Martin Birck's Youth
Hjalmar Soderberg's partly autobiographical second novel was originally published in 1901, and traces the development of the title character from a seemingly idyllic Stockholm childhood to maturity as a thirty-year-old man, an introspective outsider, critical of society, constantly searching for the truth but going through a gradual process of disillusionment. He dreams of being a poet, but is too melancholic to break free from his modest bureaucratic career, and slowly drifts towards nihilism and aestheticism.
Martin Birck's Youth is a book rich in fin-de-siecle themes: melancholy, eroticism and decadence abound. The Stockholm depicted here is a haunting city of shadows and snowstorms, suppressed passion and loneliness. The conflict between dreams and reality which occurs in so many novels of the period is central to the novel.