Bergman, Hjalmar

(1883-1931)
   A Swedish novelist and playwright, Bergman was strongly influenced by Freudianism and wrote with great psychological insight but with a very pessimistic view of life. Most of his novels take place in the district of Bergslagen in the middle of Sweden. Born in the town of Orebro, Bergman knew the area well. Orebro is the model for his fictional town Wadkoping, the setting for some of his most important works.
   Bergman came from a well-to-do family and, until the death of his father in 1915, was able to devote himself entirely to writing with little thought to his financial life. After a series of novels that give little indication he was to become one of Sweden's most significant modernists, Hans nåds testamente (1910; tr. The Baron's Will, 1968) appeared. Set in Bergslagen, it is both a funny story of complex family relationships and a tale of rather irrational behavior, with an emphasis on the absurdity of existence. Vi Bookar, Krokar och Rothar (1912; We Books, Kroks, and Roths) is a story about the financial machinations of those well off and the sufferings of those who are not.
   The modernist concern with the role of the artist comes to the fore in Loewenhistorier (1913; Loewen Stories). Bergman's pessimism is reflected by En dods memoarer (1918; The Memoirs of a Dead Man), in which the anti-realism of modernist prose is a major feature of the text. Artistically successful, it was less commercially so than the novel Markurells i Wadkoping (1919; tr. God's Orchid, 1924), in which a story of both financial ruin and personal heartache is told with great hilarity. Its controlling protagonist, Markurell, is a reflection of Bergman's parents, and is similar to such figures as the title character in Herr von Hancken (1920; Mr. von Hancken) and the matriarch in Farmor och Var Herre (1921; tr. Thy Rod and Thy Staff, 1937), who is brought to realize that what she thought of as her love was really attempts to control the behavior of her children. In Chefen Fru Ingeborg (1924; tr. The Head ofthe Firm, 1936) sexual jealousy is added to the protagonist's wish to dominate, as Ingeborg discovers that she has fallen in love with her future son-in-law. Bergman's last novel, Clownen Jac (1930; tr. Jac the Clown, 1995), is the author's pessimistic commentary on his own situation as a writer. The artist cannot be honest with the audience, which demands deception and lies in the name of entertainment.
   Bergman wrote a number of dramas and screenplays, for many years as a collaborator with the great movie director Victor Sjostrom. The three plays that make up Komedier i Bergslagen (1914-1916; Bergslagen Comedies) were well received. He also published a series of dramas that tend toward expressionism, of which Herr Sleeman kommer (1917; tr. Mr. Sleeman Is Coming, 1944) bears special mention.
   See also Theater.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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