Adolf Paul’s career in Berlin

Strindberg and Adolf remained friends for a few years after the letter Strindberg wrote in 1993 (see Adolf Paul part 1). In 1894, Adolf contributed to a book honoring Strindberg in which he especially highlighted Strindberg’s view of the battle between the genders, and revealed a familiarity with Nietzsche’s űbermench ideal. In the mid 1890s Strindberg, who was now middle-aged, had divorced his first wife and married a much younger woman whom he soon separated from. He suffered from severe paranoia and, according to some sources, wrongly accused Adolf for having based unsympathetic characters on him in two of his books. Other sources say, however, that both Strindberg and Adolf populated their novels with miserable characters based each other. Not only did Strindberg and Adolf use their friends as inspiration for their works. Most of the artists in Adolf’s group based fictional characters on each other and used each other in paintings. Adolf, for example, figures in works by Edvard Munch and Axel Gallen-Kallela.

Strindberg, who died at age 63 in 1912, debuted with his novel The Red Room in 1879 and is credited with having influenced writers such as Tennessee Williams, Maxim Gorky and Eugene  O’Neill. Adolf called Strindberg “The Master,” and greatly admired his work and ambition, literary as well as socially. Both authors used their work to question contemporary norms of the society. Being colleagues, however, they were also competitors wooing the German audience and establishing a presence at a much larger and more lucrative market than Scandinavia.

Depiction of Adolf Paul from a book by Glenda Dawn Goss entitled Silbelius: a composer's life and the awakening of Finland

As opposed to his on and off relationship with Strindberg, Adolf remained a lifelong friend of Sibelius and cooperated with him on several occasions. In 1898 Sibelius composed music to Adolf’s play Kung Kristian II (King Kristian II) and in the 1911 Hochzeitzug aus Die Sprache der Vögel (Wedding march, 3rd act). Adolf also wrote lyrics for Sibelius’ Korsspindeln. Both Kung Kristian and another play Karin Månsdotter were performed at the Stockholm Royal Theater in 1898.

After moving to Berlin, Adolf had adapted to German circumstances and was writing in German, reaching a larger audience than possible when writing in Swedish. Having mostly grown up and coming of age in Finland, he wasn’t well connected in Stockholm, which may have hampered his career potential. His works were published by large publishing houses in Sweden, Finland and Germany, including Bonniers, Wahlström & Wistrand, Åhlen & Åkerlund, Grönlunds, Lűbke & Hartmann, Breitkopf & Härtel and Schuster & Löffler.

Many of Adolf’s early novels challenged contemporary morals. His first novel, En bok om en människa (A book about a man), is autobiographical and describes a man who is struggling to define and promote his identity. The main character passionately opposes the norms of the society, disdains the bourgeoisie and has a sense of spiritual superiority. Breaking with the norms and becoming an artist, the main character then faces an identity crisis and suffers a mental break down. This book was the first in a series of three and dedicated to Sibelius who also appears in the book thinly disguised as Sillen.

The second novel in the En bok om en människa series titled Med det falska och det ärliga ögat (With the false and the true eye) was published in 1895 dedicated to Adolf’s piano teacher Ferruccio Busoni. This book was mainly about free love and the conflict between the carnal and the intellectual, and contained characters based on Adolf’s artist friends in Berlin. This book was, among others, inspired by Edvard Munch and his art.

Several of Adolf’s novels were considered obscene because of their violent and abnormal sexual content.  In The Ripper, a collection of short stories published in 1893, one of the stories was an imaginary diary of Jack the Ripper with graphic details. Another short story was inspired by a 1889 murder in south Sweden, Yngsjömordet, where a mother and her son had an incestuous relationship and bludgeoned  the son’s wife to death. Albert Bonnier who had published En bok om en människa  refused to publish The Ripper, which was published in Finland, but banned as obscene. After publication of Die Madonna mit dem Rosenbush,  (The Madonna with the rose bush) in 1903, the publisher was sued. The novel’s main character is an artist who delivers a different work than the portrait he was commissioned to paint, enraging his client. The novel also describes some debauchery in Berlin considered risque at that time. It was translated into Swedish.

Adolf continued to work on plays and novels and his career waxed and waned over the years. One of his best known novels was his 1915 bestseller titled Die Tänzerin Barberina (Barberina, the dancer) whose main character was based on the dramatic life of Italian dancer Barbara Campanini (1721-1799) who was brought to Berlin by Frederick the Great of Prussia to become a highly paid dancer at the newly opened Berlin Opera and his lover.

Between 1914 – 1919 Adolf worked as a screen writer and wrote scripts for some 14 movies, including Die Teufelskirche, which I found a clip of online ( and in 1919 he wrote the movie version of Die Tänzerin Barberina.

Adolf Paul in later years.

Adolf’s 75th birthday in 1937 was celebrated with the publication of Das Lebenswerk Adolf Pauls, which covered his published and unpublished production over the years. In addition to plays and film scripts he authored some 20 novels, In 1937 he received the Vasaorden, a honor bestowed upon him by the King of Sweden,  Gustaf V.

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