The Red Room
(Written by August Strindberg, 1897)
Swedish author and playwright Augustus Strindberg’s 1879 Stockholm satire Röda rummet (The Red Room) is the newest entry into the digital vaults of our ever-expanding radical underground library! Considered Sweden’s first Modernist, Strindberg fastidiously details the hypocrisy and lunacy of a modernizing world and the inherent corruption that was already becoming normalized decades before the turn of the twentieth century. Through the idealist young protagonist Arvid Falk — drawing heavily on Strindberg’s own life —, the reader follows the soul-sucking nature of bureaucratic work before Falk quits his job, realizing that he has rendered his life meaningless with menial busy-work. Becoming a writer and journalist, Falk starts to collaborate with a fringe-thinking group of bohemians who meet regularly in a local red-walled club to discuss artistic and philosophical matters and drive down on the question of “how should one lead their life?”. Falk becomes increasingly disgruntled at the prospect that art and scripture are nonetheless bought like most other commodities, which leads him to conclude that almost all of Stockholm’s society is fraudulent. Through this lens, Strindberg viciously and mockingly condemns his hometown and the religious and governmental structures operating therein, resulting in a controversial text that was originally lampooned upon its release, being labeled as, according to one review, “dirt”. In fact, a few years later, Strindberg was tried — and thankfully acquitted — on charges of blasphemy for his atheistic stance and criticisms of wealth inequality and Capitalism.