Short summary - Doktor Glas (Doctor Glas) - Hjalmar Söderberg

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Doktor Glas (Doctor Glas)
Hjalmar Söderberg

The novel is written in the form of the diary of Tuco licentiate of medicine Gabriel Glas. At thirty-three, he had never known a woman. He does not hide the fact that he does not tell everything about himself, but at the same time he does not prevaricate, trusting his thoughts and feelings to the diary. A diary for him is a convenient and non-committal form of detached self-observation, an activity that helps to fill the spiritual emptiness and forget about loneliness. Glas has no personal life, and he has long been disappointed in his professional activities, although in his youth the choice of the profession of a doctor was dictated by his ambitious dreams and desire to become a "friend of mankind."

From childhood, accustomed to discipline and self-restraint. Glas achieves brilliant results at school and university. Sensuality awakens in him rather slowly, and the young man early develops the habit of subjecting all his thoughts and actions to reflection. However, he soon loses all interest in acquiring purely external knowledge, and close attention to the innermost movements of the soul, enthusiastic and ardent in its own way, against the background of loneliness, which does not brighten up anyone's friendship and love, gradually leads Glas to disappointment in life and cynicism. When Voice is once again faced with the request of an unknown woman to terminate an early pregnancy, he coldly notes in his diary that this is already the eighteenth case in his practice, although he is not a gynecologist. As before, Voice resolutely refuses, citing his professional duty and respect for human life. However, the concept of duty has long meant nothing to him, Voice understands that duty is a screen that allows you to hide fatigue and indifference from others. Voice is aware that in some cases he could go to the extent of violating medical ethics in order to save the reputation of some girl, but he does not want to sacrifice his career and position in society. However, he immediately admits to himself that he is ready to take any risk for the sake of "The Real Deal". So Voice leads, in fact, a double life and, despising the bigots and hypocrites who surround him, plays the role of a respectable member of the society he hates.

Pastor Gregorius is one of those people who are especially hated by Dr. Glass. He is fifty-six years old, but he is married to a young and beautiful woman. Unexpectedly for Glas fru Helga Gregorius comes to his reception and confesses that she has a lover, and her husband is deeply disgusting to her. She has no one else to turn to for help, and she begs the Voice to convince her husband, who wants a child, not to force her to fulfill her marital duty under the pretext that she is sick and needs treatment. The voice, which is enraged by the very word "duty", this time decides to help a woman for whom he feels sincere sympathy. In a conversation with the pastor, Voice advises him to refrain from intimate relationships with his wife, since her fragile health needs careful attention. However, the pastor still seeks intimacy with her, and one day Helga again comes to an appointment with Glas and says that her husband took her by force. When the pastor complains to Glas about his heart, he uses this pretext and categorically forbids Gregorius intimate relations with his wife. However, Voice understands that this will not achieve anything. Gradually, he comes to the conclusion that he can really help Helga only if he saves her from her hated husband. Voice understands that secretly from himself he has long loved Helga, and for the sake of her happiness, he decides to kill the pastor. Subjecting to a scrupulous analysis of the motives of the act that he is going to commit. Voice comes to the conclusion that the murder of Gregorius is the very "Cause" for which he is ready to stake everything. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Glas, under the guise of a new medicine for heart pain, gives the pastor a pill with potassium cyanide to drink, and in the presence of several witnesses declares death from heart failure.

The crime gets away with Voice, but discord reigns in his soul. At night, fear begins to haunt him, and during the day he indulges in painful thoughts. He committed a crime, but nothing has changed in his life: the same blues, the same cynicism and contempt for people and for himself. However, Voice does not feel any guilt behind him, since he comes to the conclusion that he, the murderer, knows only some of the facts and circumstances of the pastor's death, but in essence, he knows no more than others: death, like life, was and remains incomprehensible, it is shrouded in mystery, everything is subject to the law of inevitability, and the chain of causality is lost in darkness. Having visited the funeral mass, Glas goes to the Finnish bath, meets friends there and goes to a restaurant with them. He feels renewed and rejuvenated, as if he had recovered from a serious illness: everything that happened seems to him an obsession. But his high spirits are again replaced by despondency and longing when he learns that Klas Rekke, Helga's lover, is going to marry Miss Levinson, who, after the death of her father, a stockbroker, inherited half a million. The voice sincerely regrets Helga, who has gained freedom, but will soon lose her lover.

Gradually, the Voice comes to the idea that one should not try to understand life at all: the most important thing is not to ask, not to solve riddles and not to think! But his thoughts are confused, and he falls into hopeless despair. The pastor begins to appear to him in a dream, which aggravates the already difficult state of mind of the doctor. Soon he learns about the engagement of Klas Rekke with Miss Levinson. The voice is tormented by the pangs of unrequited love, but does not dare to go to Helga and ask her for help, as she once turned to him. Autumn is coming, Voice understands that he is unable to understand anything or change anything in his destiny. He comes to terms with her inescapable mystery and indifferently watches how life passes by.