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This is not, in fact, far from the experience of the fragile child in The Son of a Servant, or any of Strindberg’s naturalist figures. They, too, are at the mercy of the forces of society, genetics, the environment. They, too, consist not of a single identity or will but of confused and chaotic and unconscious desires, fears and misapprehensions. The protagonist in Inferno and the Unknown in To Damascus stand at the centre of a universe in which they are addressed directly, but in mysterious signs that must be interpreted, not unlike the position of the child’s evolving consciousness in the autobiography.

001 Cambridge Companions Online © Cambridge University Press, 2013 linda haverty rugg and stream-of-consciousness narration. In the later stages of his authorship, particularly, he sets the stage for modernism. In Thomas Mann’s words: As poet, thinker, prophet, and originator of a new world of feeling, Strindberg is so far advanced that even today [a half-century later] his work does not seem in the least exhausted. Standing outside and above schools and movements, he unites them all. A Naturalist as well as a neo-Romantic, he anticipates Expressionism, making the entire generation working under that name indebted to him.

Indeed, Inferno (1897) ranks as perhaps the most compelling act of self-dramatization in Strindberg’s œuvre. Drawing on Dante’s Inferno and Emanuel Swedenborg’s mystical theology, Strindberg’s protagonist wanders the streets of Paris with a growing awareness that he is being guided, punished, inspired, threatened and chosen – by unseen Powers that speak to him through street signs, cloud formations, the words and actions of strangers, snatches of music overheard, a chance piece of paper dropped on the sidewalk.

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