Abstract: "Almqvist's Det går an and the art of surviving. A textual history"

Johan Svedjedal, Litteratur och samhälle 24–25 (1988–1989):1/2

C.J.L. Almqvist (1793–1866) prepared three substantially different versions of his radical novel Det går an. The first (1838) was never published. Although the second (1839) version was toned down, it caused a big controversy. One reason probably was that the book was published under the imprint of the liberal L.J. Hierta. The third version (1850) was revised with the polemic in 1839–40 in mind. The textual history of the work during Almqvist's life-time thus illustrates Jerome J. McGann's concept of a socialized authorship, as well as D.F McKenzie's notion of books as semiotic systems.

Today, Det går an is a literary classic, published in 23 editions and 50 impressions since Almqvist's death. Half of the editions have been published after 1954. Various reasons have contributed towards making the work a classic, including changes in social and sexual attitudes. This study, however, focuses on factors within publishing history.

Swedish equivalents of international bibliographic terms are discussed. The textual relation between the editions are analyzed bibliographically, and there is a diagram (stemma) of the work's textual history. The textual impact of the different editions is discussed. Two editions have been especially important. In 1922, Algot Werin prepared his critical edition for Almqvist's Samlade skrifter (Collected works), published by Bonnier's, and following the doctrine of final intentions, Werin used the 1850 version as his copy-text. All later editions have followed his example. His text has also been the single most frequent printer's copy (in 9 out of 18 later editions). This is presumably a typical pattern in Swedish book trade: the dominating literary publisher Bonnier's acquires the sole rights to an author's writings, publishes his collected works, and subsequently other firms tend to use this edition as printer's copy rather than later editions. Another sociologically important edition was a school edition brought out in 1938, and published in 13 impressions: here, the text was reduced by 60 per cent, much of Almqvist's sharp political comments among the narrative material cut out.

Of the 23 editions of Det går an since Almqvist's death, 18 provide explanatory material in the form of an Introduction or Commentary; 13 editions are abbreviated, 11 are modernized, and so on. These deviations from Almqvist's text are analyzed as a 'creative treason' (Robert Escarpit), that is, the publishing world's various methods to enable the work to survive on the book-market for present-day readers.

Keywords: Bibliography, Sociology of literatum; Publishing history.