I, too, like this book a lot, although my take differs to some extent from yours, Guillermo. As I recall, Gregorius does not seem to merit Glas' hatred. It seems rooted in a physical distaste for the man, stretching back to his childhood. Gregorius' main "crime" in the book is that he wants to have sex with his wife, which is a reasonable thing to desire. Glas instantly sympathizes with the wife because he has such a violent sense of repulsion to poor Gregorius' physical appearance. It appears reasonable to Glas that she should not wish to perform her wifely duties because he finds Gregorius even more distasteful than she. Glas despises Gregorius from the moment he first sees him preaching, long before he is able to rationalize justification for his abhorrence. He is, in my opinion. an unreliable narrator.
Glas decides to remove Gregorius so that Helga can be united with what Glas, in his innocence, views as her idealized "true love." In his still virginal innocence, the very worldly (in some ways) Glas fails to understand, despite his keen intelligence in many ways, that her lover is a rake having a fling with a married woman before settling down with a suitable young wife.
Glas destroys three lives by the murder, that of Gregorius (of course), Helga, and himself. He has accomplished nothing. Not a surprise that this work comes from a contemporary of Strindberg. They hold similar dark views of sexuality and human nature in general.
: By coincidence, I read this book right after
: Graham Greene's "The End of the
: Affair", which you may have read. The
: differences between both books only serve to
: highlight the similarities: first-person
: accounts of love triangles, by the unmarried
: participant, a lonely, bitter, estranged
: man. As for the female protagonists,
: Greene's Sarah Miles moves from atheism to
: Catholicism, while Söderberg's Helga goes
: from Luteranism to atheism or at least
: agnosticism. So, the two novels, read
: together, work like opposing mirrors.
: Doctor Glas, it should be noted, is a virgin
: at 30+ years of age and has a pathological
: horror of sex. His diary seems to be the
: only way he has of expressing his feelings,
: since he lacks close friends. However, and
: strangely, Glas is much more liberal than
: the average Swede of his time: if he refuses
: to perform abortions, it is not from
: conviction, but from an accommodation of
: contemporary mores, as he is averse to open
: While in "The End of the Affair"
: (tEotA), Maurice Bendrix cordially hates his
: rival, here Glas feels an undisguised, open
: hatred towards Gregorius, and surely for the
: right reasons, as the pastor seems to be
: hypocritical, lecherous, selfish, cruel and
: disgusting. So, when Helga asks him to lie
: to Gregorius to save her from repulsive sex,
: Glas accepts, not without much fretting and
: self-justification for this egregious break
: of medical ethics. It should be noted that
: his misanthropy is very rare, as he really
: sympathizes with other people, including
: women who approach him to ask for abortions.
: Far ahead of his time (and let's remember
: that this novel caused a scandal in Sweden
: when published), Glas is in favor of
: euthanasia: "The day will come, it must
: come, when the right to die will be
: recognized as a human right, much more
: important and inalienable than the right to
: cast a vote on a ballot", and so he
: keeps cyanide pills at hand.
: Something that sets this love triangle apart
: from most other novels about adultery is
: that the triangle exists only in Glas's
: head: it is never consummated. Helga loves
: another man, a younger, handsomer, more
: successful guy. His actions, therefore, are
: more purely altruistic, since he never
: really expects to have sex or be loved with
: Helga. It is a service to humanity, in his
: Glas says his story is not about love, but
: about "the dream of love". As in
: tEotA, this is struggle against God, but
: not, in this case, an internal struggle, but
: an external fight against the hypocrisy of
: the pastor.
: What lies behind Glas's anguished
: conscience? He gives a strong clue himself:
: a cruel, repressive, harsh Father whose
: shadow is always over his life. He regrets
: not being an artist and seems to deny
: himself the possibility of happiness:
: "There is no dream of happiness that
: doesn't bite its own tail". His
: condition doesn't escape the acute insight
: of his friend (and wonderful character)
: Markel, who says: "There are people
: without a gift for happiness. Such persons
: don't look for happiness: they only try to
: put some form and style into their
: unhappiness. Glas is one of them".
: Glas longs for love, but he doesn't know how
: to get it, and it hurts: "Nothing so
: reduces and degrades a human being as the
: conscience of not being loved". And it
: is surely true, painfully and universally
: true. "The world is unkind to those who
: Transgressive even today, audacious, fierce
: and with a very Scandinavian sense of humor;
: bitter and melancholy, but ingenious, this
: novel is a masterful psychological
: portrait, a Dostoevskian thriller, tense and
: gripping, and it is justly considered a
: classic of Swedish letters.
: It is also a wonderful description of
: Stockholm, a city I would love to visit.
: I eagerly await Sterling's psychiatric
: insight and Joffre's existential comments on
: this work.
« Back to index