Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

#RetroHugos1941 Kallocain, by Karin Boye

This is a short Swedish novel published in 1940, set in a near-future totalitarian state, where the narrator, Leo Kall, invents a drug that compels people to tell nothing but the truth. Naïvely committed to the regime, he observes its use to enforce thought control rather passively, but it all gets real when he starts to consider the drug's potential impact on his relationship with his wife.

It's an original theme, intensely and eloquently described, at reasonably short length (220 pages). I'm really surprised that I had not heard of it before I started my research into the sf of 1940 for next year's Retro Hugos. It seems to me to stand firmly in the tradition of Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Presumably the twin effects of it being in Swedish and by a woman meant that it was overlooked. The 2002 film Equilibrium picked up some of its ideas, as of course did Zelazny's Today We Choose Faces and the first episode of Blake's 7.

The whole thing can be read online here. I do hope that voters will give a nod to a Scandinavian writer in advance of Helsinki.
Tags: bookblog 2015, hugos 2016, retro hugos 1941, sweden

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