Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Stockholm Archipelago

This month we spent a week in and around Stockholm.  I took the photograph here from a boat, although we actually spent most of our time in the city rather than exploring the archipelago.  We saw summer houses along the shorelines and shiny white boats with healthy-looking active people on board, but sometimes it felt more like a vast park than the kind of landscape I'd imagined from Strindberg.  We probably needed to get further away, as the narrator says in this passage from Hjalmar Söderberg's brilliant novel Doctor Glas (1905).   In his view the Stockholm Archipelago is overrated...
'A mincemeat landscape, all chopped up.  Little islands, little waterways, little rocky knolls and wretched little trees.  A pale and poverty-stricken landscape, cold colours, mostly grey and blue, and yet not poor enough to have the grandeur of true desolation.  When I hear people praise the archipelago’s natural beauties I always suspect them of having quite other things in mind and on closer examination this suspicion is always confirmed.  One person thinks of the fresh air and fine bathing, another of his sailing boat, a third of the perch-fishing, yet for them all this falls under the rubric of natural beauty.  The other day I was talking to a young girl who was in love with the archipelago but, as our conversation proceeded, it transpired that in point of fact she was thinking of sunsets; possibly also of a student.  She forgot that the sun sets everywhere and that students are mobile.  I do not believe I am wholly insensitive to natural beauty, but for that I must go further afield, to Lake Vättern or Skåne, or else to the sea.  But I rarely have time, and within a radius of twenty or thirty miles of Stockholm I have never seen a landscape to compare with Stockholm itself – with Djurgården or Haga or the pavement overlooking the Stream, outside the Grand.'

The Grand Hotel, Stockholm, in 1901.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The 'Stream' is Paul Britten Austin's translation of the Strøm, the waters of Saltsjön at the centre of Stockholm.

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