On June 1, 1945, just after the end of World War II, Strindbergssällskapet/the Strindberg Society was founded,making it one of the oldest literary societies in Sweden. The ground had been prepared even earlier; soon after Strindberg’s death a group of friends and colleagues headed by physics professor Vilhelm Carlheim-Gyllensköld and the artists Richard Bergh and Karl Nordström founded
the Strindberg Archive to collect and organize Strindberg’s literary legacy.
The men behind Strindbergssällskapet/the Strindberg Society were Professor Martin Lamm and Fredrik Ström, President of Sveriges författareförening (the Swedish Writers’ Union) and former Editor-in-Chief of Socialdemokraten. They invited a group of men to a preliminary meeting at City Hall on April 20, 1945. The group consisted of Professor Walter A. Berendsohn, Commissioner of Finance Zeth ”Zäta” Höglund, National Librarian Oscar Wieselgren, the Archivist of Nordiska Museet Arvid Bæckström, Professor Knut Lundmark, Editor Yngve Hedvall, fil. lic. (licentiate of Philosophy) Torsten Eklund och docent (PhD holding additional research and teaching qualifications) Gunnar Ollén. The latter three were assigned to to write a charter, program, and a public appeal. Gunnar Ollén, who became the chair of the committee, has provided parts of the speech with which he began the first meeting.
The premise of the Society would be that that Strindberg in many respects must be seen as our nation’s greatest literary genius, but that his work has not yet recieved the public recognition they deserve. The purpose of the Society would be summarized thus: the promotion of the life and works of Strindberg [...]
Strindberg’s letters, exeedingly valuable, entertaining, and revealing of contemporary society, are mostly unpublished. Rectifying this situation would be a primary objective of the Society. A medium term assignment would also be to organize a worthy celebration of the centennial of Strindberg’s birth, occuring on January 22, 1949.
Gunnar Ollén was the first President of the Society and remained in his position until 1954, when he was succeeded by Torsten Eklund. The board also consisted of Torsten Eklund as secretary, Professor Henry Olsson as vice President and Eric Ahlström as Treasurer. Additional board members were Fredrik Ström, Martin Lamm, Walter A. Berendsohn, Oscar Wieselgren, Arvid Bæckström, Yngve Hedvall, Tor Bonnier,J. Viktor Johansson, John Landquist, Olof Molander and Anders Österling. All in all, a impressive collection of the contemporary cultural elite.
Finding, organizing and publishing Strindberg’s letters, were an early priority. With the help of the City of Stockholm the first volume was published by Bonniers in 1948, with Torsten Eklund as editor. In the next 28 years he also edited the following fourteen volumes, handing over to Björn Meidal who oversaw publication of volume 16 in 1989 and following volumes (currently twenty two in total). The last two volumes, supplements, were published in 2001, fiftythree years after the beginning of the project.
The collection of press cuttings that was initiated in the early years, is also still ongoing.
Torsten Eklund became the editor of the membership newsletter, Meddelanden från Strindbergssällskapet (Messages from the Strindberg Society), that was started in 1945 together with Gunnar Ollén. Initially there was a spring and a fall issue but soon a double issue was published once a year instead.
Already in 1950 there had been discussions about the possibility of offering a more scholarly forum for Strindberg specialists, and when Gunnar Brandell suceeded Eklund as the President of Strindbergssällskapet/the Strindberg Society in 1965 he brought the issue back on the table.
At that point, there was not enough money and it was almost two decades before Lars-åke Kärnell (who became President in 1974) secured sufficient funding to replace Meddelanden with the first issue of Strindbergiana in 1985.
Johan Landquist had published Strindbergs Samlade skrifter (Strindberg’s Collected Writings) in
fiftyfive volumes between 1912 and 1921, but that edition was becoming increasingly outdated.
One person in particular was anxious to publish a new critical edition, Walter A. Berendsohn, who made a preliminary inventory of remaining manuscripts that was published in Meddelanden. Lack of funding and interest caused the project to founder, until 1972. Then a separate foundation took over the management of the Strindberg Museum at Blå tornet on Drottninggatan in Stockholm.
The foundation had been initiated by the Society in 1950, and founded in 1960, but only in 1972 was it ready to fulfill its intended role as caretaker of the Museum space and inventory (including items originally stored at Nordiska Museet). This freed up time and energy for the Society to move forward with other projects, and a new edition of the collected works was high on the list. Thanks to the efforts of, among others, Lars-åke Kärnell, Lars Dahlbäck was ready to begin exploring the ramifications of project in 1976. In 1979 Dahlbäck took on the role of main editor for August Strindbergs Samlade Verk (Strindberg’s Collected Works), called ”nationalutgåvan” (the National Edition). The first two volumes were presented in 1981 at the annual meeting of the Society; Röda rummet (The Red Room) and I vårbrytningen (At Break of Spring). After much debate and conflict the main responsibility was taken over by the University of Stockholm in 1986.
The Society came to be represented in the executive group responsible for publication by one of its boardmembers, Professor Bengt Landgren. Lars Dahlbäck remained as main editor until the end of 2008 when the position was taken over by another member of the board of the Strindberg Society, Per Stam.
The publication was concluded in 2013 with an index volume (no 72). The publication of the textual commentaries in electronic form continues and will be finished in 2016.
Over the years Strindbergssällskapet/The Strindberg Society has also published a number of individual volumes by and about Strindberg. The first text was a selection by Torsten Eklund; Före Röda rummet. Strindbergs ungdomsjournalistik, 1948, and the most recent was Forskarliv: Sex decennier med Strindberg by Gunnar Ollén (2004).
Another activity is the regularly recurring International Strindberg conference, initiated by the Society. The first meeting, ”Strindberg and Modern Theater,” was held in 1973 in Stockholm and since then symposia have been held in, among other places, Moskva, Minneapolis, Seattle, Amsterdam, Warzaw, Bonn and Strasbourg. The latest meeting, "”Strindberg Across Borders"”, was the nineteenth in the series and was held in Rome, Italy in the spring of 2014. The next conference is planned for 2017 in Krakow, Poland, with the theme "Strindberg and Western Canon".
Further information about the activities of the Society, can be found by following the links above, including a list of the recipients of the Strindberg Prize (inaugurated in 1998), membership events organized by the Society, and events by other organizers discounted for the members of the Society.
This brief history is using information mainly from the longer, personal narratives by Gunnar Ollén and Carl Olof Johansson published in Strindbergiana, volume ten, 1995: ”De första åren. Till Strindbergssällskapets 50-årsjubileum 1 juni 1995” and ”Femtio år i Strindbergs sällskap” respectively.
More information about the efforts resulting in the inauguration of the Strindberg Museum in 1960 and its later maintenance and development is available in an article by former museum curator, Anita Persson, published in Strindbergiana, volume five 1990: ”Strindbergsmuseets väg från provisorium till kulturcentrum.”
Numerous other essays about the history and activities of Strindbergssällskapet/the Strindberg Society have been published since 1945 in Meddelanden från Strindbergssällskapet and since 1985 in Strindbergiana. An complete table of contents for both Meddelanden and Strindbergiana was put together in i Strindbergiana, volume twenty 2005, the index for the latter is availably through the link Strindbergiana Index 1985-2005.
All volumes of Strindbergiana, as well as remaining copies of the publications of the Society are available through the link Available Publications.