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A Life

Sue Prideaux

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A mesmerizing account of the chaotic life and brilliant work of a playwright whose influence is undiminished 100 years after his death

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 humor 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.

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.

"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, The Spectator


“[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, The Sunday Times

“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, The Sunday Telegraph

“… [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, The Daily Telegraph

“…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, The Tablet

“…[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, Literary Review

“… [An] exhaustingly researched biography…and a deft piece of detective work.”—David Stenhouse, Scotland on Sunday

“… [This] unstable genius is brought to book in this fine study.”—The Sunday Times (Culture)

“Prideaux’s biography [of Strindberg] . . .  is lavishly illustrated and reasonably priced and efficiently narrates the complex life in 308 pages.”—Jeffrey Meyers, Booklist

“[Prideaux] is adept at linking Strindberg’s work to his life—especially his volatile love affairs.”—New Yorker

“In her rich Strindberg: A Life . . . Ms. Prideaux memorably captures not only the turbulent intellectual atmosphere of the period but also its legacy for later eras.”—Henrik Bering, Wall Street Journal

“Beautifully produced . . . Prideaux does an excellent job of locating Strindberg in his period . . . A must-read for fans of Strindberg, Prideaux's tome is substantial and interesting enough to please anyone looking for a great bio.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A lively, enlightening, at times thrilling life of an extraordinary artist.”—John Banville, New York Review of Books

“Insightful, compelling, [and] comprehensive.”—H. I. Einsohn, Choice

"A meticulously researched and beautifully written account of the dramatist’s turbulent life."—Antony Beevor, Mail on Sunday

"Fascinating and beautifully written."—Antony Beevor. The Sunday Telegraph

"A gripping tale, well told… Prideaux’s very readable biography of Strindberg is a welcome introduction to the man and his works for English-speaking readers."—Lynn R. Wilkinson, Art Newspaper
“Sue Prideaux’s achievement is to restore Strindberg’s humanity, showing the vivisectionist of extreme emotion as a kind and humorous man. She is not an apologist for the crueller consequences of his chaotic personal life, instead she calmly sets out the pain he caused alongside his creative achievement.”—Ruth Scurr, The Guardian

Winner, 2012 Duff Cooper Prize.

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2012 for Germanic within the Humanities category.
ISBN: 9780300198065
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
352 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
20 color + 50 b/w illus.
Edvard Munch

Behind the Scream
New Edition

Sue Prideaux

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