(Essentials of European Literature)

Arvid Falk, a young government worker who wanted to be a poet, told Struve, a journalist, some facts concerning the waste and inadequacy of a government department where he, Arvid, had worked. Struve worked this material into an expose for a newspaper that was looking for sensational stories. Arvid was discharged for giving out the information.

Arvid’s brother, Charles Nicholas, was a flax merchant. He liked to feel that he was supporting Arvid by lending him money, offering him cigars, and inviting him to dinner. He could not believe that Arvid, despite certain unconventional opinions, would give out such information for publication. Charles Nicholas was a rising merchant, but his favorite cronies were a beaten clerk named Levin and an apathetic schoolmaster named Nystrom. Levin and Nystrom would flatter Charles Nicholas and write him fulsome verses of appreciation for the small sums of money he lent them. Charles Nicholas had a young wife who slept until noon every day and aspired to become a social and civic leader.

Arvid visited his friends: Sellen and Lundell, who were painters; Rehnhjelm, who ardently desired to be an actor; and Olle Montanus and Ygberg, who spent all day arguing the fine points of philosophy. All were serious about their art or their arguments, and all were poor. Although the practical Lundell made a living by doing magazine illustrations, the group had little money; frequently they were forced to combine their credit or pawn some of their clothes in order to scrape together enough money for dinner.

Out of a job, Arvid brought some of his verses to Smith, a successful publisher who offered Arvid the job of writing about Ulrica Eleonora, a Swedish historical personage, and doing hack work on other trite and uninteresting subjects. Arvid tried to do the work, in which he had no interest at all, but he was unable to complete his dull assignments. He joined his friends in the Red Room, a cafe where they gathered, argued, and spent as little money as possible.

Arvid finally got a job on a newspaper. As a reporter on the affairs of Parliament, he did his work successfully, although he was privately outraged at the time wasted in interminable and senseless discussions. Most of the Swedes, however, were proud of their new, more democratic Parliament.

About this time Sellen had succeeded in getting a picture hung in the Academy show. At first it was pointed out as an example of the new decadent, Bohemian art, and as such he was criticized by one of the papers. For reasons...

(The entire section is 1041 words.)