Saturday, 7 December 2013

The beauty of crayfish

The beauty of crayfish

Strindberg enjoyed his food and drink, and to him eating his favourite food was a truly sensual experience.I recently came across one of Strindberg’s short pieces about food, which I translated some years ago and I think it is a good example of his passion for certain foods.


‘At half past eight, on the dot, one winter evening, he is standing by the door in the glass porch of the restaurant. While pulling off his gloves with mathematical precision, he peers above his misted up glasses, first to the right, then to the left to see if any of his acquaintances are there. Then he hangs up his overcoat on his hook, the one to the right of the stove. The waiter, Gustav, his former pupil, has brushed the crumbs off his table, stirred the mustard in the jar, raked the salt basin and, unprompted, unfolded the napkin. Then he fetches a bottle of Medhamra, still without having received any order, pours half a pint of Försoningens, hands over the menu for the sake of appearances and utters, more like a formality than a question: ‘Crayfish.’

‘Female crayfish?’ asks the schoolmaster.

‘Big female crayfish,’ answers Gustav and walks over to the kitchen hatch and calls out:’Big female crayfish for the schoolmaster, and a lot of dill!’

Then he gets a tray of butter and cheese, cuts two slices of black bread and puts it on the schoolmaster’s table. The latter has raided the porch for evening papers but has only managed to get hold of Posttidningen. As a substitute he picks up the Dagbladet which he did not have time to read earlier, then he places the Dagbladet on his chair, sits on it, turns the Posttidningen inside out and places it to the left, on top of the bread basket. Then he spreads some geometrical butter figures on the black bread, cuts s rectangle out of the Swiss cheese, fills his akvavit glass to three quarters and holds it up to his mouth; at this stage he pauses as if hesitating before taking his medicine, throws his head back and says:’Huh!’ That is what he has done for twelve years and that is what he will carrying on doing until he dies.

When the crayfish, all six of them, arrive he examines their gender and having found nothing objectionable about them, he begins the pleasurable procedure. The napkin gets tucked under the loose collar, two open sandwiches with cheese are being placed on guard beside the plate and then he pours himself a glass of beer and half a glass of akvavit. After that he picks up the little crayfish knife and starts the slaughter. There is no one else in Sweden who knows how to eat crayfish like him. First he makes a cut around the head of the crayfish and when he has put the hole to his mouth he sucks.

‘That is the best of all,’ he says. Then he loosens the thorax from the lower part, draws his sword, as he calls it, digs his teeth into the carcass and sucks in deeply; whereupon he pulls the little legs as if they were asparagus. Afterwards he eats a sprig of dill, takes a swig of beer and takes a bite out of the sandwich. When he has peeled the claws carefully and sucked the finest legs he consumes the meat and moves on to the tail. After three crayfish he drinks another glass of akvavit and studies the appointments in Posttidningen. That is what he has done for twelve years and that is what he will always keep doing.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

A Blue Book, like a modern day blog.

In 1906 Strindberg started work on a book that was to occupy him practically up to his death in 1912. It ran to more than 1000 pages and is a kind of diary where he broods over the existence of God, the meaning of life and where he also feels free to jot down some scathing portraits of friends and acquaintances. The book was called En blå bok, A Blue Book.

A few months after he had started on it he wrote to Carl Larsson, the painter: ‘This summer I have solved once and for all the question of religion, in 300 pages which will never be published. Now I feel anchored and I shall quote Luther who said that neither the pope in Rome nor the Devil in Hell is going to lure me onto some new philosophical currents.’

He dedicated the book to the 18th century Swedish philosopher and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, who had spent much of his life in England and who had died in London where his ashes were buried in the Swedish cemetery. As Strindberg was writing the first volume of En blå bok Swedenborg’s ashes were being brought to Sweden with great ceremony.

In A Blue Book Strindberg also set out to prove that all languages originated from one world language and God had given Man that original language. Some fanciful articles about linguistics make up a large part of the later volumes of En blå bok. But in the end the book spans the whole human experience, or Strindberg’s life experience at least. In 1906 he was living alone and recapturing the years of marriage and bachelorhood. Under the heading ‘The Most Secret’ he wrote:

‘Some years ago a young man came up to me, asking for advice in sexual matters. My answer was and remains: I know nothing about it. Experience has given me so many contradictory answers that I can’t have an opinion in the matter. But about love I know something and the cardinal points are: Don’t play with love. Don’t look at another man’s wife. Be faithful to your spouse.

In marriage it is very tricky. Sometimes it is supposed to be one way, sometimes another. Sometimes you have to pay a price for your virtue, other times for your transgressions.

I have lived as a married man and as a celibate. Afterwards I thought it was equally good, but while it was happening both states were just as difficult. The marriage tied me to the ground so that it felt as if I would never be free, the celibate state gave me freedom which I could use and which emanated in a suicidal mania – which I believe to be the reverse side of the creative force.

But to the ordinary man marriage is necessary. It offers interest in life, keeps your spirits up, creates warmth around you and keeps your egotism in check. It is a tough school which leaves beautiful memories behind, even if, at times, it was very ugly.

People should not analyse and judge each other when it comes to the hidden erotic aspect of life. One person was born with a greater need for reproduction than someone else. There is no scale. And nature is best at getting it right.’

Strindberg’s various entries or posts in this mammoth book are, on the whole, the size of a normal blog. As in so many other areas he was obviously before his time. He would have been a keen blogger.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Strindberg and religion

Strindberg and religion

Was Strindberg religious? Yes and no and yes! That is, like practically all Swedish citizens at that time he was brought up in the Lutheran faith. The church and the state were not separated until the year 2000, we had our Church of Sweden, like England still has its CofE. Right up until the late 1950s all schoolchildren had a religious morning assembly and about six hours of religious instruction a week. That would include comparative religious studies as well, as you got older. The result was that you knew the stories from the Old Testament, you knew your catechism and the basics, at least, of the New Testament. That, in turn, meant that you could relate to the classics, you could spot the allusions to the Bible and you had a foundation on which to stand on when it came to education.

Many writers, including Strindberg rebelled against Christianity and the power of the Church at the end of the 19th century. Working class people often felt marginalised and discriminated against by the church.

Strindberg went through an atheistic phase in the eighties. It went hand in hand with anti-Establishment ideas and a radical outlook. This didn’t stop him from baptizing his children, however, although his keen criticism of the church was very apparent in his play The Father.
After two failed marriages he was living in Paris when, in the mid 1890s he went through a religious crisis, which he later called his Inferno, and after that he called himself a Christian again.

His second wife, Frida Uhl, had been a non-practising Catholic but her family were all devout Catholics and Strindberg was deeply influenced by them, even after the break-up from Frida.

‘I am not a Catholic,’ he wrote in his essay ‘Religion’, published in Stridsskrifter, ‘but after spending seven years in Catholic countries and having Catholic relations I discovered that the difference between the Catholic and the Protestant doctrine is non-existent, or simply superficial; and that the break that happened once (The Reformation) was simply political or it may have been about theological issues that don’t really adhere to religion. Hence my tolerance towards Catholicism, especially in Gustav Adolf (a History play).’

He blames Darwinism for a general feeling of hopelessness. He cites the preposterous unfair idea that the stronger should be eligible for supreme power merely because of his strength. He sees the evil of capitalism as a direct result of this teaching. ‘Everything that is contrary to charity, compassion, fairness are the consequences of Darwinism.’

He goes on to say that Darwinism is the philosophy of the upper classes, it is conservative, anti-people, the opposite of socialism.

Strindberg claimed that without religion there is no honour, no faith, no sacrifice. People can’t trust each other because they are without faith. That is the victory of science over compassion.

Strindberg was not a church-goer, at least not while he was living in Sweden, but he knew his Bible and he read it and quoted from it throughout his life. He preferred the stern God of the Old Testament to the meek Saviour of the New Testament, but his Chamber plays which were written towards the end of his life all have a Christian message.

Strindberg battled with his God, as with everything else, but after his Inferno period in Paris he announced that from 1896 he considered himself a Christian.

When he died he had the Bible on his bedside table and he had given instructions about his grave where he wanted a simple wooden cross raised, with the inscription: Ave crux, spes unica. Hail the cross, my only hope.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Strindberg, the Berliner

One of the most popular meeting  places in Berlin in the 1890s was a wine cellar called 'Turkes', better known as 'Zum Schwarzen Ferkel', a name that Strindberg invented in reference to the sign above the door. 'The Ferkel' functioned as a delicatessen and off licence, with a couple of rooms set aside for customers who wanted to drink on the premises. The landlord, Gustav Turke, was said to have kept 900 varieties of liquor in stock. Strindberg was a frequent visitor and quickly gained a reputation as a prodigious drinker. He would also entertain the company by playing the guitar and singing songs that he had composed himself.
The 'Ferkel's' popularity may have had something to do with the fact that Herr Turke offered his customers generous credit and would sometimes take a work of art in lieu of payment. He accepted one of Stridnberg's paintings and promptly displayed it on the wall of the bar for many years.
The bohemian set gathered at the 'Ferkel' was headed by the temperamental Polish writer and womanizer Stanislaw Przybyszewski and the German poet Richard Dehmel, known as the 'wild man'.
Other writers in the circle included Adolf Paul and Karl August Tavastjerna from Finland and Holger Drachmann from Denmark. It was here that Strindberg first met the Norwegian painters Edvard Munch and Christian Krogh. Munch was another  'wild man' and just before he met Strindberg he had had an exhibition in Kristiania (Oslo) that had been forced to close because his avant-garde paintings had so shocked the visitors. Berliners were similarly shocked when the exhibition opened in their city but at least the authorities were tolerant enough to keep it open.
Munch encouraged Strindberg to paint and  became an important influence in his life.
Both Krogh and Munch painted portraits of Strindberg during this period. Ibsen bought Krogh's painting at an exhibition in 1895. 'It is really a portrait of Strindberg,' he wrote to his wife, Suzannah, 'but Sigurd calls it 'The Revolution' and I call it 'Madness Breaking Out.'
When Strindberg died Munch gave his portrait, which he had never sold, to the
Swedish Mational Museum. 'To be honest,' he wrote to them at the time, 'it feels empty in the room where Strindberg has been hanging for twenty years. To me, the picture is the incarnation of those two remarkable years in Berlin.'

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Translating the untranslatable

When it comes to translation it is not always words and phrases which cause the biggest problems, but a cultural concept. I have yet to see a satisfactory rendering of Midsummer Eve in an English production of Fröken Julie, for instance.

Still, it is quite clearly stated in the script how Strindberg intended the scene. The peasants enter the kitchen, sing an ambiguous - but not obscene - song, dance around and leave.

Clearly, this pagan festival has given rise to all kinds of sexual fantasies when English directors have staged the play. Why is that, I wonder? Where do the huge phallus symbols come from, where the simulated sex scenes in the kitchen? ‘Peasants shag like rabbits, don’t they’, seem to be the general assumption.

I have shown my students these particular scenes from various English TV productions and compared them with Alf Sjöberg’s film from the 1950s and the students are invariably shocked and annoyed at the misrepresentation of Strindberg and can’t understand why the directors have chosen this coarse interpretation.

But what do you do when you have to translate something quintessentially Swedish as Midsummer, Lucia celebrations - and Walpurgis night with its bonfires, singing and undergraduates’ white caps. And the yearning for the countryside or the sea from the month of May onwards is a fever with no recognizable equivalent in England.

When Strindberg refers to autumn already in August it is hard for most Europeans to understand why, since August often is the main summer holiday month south of Scandinavia. But keep in mind that Swedish children go back to school after the middle of August when daylight hours are shrinking fast and you realise that the arrival of the lamplighter at that time, as in Strindberg’s Thunder in the air (Oväder) really means that the first signs of autumn have appeared. All this is very difficult to put across to any audience south of the Baltic. August - autumn? August, the foremost holiday month?

Another concept which is practically untranslatable is ‘innanfönster’ which is a very important word in Strindberg’s The Father. Double glazing and secondary glazing conjure up quite different ideas. What Strindberg is referring to is the extra windows that you can hook onto the window frames on the inside and keep in place for the length of the winter months. They helped to keep the cold out and the heat in before the days of universal double glazing. Taking them away in the spring became a symbolic act of saying farewell to winter. You could then open the window again and let in the air, sounds and scents of spring. Because spring had, indeed, arrived.

When Bertha in The Father makes her strong and passionate statement about her father by saying that when he comes home it is like taking away the inner windows on a spring morning, it is a beautiful and moving declaration of love - but it is untranslatable. If we use words like double glazing or secondary glazing they would refer to a 1960s suburban middle-class home. And that misses the point completely. So, as a translator, you have to find another expression, another way of putting Strindberg’s message across. It is not always easy or possible. As George Barrow, the English 19th century linguist, put it:’Translation is at best an echo.’

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Strindberg's revolutionary play

Mäster Olof

My first encounter with Strindberg on stage was at Gothenburg Civic Theatre in 1958. They were showing Mäster Olof - which is translated as Master Olof but I would prefer to call it Father Olof, since it is about a monk who breaks away from the Catholic church and follows in Luther’s footsteps.
It is a play which has been revised endlessly and Strindberg wrote three different versions of it. The prose version, which is perhaps considered the best, was finished in 1872. Two years later he wrote another version which is partly in verse, and in 1876 he finished the verse drama on the same character. It took nine years before the play was produced on stage in Sweden. The cast list is huge and I can understand why foreign companies shy away from a production for that reason, but it is fascinating play of ideas in Ibsen’s and Schiller’s vein, and it works on two levels. On the one hand it is a play about the priest Olof who studied under Martin Luther in Germany and who returned to Sweden in 1518 with revolutionary ideas about the church. He wanted to fight ‘the spiritual death and corruption in the Catholic church’. With the help of the king, Gustav Vasa, he brought about the Reformation in Sweden. At the time when Strindberg started work on this play there was another strong movement gathering momentum in Europe and, undoubtedly, Strindberg was referring to the rise of Socialism in Mäster Olof. Like Luther, Olof falls in love with a nun and marries her, thus breaking the law of celibacy. Olof’s wife, Kristina, is portrayed as an unusually gentle and yet strong woman. She stands by her husband, but at the same time, she points out the importance of appreciating flowers and birds. The lofty ideals must not eradicate the real values in life. She represents a kind of Francis of Assisi in her naivety and all-embracing love.

Are you too grand to look at a flower or listen to a bird? Olof, I put the flowers on your table for you to rest your eyes on , but you ask the maid to take them away because they give you a headache, you say. I wanted to break the silence when you were engrossed in your work so I offered you birdsong, but you call it shrieking. I asked you to come in for dinner a short while ago, but you didn’t have time. I wanted to talk to you, but you don’t have time. You despise this small reality and yet you have placed me in it. You don’t want to elevate me, but then spare me your contempt at least. I shall remove everything that might disturb your thoughts. I shall leave you in peace and keep myself and my rubbish away from you. (She throws the flowers out of the window, takes the birdcage and is about to leave the room)
Kristina, my child, forgive me! You don’t understand!

The play lasts for six hours if performed in its entirety. It took Dramaten another nine years before they put it on. They chose the verse play. In 1887 while the Strindbergs were living in southern Germany August asked his brother Axel to sell the original manuscript. It brought in a much needed 500 kronor and Strindberg wrote to his brother in a desperate but jocular tone:
‘Well, now I have sold everything that can be sold. The only thing remaining is my corpse (and above all the skull) which I donate to Medical Science.’
But soon after he sat down to write his most popular novel, The People of Hemsö, which became a huge success.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Strindberg and Music

Strindberg and Music

Strindberg came from a musical family. Two of his siblings. Axel and Anna, became professional musicians although his sister gave up her career when she married Hugo von Philp. Axel later set to music several of August’s poems and was the key player during the so-called Beethoven evenings towards the end of his life when a group of friends gathered in his apartment at Drottninggatan to play music and enjoy a late supper.
 Strindberg did not have any formal musical training, unlike the rest of his siblings, but he managed to teach himself to play several instruments:  piano, flute, mandolin, guitar, cornet.
During his many travels he would bring his guitar and sing at social gatherings.
While he was still living at home his favourite composers were Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart. Later on, while he was living in Berlin at the beginning of the 1890’s he also came to love Chopin and Schumann  who were introduced to him through the Polish writer and amateur musician Prsybyszewski. Schumann’s rousing piece, Aufschwung, became a favourite of his. 
During his more melancholy years in Paris leading up to his ‘Inferno crisis’ music became his greatest comfort and one of his friends has told us how Strindberg used to visit another Swedish expat, fru Sophie Kjellberg, who lived in Montparnasse. She would play Bach, Grieg and Sinding for him and often Strindberg would turn up before Sophie had cleared away the dishes after dinner. Strindberg was so keen to start the musical enjoyment that he would volunteer to dry the dishes to speed up proceedings. Algot Ruhe writes: ‘He sat on a wicker chair without a back rest in the middle of the floor and undertook his chosen task under bizarre monologues. When it was all done, fru Kjellberg went over to her pianino which almost occupied the whole of one of the small rooms. On the other side of the wall, behind the pianino, there was a small sofa and in the corner of that sofa Strindberg would sit for hours, alone in the dark, listening to the music.’
As soon as he had put down roots in Stockholm again in 1899 Strindberg hired a piano and started his ‘Beethoven evenings’ which continued until a few months before his death in 1912.
Even though his brother Axel and his new friend Tor Aulin, the composer, tried to introduce him to different composers Strindberg was not very keen on Brahms and he hated Wagner whom he called ‘the musical representative of Evil’.  The music should be emotional, passionate, stirring. Purely romantic music did not cut any ice with Strindberg.
Music plays an important role in Strindberg’s later dramatic works. In fact, The Chamber Plays have borrowed their title and format from chamber music. It is significant that all his wives and his last love, Fanny Falkner, were very good pianists. After the divorce from Harriet he asked his sister, Anna, to come and play for him. Music had a soothing and healing effect on Strindberg. It was almost a religious feeling. When Tor Aulin and Axel three months before Strindberg’s death  played The Eroica and Schumann’s third symphony for him, Strindberg commented on that evening in a birthday card to Aulin  with immense gratitude:  ‘From Saul to David’.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Strindberg and others: Strindberg raped

Strindberg and others: Strindberg raped: Mies Julie I have just been to see the much praised South African production of Mies Julie, set in a desolate farmland district in Sou...

Strindberg raped

Mies Julie

I have just been to see the much praised South African production of Mies Julie, set in a desolate farmland district in South Africa with a black John and a white Julie. Christine is John’s mother in this production and there is also an old woman with her face painted white, walking around and making some exotic Xhosa sounds with an instrument similar to a mouth organ. She represents ‘Ancestor’.
The bare stage, apart from a rather tatty kitchen table and chairs, a bucket and a whole row of dirty wellies lined up at the back, invoked an unglamorous hard-working farm.
Hilda Cronje, who plays Julie, circles around John and Christine, at a loss what to do, angry, dishevelled even from the beginning of the play and gives the impression of a cat on heat.
The plot has been adapted to suit South African circumstances and the resentment between John and Julie  works very well, but the director - who also calls herself the writer of this piece - has done away with all subtleties, which means that the flirtatious scenes at the beginning of the play are gone and the eroticism has been replaced by brute force. The simulated rape scene, which took place in front of the audience, was almost unbearable to watch. After that drawn-out violent scene Julie puts her hand on her crutch and produces a bloody hand which is supposed to indicate that she was a virgin. She spits in John’s face, he handles her physically like a slave and she brandishes a sickle which she finally uses in order to miscarry.
I walked away thinking Strindberg had been raped as well. Everything except the violence had been peeled away and what was left was a brutal, unsubtle, but maybe truthful picture of South Africa during and after Apartheid. I doubt that Strindberg would have approved, though, but, on the other hand, it is remarkable that this play still manages to engage and shock. I think where it failed, as far as I am concerned, is that Julie was never the lady in this production. She looked like a wayward child, picked up from the gutter. The problem with that is that she had nowhere to go. There was no real fall. The count was never a threat either. His riding boots with spurs had been abandoned and John was polishing some sturdy shoes instead. No bell announced the count’s arrival at the end and that, in turn, meant that there was no urgency to get away or commit suicide. Here, Julie produced a bucket full of  ‘blood’ when she stuck her sickle up her vagina. To underline the message Christine then turns up with a bucket of blood as well which she pours into the drain. Julie’s dog had also miscarried.
The production was very bleak, and black and white in more than one sense.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Siri Strindberg as a budding actress

When practical obstacles or family problems stand in the way for my writing 
I often think about the Herculean task that Siri von Essen took on when she set her mind to become an actress. Everything seemed to go against her at the beginning, but she was unswerving in her determination and did not let anything stop her. With that kind of inner strength she was to become an ideal companion for Strindberg for many years to come. She has often been dismissed as a poor or not very good actress by people who have not bothered to go back to the sources, but the reviews and eyewitnesses speak a different story.

After her divorce from Baron Carl Gustaf Wrangel she took lessons from a voice coach and a drama teacher and she worked hard at eradicating her Finland-Swedish accent. Meanwhile, Sigrid, her young daughter, was ill with meningitis which developed into pneumonia. The day for Siri’s debut performance as an actress was set for 27 January 1877 and on 13 January her daughter died. On 19 January she was buried. Siri’s mother insinuated that it could be God’s punishment. Under these truly awful circumstances Siri made her long-awaited debut on the stage of The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.The newspaper Aftonbladet singled her out and wrote: ‘Mrs von Essen shows more promise than  usual for a beginner. She moves with ease and has stillness; her gestures are economical, but have the desired effect when used; her voice is clear and pleasant, although it drops in volume occasionally; it possesses a sensitive and varied expression, but you can sometimes detect a slight Finnish accent. It is so slight, though, that it could easily be eradicated with a bit of effort. Her ability to hold an animated conversation with a good sense of timing is remarkable, but she is not as successful in her exclamations or asides; her face, on the other hand, is capable of more varied expressions than many an experienced actor. That applies especially to her eyes; and her presence is graceful if somewhat weak in certain scenes.‘
The two other major morning papers, Stockholms Dagblad and  Dagens Nyheter also praised her talent and Dagens Nyheter emphasized her naturalness and beauty. All the critics seemed to agree that she moved gracefully and had a very pleasant voice. She was called in three times after the curtain call. After this initial success she was offered the lead in Charlotte Birch-Pfeisser’s play Jane Eyre. Again Siri had to battle with personal problems while preparing for a huge part. Her mother died during the run and since she was without siblings it was up to her to deal with the funeral and disperse of the contents of the family home.
Miraculously, she pulled through and was offered a one-year contract at The Royal Dramatic Theatre but when she came back after the summer break she was pregnant again, but continued working until the end of the year. Strindberg and Siri got married on 30 December and the child, who was called Kerstin, was born, on 24 January 1878 and died the same day. Kerstin was buried on 27 January and eight days later Siri was back on stage in the same role that she had been playing before Christmas. 
A few happy years followed when they both develeoped as artists and enjoyed success in their chosen fields. Eleven years Siri was to give her last professional performance as an actress in Copenhagen. Her part that time was Lady Julie.

Strindberg and Love is now available as an e-book. It is published by Amber Lane Press and sold through Amazon. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Strindberg and others: Strindberg's three foreign wives

Strindberg and others: Strindberg's three foreign wives: It is strange to think that Strindberg, who revolutionized the Swedish language, chose three wives who in different ways st...

Strindberg's three foreign wives

It is strange to think that Strindberg, who revolutionized the Swedish language, chose three wives who in different ways struggled with the language. Siri von Essen, his first wife, had grown up in Finland speaking French with her mother and Swedish with her father but since she had no formal education she never learnt to spell properly in Swedish and Strindberg often had to correct her spelling. Also, when she started working as an actress, she had a Finland-Swedish accent which was not acceptable on the Swedish stage at that time. She worked hard at trying to eradicate that accent and it is dubious whether she ever got rid of it altogether.

Frida Uhl, Strindberg’s second wife, set out to learn Swedish. She even suggested that Strindberg’s eldest daughter Karin should come and live with them in order to teach her Swedish. Frida’s letters from England in 1894 show that she made some attempts at least to pick up vocabulary but the marriage did not last long enough for her to make any serious progress. She was fluent in French and English, and German was her native tongue, so given the right circumstances she probably could have mastered Swedish well enough to translate Strindberg’s works into German, as was her intention.

Harriet Bosse, Strindberg’s third wife, was born in Norway and lived in Norway until her mid teens so when she arrived in Sweden she was told by various theatre producers that she needed to master ’King’s Swedish’ before she could hope for major parts.  When she auditioned at Dramaten the Artistic Director said that he would only employ her when she had learnt to speak like a normal person, i.e. without a Norwegian accent. Harriet spent two months with a voice coach, working intensively at her pronunciation and intonation and after that she was offered her first part at Dramaten. She continued to struggle with the language for a long time after that and complained that the Swedish language ’did not want to get into my head, which is understandable, because  I previously spoke the most beautiful language in the world.’ But Harriet was stubborn and ambitious and she felt sure that one day she would master the Swedish language and speak like a native. For a long time she conversed in Norwegian with her sisters but in the end she gave in and spoke Swedish in private as well.