Bleak Days

Gustav walked on, flecks of snow stinging his cheeks like spits of sand, the rhythmic crunch-crunch of his boots accompanying him like a funeral drum.

Your novel, sir, is a mixture of genuine truth and private grouch, Strindberg had told him, but too much of the latter for them to consider publishing it.

What now, he thought?

He pressed his mittens to his face and inhaled, believing he could still detect the faint odor of home, his mother baking Havreflarn in the enamel stove with its neat pyramid of split spruce logs at the ready, his father puffing his pipe and reading his Testament.

Gustav tugged the mitten off with his teeth, shoved his cold-numb hand deep into his pocket to again feel the comforting weight of the three-krona piece. He spied a cafe across the square.

He had his pen and paper, some ink.

He would start again.

Home was where he made it.


What Pegman Saw: Stockholm

Gustaf af Geijerstam (1858–1909) was a Swedish novelist. A friend of August Strindberg, he never achieved the fame or success that many felt was his due. Most of his works were translated into German during his lifetime, and one, Äktenskapets komedi (1898), was reviewed favorable by Rainer Maria Rilke, who remarked that Geijerstam was an author “one must follow attentively from book to book.” 

Bleak Days was the title of one of his early stories. 


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  1. 4963andypop

    I was writing a comment last night when the phone died so I must start again. . I loved “private grouch” as a noun combo. You really incorporate the weather, the stinging cold and pelting snow, well, in this piece.

    The message of persistance, and the will to charge forward, no matter what anyone thinks, is a welcome one for writers, though I hesitate to hope, that his next endeavor will meet with any more acclaim.

    The title is definitely appropos. And I think if someone of Rilke’s stature thought him good, he definitely was good.

  2. Lynn Love

    A story at once sad and hopeful. Sad as poor Gustav never achieved greatness, hopeful because he just kept going, his optimism taking him through, despite the not so flattering feedback from his ‘friend’ Strindberg! Beautifully evoked atmosphere – I can feel the chill seeping through him, see his parents in their happy domesticity. Just a perfect short

Don't just stand there.