Look at these walls. Does it not look as if the wall-paper
itself had been soiled by every conceivable sin? Look at these documents
into which I write tales of wrong. Look at myself -- No smiling man ever
comes here; nothing is to be seen here but angry glances, snarling lips,
clenched fists -- And everybody pours his anger, his envy, his suspicions,
upon me. Look -- my hands are black, and no washing will clean them. See
how they are chapped and bleeding -- I can never wear my clothes more than
a few days because they smell of other people's crimes -- At times I have
the place fumigated with sulphur, but it does not help. I sleep near by,
and I dream of nothing but crimes -- Just now I have a murder case in court
-- oh, I can stand that, but do you know what is worse than anything else?
-- That is to separate married people! Then it is as if something cried
way down in the earth and up there in the sky -- as if it cried treason
against the primal force, against the source of all good, against love--
And do you know, when reams of paper have been filled with mutual accusations,
and at last a sympathetic person takes one of the two apart and asks, with
a pinch of the ear or a smile, the simple question: what have you really
got against your husband?--or your wife?--then he, or she, stands perplexed
and cannot give the cause. Once--well, I think a lettuce salad was the principal
issue; another time it was just a word--mostly it is nothing at all. But
the tortures, the sufferings--these I have to bear-- See how I look! Do
you think I could ever win a woman's love with this countenance so like
a criminal's? Do you think anybody dares to be friendly with me, who has
to collect all the debts, all the money obligations, of the whole city?--
It is a misery to be a man!
Credits: Reprinted from Plays by August Strindberg, v. 1. Trans.
Edwin Björkman. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1912.
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