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Strindberg's great trilogy The Road to Damascus presents many mysteries to the uninitiated. Its peculiar changes of mood, its gallery of half unreal characters, its bizarre episodes combine to make it a bewilderingly rich but rather 'difficult' work. It cannot be recommended to the lover of light drama or the seeker of momentary distraction. The Road to Damascus does not deal with the superficial strata of human life, but probes into those depths where the problems of God, and death, and eternity become terrifying realities.
Many authors have, of course, dealt with the profoundest problems of humanity without, on that account, having been able to evoke our interest. There may have been too much philosophy and too little art in the presentation of the subject, too little reality and too much soaring into the heights. That is not so with Strindberg's drama. It is a trenchant settling of accounts between a complex and fascinating individual—the author—and his past, and the realistic scenes have often been transplanted in detail from his own changeful life.
In order fully to understand The Road to Damascus it is therefore essential to know at least the most important features of that background of real life, out of which the drama has grown.
Parts I and II of the trilogy were written in 1898, while Part III was added somewhat later, in the years 1900-1901. In 1898 Strindberg had only half emerged from what was by far the severest of the many crises through which in his troubled life he had to pass. He had overcome the worst period of terror, which had brought him dangerously near the borders of sanity, and he felt as if he could again open his eyes and breathe freely. He was not free from that nervous pressure under which he had been working, but the worst of the inner tension had relaxed and he felt the need of taking a survey of what had happened, of summarizing and trying to fathom what could have been underlying his apparently unaccountable experiences. The literary outcome of this settling of accounts with the past was The Road to Damascus.
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