“As a bridge builder, I am fascinated by the solutions to three main problems: First, there is the problem of connection. I hope to be able to break my own isolation by having one support secured within myself; the other will be found within those people to whom I turn for solace. Secondly, there is the problem of construction, to create the suspension, the artistic problem. I want to test the powers of my talent. A talent that I am condemned to constantly question, except in those rare moments when I rise far above my own confusion and seem to gleam an arc, far more daring that I ever hoped for. Finally, there is the problem of the setting. I want to offer a panorama of a body of water, until now unknown, but one that I believe is worthy of a bird’s eye view. “ – Stig Dagerman from Essäer och andra texter (translation by Lo Dagerman)
This credo of Dagerman’s opens Lotta Lotass’ book about his writing (Freedom Conveyed, 2002). She writes: 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 aware-ness of one’s own and others’ situation and to indicate ways to change it. The purpose of the communication, and which will decide its value, is its ability to change and liberate.
Dagerman’s yearning for liberation, initially in political terms then increasingly more of a psychological nature, drives him to write. Striving to keep emotionally open and vulnerable as he creates, Dagerman’s texts often bring him and the reader into complex, anxiety-ridden territory. This brought him many critics during his lifetime: not only was his writing not seen as being uplifting, supporting a striving toward happiness and harmony in sheltered postwar Sweden, but his texts were also perceived as difficult to understand.
Dagerman raged against this harmony-ideal and an unwillingness to look at the human condition in the wake of World War II: “By understood you mean that a reader should be able to grasp it without any strain of thought, similarly to a piece of advertisement or a neon commercial. “ “It has been shown, unfortunately, that quiet contentment has a certain tendency to degenerate into belching and over-eating. And in a world full of happiness-seeking belchers, the most important thing of all may be a sense of being torn apart and the ability to feel fear. That’s why I want to pull down all the chicken-wire put up around our fear, open up the gates for the snakes in the snake sanctuaries, and put broken glass in the bathtubs of all those who claim to have sought and found contentment, because theirs is a cruel occupation in a world where there are so many abandoned people. “ – Stig Dagerman from The Snake