This short novel is a melancholic guide of Stockholm. It is a compendium of thoughts and reflections upon life from a peculiar character. It is a story of alienation and unrequited love. And it is also the story of a planned murder.
Although more than a hundred years old, this novel feels as fresh as if written yesterday. The only hint of its age are depictions of places in Stockholm that no longer exist and some obsolete debates (on abortion, for example), but otherwise the language doesn't fell dated and the ideas are as universal as ever.
Tyko Gabriel Glas is a young doctor in Stockholm. He is intelligent and well-off, but his cynical view of life has made him a solitary man. He has a habit of falling for women that are already in love with other men, as only they seem to spark his interest. But he is painfully aware that no woman can truly get to know and accept him.
He spends his evenings alone, strolling through the city streets and writing in his diary. His nature is that of a spectator, he prefers to observe people from afar, rather than spend time in their company. On the other hand, he doesn't have a high opinion of himself, either.I'm going through grey days and dark moments. I'm not happy. But I wouldn't take the place of anybody else; my heart cringes at the thought that I could be one of my acquaintances.[...] I don't particularly like myself, neither the shell, nor the core. But I wouldn't want to be anybody else.
Pastor Gregorius is the man he despises and dreads the most and, after the preacher's beautiful wife asks for his help in a delicate matter, Doctor Glas abandons his reserved position and decides to interfere. But how far is he willing to go for the woman who gradually becomes the object of his affection, he who used to hide behind the screen of duty when it came to breaking the law?
I can see why this novel was considered controversial in 1905 - Hjalmar Söderberg touches some sensitive topics: abortion, assisted suicide (which he envisions as a human right in the future), sexuality, morality and religion. In my opinion, the novel hasn't lost its flavor, so it's totally worth reading it.