Cruel Banquet

The Life and Loves of Frida Strindberg

By Monica Strauss
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151002900, 272pp.)

Publication Date: July 2000

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Description

Life is a cruel banquet, Frida Uhl Strindberg said. "You pay for food and board with your blood." Frida's banquet, in many ways, is the tale of her encounters with the seminal cultural figures of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: August Strindberg, Edward Munch, Ford Maddox Ford, Ezra Pound, Augustus Johns. Her life embodied the fin-de-siècle generation, the contradiction in the relationships between men and women, between art and commerce. In 1893, one year out of convent school, Frida married the forty-three-year-old controversial Swedish playwright, August Strindberg. The marriage was an act of rebellion against her father-one of Austria's most important drama critics, a man preoccupied with his social and political standing, with concealing the family's marital discord and Jewish heritage. A divorceé by twenty-four, Frida successfully improvised a career as a cultural impresario. She saw herself as equal to men and made little distinction between her private and public lives. She never hesitated to draw on her feminine charms or maternal qualities to launch or hold a "discovery," nor did she spare her lovers or her children the calculations of a businesswoman. Monica Strauss fashions a complex and captivating look at Frida Strindberg's stubborn pursuit of a cultural role and her continuing struggle with the aftermath of her youthful marriage, truly a cruel banquet and an extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman.

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