Layers of Clothing in Hjalmar Söderberg’s Writing: Translations of ‘The Fur Coat’ (1898) and ‘A Grey Waistcoat or Justice in Munich’ (1913) with an Introduction
My translation of two of Söderberg’s short stories aims to illuminate how focusing on the role of clothing as literary device in Söderberg’s writing can provide a window into the distinctive kind of decadent style Söderberg developed. Although Söderberg incorporates meticulous descriptions of clothing throughout his writing, in these two stories clothing becomes a dramatic agent that precipitates events. This suggests the particular signifying functions that clothing takes on: how it can play a role in the negotiation of broader social issues, and how seemingly ordinary events and everyday objects can expose the hidden depths and the more troubling aspects of modern love and life. The two stories were also selected to display different facets of Söderberg’s decadent style – ‘A Grey Waistcoat’ is more comedic whilst ‘The Fur Coat’ is more tragic. While ‘The Fur Coat’ has been previously translated into English (by M. Ekenberg in 1934 and by Carl Lofmark in 1987), there are no previous English translations of ‘A Grey Waistcoat’.