The Book & the Movie: Doctor Glas | Hjalmar Söderberg, 1905 / Mai Zetterling, 1968

The Book & the Movie: Doctor Glas | Hjalmar Söderberg, 1905 / Mai Zetterling, 1968
Hjalmar Söderberg, 1869-1941                               Hjalmar Söderberg, Doctor Glas, 1905              Doktor Glas, 1968 Dir. Mai Zetterling

“We know so little about one another.
We embrace a shadow and love a dream.”

“People want to be loved; failing that admired; failing that feared; failing that hated
and despised. They want to evoke some sort of sentiment. The soul shudders before
oblivion and seeks connection at any price.”

Mai Zetterling, Doktor Glas, 1968

“Nothing so reduces and drags down a human being
as the consciousness of not being loved.”

“Thought is an acid, eating us away. At first we imagine it will only eat into that which is
rotten and sick and must be removed. But thought thinks otherwise. It eats blindly. It begins
with the prey you most gladly throw to it – but don’t imagine it will be content with that!
It doesn’t stop until it has gnawed away the last thing you hold dear.”

“Midsummer Eve, bright, blue night, once you were so airy, light, and carefree.
Why do you weigh on me like anguish now?”

“I’ve borne my isolation with me through the crowd as the snail bears its house.
For some people isolation isn’t a circumstance in which they find themselves,
it’s an innate characteristic.”


“I’m afraid of myself. What do I know about myself? I’m afraid to get caught up in
something that will trap me and bind me and never let me go.”

“In our dreams the strangest things happen all the time and seem perfectly natural and
ordinary—in our dreams. But when we awaken and remember what we’ve dreamed,
we’re taken aback and laugh aloud or shudder.”

“I’ve become more and more impossible socially. I forget to respond when people talk to me.
Often I don’t hear what they say. I wonder if I’m starting to go deaf?
And all these masks! All of them wear masks. And what’s more, it’s their greatest virtue.
I wouldn’t want to see them unmasked. I wouldn’t want to appear unmasked myself, either.
Not to them!
But to whom?”


“We want everything, we want to be everything. We want to experience all the joys of good
fortune and the full depths of suffering. We want the excitement of action and the calm of
observation. We want the silence of the desert as well as the noise of the forum.
Simultaneously we want to be the hermit´s thought and the voice of the people; we want
to be both melody and harmony. Simultaneously! How could this be possible?”

“Only now did I see that there was a woman in my room whose heart was overflowing with
misery and desire, a young flower of a woman who radiated love all around her, blushing
shyly because love’s fragrance was so heady and strong.”

“And now: I recognize her—she’s the same as she was then. It’s myself I no longer recognize.”

“My dreams of love—once it seemed to me that they were so close, so close to coming true.
Midsummer Eve, strange, pale night, you always awaken that memory, the memory that is
really the only one I have, the only one that remains when everything else recedes, turns to
dust, and disappears.”

“There are people who have no talent for happiness and who know this with painful,
implacable clarity. Such people don’t seek happiness, merely to bring some sort
of form and style to their unhappiness.”

“The past comes back to haunt us.”

“In the days when I was ambitious I worked out a very pretty little plan for conquering the
whole earth and rearranging things as they ought to be; and when, in the end, everything
became so good it almost began to be boring, then I was going to stuff my pockets with as
much money as I could lay hands on and creep away, vanish in some cosmopolis and sit
at a corner cafe and drink absinthe and enjoy seeing how everything went to the devil as
soon as I wasn’t on the scene any more.”


“There have to be some people with whom one can be sincere…”

“I felt that I would never again will such a thing or commit such an act. Was it all an illusion?
But still,I’d acted according to my best judgment. I’d weighed and tested, for and against. I’d
gotten to the bottom of the matter. Was that an illusion? It didn’t matter. The music now came
to the mysterious leitmotif: “Thou shalt not ask!” And in this mystical series of notes and these
four words it seemed to me I could find the sudden revelation of an ancient and hidden wisdom.
“Thou shalt not ask!” Don’t get to the bottom of things: if you do, you yourself will founder.
Don’t seek the truth: you won’t find it and will lose yourself. “Thou shalt not ask!” The amount
of truth that is beneficial will come to you with no effort; it’s mixed with delusions and lies,
but that’s for the sake of your health—in pure form it would burn your insides. Don’t try to
cleanse your soul of lies—many other things will be lost, too, things you haven’t considered.
You’ll lose your bearings and everything that’s dear to you. “Thou shalt not ask!

“No, there’s no dream of happiness that in the end doesn’t bite its own tail.”

“It’s strange to sit here trying to recapture a mood, a way of thinking, from long ago. This sort
of thing makes one feel the passage of time. The law of change, as the preacher said (for that
matter he’d stolen it from some Ibsen play). It’s like examining an old photograph of yourself.
 And I also thought: how much longer can I still have left to meander without purpose throug
h this world of riddles and dreams and inexplicable phenomena?”
“I think the chasm between our souls is too wide. Or who knows: when it comes to marriage,
perhaps it’s actually an advantage if the chasm is wide—if it were smaller, I might be tempted
to try to bridge it, and that could never end well. The woman I could reveal myself to doesn’t
exist. But still: to live by her side and never give her access to my true self, my real concerns—
could I treat a woman that way? Let her embrace a stranger believing it’s me—could I do that?
Yes, I suppose I could. That’s probably what always happens. We know so little about each other.
 We embrace a shadow and love a dream.”

“And I’m finally beginning to suspect that perhaps we’re not meant to understand life. All these
furious attempts to explain and understand, this ongoing quest for the truth, may be a dead end.
We bless the sun because we live the exact distance from it that is beneficial. A few million
miles closer or farther away and we would burn or freeze to death. What if the truth is like
the sun?”

“For youth, the moon is a promise of all those tremendous things which await it, for
older people a memento that the promise was never kept, a reminder of all that broke
and went to pieces…
And what is moonshine? Secondhand sunshine. Diluted, counterfeit.”

“I’m sitting at the window thinking over my life, trying to come to grips with why it followed
 such a different path from everyone else’s, so far off the beaten track.”

“Never will she be mine; never. I never brought a flush to her cheek, and it is not I who now
have made it so chalk-white. And never will she slip across the street in the night, with
anxiety in her heart and a letter to me.
Life has passed me by.

[..] I have got new curtains for my study; pure white. When I awoke this morning, I first
thought it had been snowing. In my room the light was exactly as it is after the first fall
of snow. I even fancied I caught the scent of snow freshly fallen. And soon it will come,
the snow. One feels it in the air.
It will be welcome. Let it come. Let it fall.”

Hjalmar Söderberg, Doctor Glas, 1905

Doctor20Glas20 20Mai20Zetterling20 201968

Doktor Glas, 1968

Director: Mai Zetterling
Writers: Mai Zetterling, David Hughes, Hjalmar Söderberg(novel)
Cinematography: Rune Ericson
Stars: Per Oscarsson, Lone Hertz, Ulf Palme

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