Doctor Glas by Hjalmr Soderberg, Paull Britten Austin (trans.) - review by Madeleine Minson

Madeleine Minson

A Doctor Calls

Doctor Glas

By

Harvill Press 128pp £9.99 order from our bookshop
 

STOCKHOLM IN THE early twentieth century, a hot and sultry summer. Glas, a disillusioned young doctor who has already seen too much of the petty vices of the bourgeoisie, is consumed by disgust for an elderly pastor who forces himself upon his pretty wife. Gradually, he decides to take life into his own hands, and we follow Glas in his deliberations on whether he should kill Pastor Gregorius. He is driven by a desire to liberate Mrs Gregorius and a desperate longing to act in some way, but also restrained by a sense of the complexity involved in any decision: "'Want to" - well, and what does that mean? A human will is no unit; it's a synthesis of hundreds of conflicting impulses.'

Hjalmar Soderberg's Swedish classic, now reissued in a translation by Paul Britten Austin, caused a scandal when it was first published in 1905. People were shocked by its advocacy of abortion rights and euthanasia, and by its sympathy with murder, under certain circumstances - a position that remains just as

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