert Carver, "An absorbing new study... Prideaux is a deft guide to the absinthe-heavy bohemian underworlds of Berlin and Paris which Strindberg inhabited for much of the 1890s."— Claudia FitzHerbert, “Fascinating and beautifully written.”—Antony Beevor,"An exhaustingly researched biography... and a deft piece of detective work."—David Stenhouse, "This unstable genius is brought to book in this fine study."—Read the full review here.

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