Short summary - The Ghost Sonata - August Strindberg

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - The Ghost Sonata
August Strindberg

The old man is sitting in a wheelchair by the poster stand. He sees the Student talking to the Milkmaid and telling her that the day before he rescued people from under the rubble of a collapsed building. The old man hears the words of the Student, but does not see the Milkmaid, for she is a vision. The old man speaks to the Student and finds out that he is the son of the merchant Arkenholz. The student knows from his late father that the Old Man - Director Hummel - ruined their family. The old man claims the opposite - he rescued the merchant Arkenholz from trouble, and he robbed him of seventeen thousand crowns. The old man does not demand this money from the Student, but wants the young man to render him minor services. He tells the Student to go to the theater to see the Valkyrie. The Colonel and his daughter will sit in adjacent places, living in a house that the Student likes very much. The student will be able to get to know him and visit this house. The student looks at the daughter of the Colonel, who is actually the daughter of the Old Man: once the Old Man seduced the wife of the Colonel Amalia. Now the Old Man decided to marry his daughter to the Student. The student says that he was born in a shirt. The old man suggests that this gives him the ability to see what others do not see (he means the Milkmaid). The student himself does not know what is happening to him, for example, the day before he was pulled into a quiet lane, and soon the house collapsed there. The student caught a child walking along the wall when the house collapsed. The student remained safe and sound, but he did not have a child in his arms. The old man takes the Student by the hand - the young man feels what an icy hand he has, and recoils in horror. The old man asks the Student not to leave him: he is so infinitely lonely. He says he wants to make the Student happy. The Old Man's servant Johanson appears. He hates his master: once the Old Man saved him from prison and for this he made him his slave. Johanson explains to the Student that the Old Man longs to rule: “The whole day he drives around in his gurney, like the god Thor ... inspects houses, demolishes them, paves the streets, pushes the squares; but he also breaks into houses, climbs through windows, rules over the destinies of people, kills enemies and forgives nothing to anyone. The old man is afraid of only one thing: the Hamburg milkmaid.

In the round living room of the house, beloved by the Student, guests are waiting. Johanson is hired to help the Colonel's servant Bengtson meet them. Bengtson announces to Johanson that so-called "ghost dinners" are regularly held at their house. For twenty years now, the same company has been gathering, they say the same thing or are silent so as not to say something out of place. The mistress of the house sits in the pantry, she imagined herself to be a parrot and became like a talkative bird, she cannot bear the cripples, the sick, even her own daughter because she is sick. Johanson is amazed: he did not know that Freken was sick.

An Old Man on crutches comes to visit the Colonel and tells Bengtson to report himself to the owner. Benggson exits. Left alone, the Old Man looks around the room and sees the statue of Amalia, but then she herself enters the room and asks the Old Man why he came. The old man came for his daughter. It turns out that everyone around is lying - the Colonel has a false birth certificate, Amalia herself once faked her year of birth. The Colonel took the Old Man's bride, and the Old Man seduced his wife in revenge. Amalia predicts to the Old Man that he will die in this room, behind the Japanese screens, which are called mortals in the house and put up when it is time for someone to die. Amalia says that people who hate each other regularly gather in their house, but sin, guilt and mystery bind them inextricably.

The old man is talking to the Colonel. The old man bought up all his bills and considers himself entitled to dispose of his house. The old man wants the Colonel to receive him as a guest, in addition, he demands that the Colonel drive away his old servant Bengtson. The colonel says that, although all his property now belongs to the Old Man, the Old Man cannot take away the coat of arms of the nobility and his good name. In response to these words, the Old Man takes out of his pocket an extract from a noble book, which says that the clan to which the Colonel supposedly belongs died out a hundred years ago. Furthermore. The old man proves that the Colonel is not a colonel at all, because after the war in Cuba and the transformation of the army, all the previous ranks were abolished. The old man knows the secret of the Colonel - this is a former servant.

The guests are coming. They silently sit in a circle, except for the Student, who goes into the room with hyacinths, where the Colonel's daughter is sitting. Always, when Freken is at home, she is in this room, she has such a strangeness. The old man says that he entered this house in order to tear out the tares, reveal the sin, take stock and enable the young to start life anew in this house, which he gives them. He says that everyone present knows who they are. And who he is, they also know, although they pretend not to know. And everyone knows that Freken is actually his daughter. She withered in this air, saturated with deceit, sin and falsehood. The old man has found a noble friend for her - the Student - and wants her to be happy with him. He tells everyone to disperse when the clock strikes. But Amalia goes to the clock and stops the pendulum. She says that she can stop the passage of time and turn the past into nothing, what has been done into something not done, and not by threats, not by bribery, but by suffering and repentance. She says that for all their sinfulness, those present are better than they seem, because they repent of their sins, while the Old Man, who dresses in the toga of a judge, is worse than all of them. He once lured Amalia with false promises, he entangled the Student with a fictitious debt of his father, although in fact he did not owe the Old Man a single era ... Amalia suspects that Bengtson knows the whole truth about the Old Man - that's why the Old Man wanted from him get rid of. Amalia rings the bell. The little Milkmaid appears at the door, but no one but the Old Man sees her. Horror froze in the eyes of the Old Man. Benggson talks about the atrocities of the Old Man, he tells how the Old Man, who at that time was a usurer in Hamburg, tried to drown the milkmaid girl, because she knew too much about him. Amalia locks the Old Man in the pantry, where she has been sitting for many years and where there is a string that is quite suitable for hanging on. Amalia gives orders to Benggson to block the door to the pantry with mortal Japanese screens.

Froken in the room with hyacinths plays the harp to the Student. On the fireplace is a large Buddha holding a hyacinth root on his knees, which symbolizes the earth; the stem of the hyacinth, straight as the earth's axis, rushes upward and is crowned with star-like flowers with six rays. The student tells Freken that the Buddha is waiting for the earth to become the sky. The student wants to know why Freken's parents don't talk to each other. She replies that the Colonel and his wife have nothing to talk about because they don't trust each other. “Why talk if we can no longer deceive each other?” - the Colonel thinks, the freken complains about the cook, who runs everything in the house. She is from the vampire family of Hummels, and the owners can neither drive her away nor cope with her. This cook is a punishment for their sins, she feeds them so that they wither and become emaciated. In addition to her, there is also a maid in the house, for whom Freken has to clean up endlessly. The student tells Freken that he dreams of marrying her. “Shut up! I will never be yours!" she answers, but does not explain the reasons for her refusal. The student is surprised how many secrets there are in their house. He sees that if people were completely frank, the world would collapse. A few days ago, the Student was at the church for the funeral of Director Hummel, his imaginary benefactor. At the head of the coffin stood a friend of the deceased, a respectable elderly gentleman. And then the Student found out that this elderly friend of the deceased burned with passion for his son, the deceased borrowed from his son's admirer. A day after the funeral, the pastor was arrested, whose heartfelt speech at the coffin so touched the Student: it turned out that he had robbed the church cash desk. The student tells that his father died in a lunatic asylum. He was healthy, just one time he could not restrain himself and told the guests gathered in his house everything that he thought about them, explained to them how deceitful they were. For this he was taken to a lunatic asylum, and there he died. The student recalls how the Colonel's house seemed to him a paradise, but it turned out that he, too, was completely saturated with lies. The student knows that Freken refused him because she is sick and has always been sick. “Jesus Christ descended into hell, the descent into hell was his descent to the earth, the land of madmen, criminals and corpses, and the fools killed him when he wanted to save them, and the thief was released, thieves are always loved! Woe to us! Save us Savior of the World, we are perishing!” Freken falls, pale as chalk. She tells Bengtoon to bring the screens: he brings the screens and sets them up, blocking the girl. Harp sounds are heard. The student prays the Heavenly Father to be merciful to the deceased.