The keyword in Stig Dagerman’s writing is freedom. Man’s freedom and his ability to attain it is the recurrent theme in both his critical and fictional work. In Dagerman’s poetics, the author’s task is clear; to exercise critical analysis, to scrutinize the conditions of human existence, and thereby, ideally, make man (the reader) aware and, eventually, free.
At the center of Dagerman’s aesthetics lie conveyance and communication. The concern is to communicate to the reader an attitude towards one’s own existence and towards the world at large. The challenge lies in connecting the text with the reader and, by means of an active dialogue, effect critical thinking and an awareness of one’s own and others’ situation and to indicate ways to change it. The purpose of the communication, and that which will decide its value, is its ability to change and liberate. This becomes the touchstone of literature.
This preoccupation with the reader’s incorporation with the text results in what may be called ‘the aesthetics of the unspoken’. Empty spaces are left to the reader. The form of the work becomes more complex. The reader cannot simply ‘listen to’ the text, since the reading presupposes activation in the acquisition. Thereby the communication is rendered even more effective—the reader is made actively involved.
As regards both a renewal of content and form, the ‘turning point’ in Dagerman’s work is to be found in the novel Bröllopsbesvär (Wedding Worries) (1949). The reader is here drawn into the work by a virtue of a complexity of form and a use of an ‘involving’ aesthetics; new faith in life is etched out using techniques reasonably new to Dagerman’s work. Offence, alienation and surrealism become new elements in a tale related with the mystery play and the grotesque. The expected answer to the text assumes the guise of an attitude to life based on loving one’s neighbor and with freedom as the goal.
In the first section of the dissertation, Dagerman’s critical as well as fictional work are outlined against a background of the contemporary critical and philosophical currents and debates and in the light of how his fictional writing was received. Some of the fundamental issues of his work are presented and the gradual shift towards an absurdist philosophy is outlined. In the second section of the dissertation, the ever greater demands on the involvement of the reader are discussed through an analysis of the novel Bröllopsbesvär. In the third and final section of the dissertation, a number of key texts from Dagerman’s later writings are studied more briefly. It is shown how, in a continuous renewal of the forms of discussion, freedom continues to be the basis of Dagerman’s work.
Lotass, Lotta. Freedom Conveyed. Studies in the writings of Stig Dagerman. 271 pp. ISBN 91-86270-77x.