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What I am reading

this is the highly subjective way I read and interpret literature

(I mostly read classic belles-lettres, but you’ll find some examples of trashy readings here and there as well)


Kallocain: Roman aus dem 21. Jahrhundert - Karin Boye, Helga Clemens

First published in 1940, Boye creates an uncanny and throughout above-average dystopian novel in which the protagonist Leo Kall invents the drug Kallocain, which, once injected, forces you to say the truth for eight minutes straight while being fully conscious and aware of it – all of this in a totalitarian, paranoid surveillance society.


And what happens? It turns out, that everyone, even the most faithful poster citizen is hiding something. Not necessarily a crime, but everyone has his or her personal skeleton in the closet he or she is trying to hide from the state, from their families and/or even from themselves. Of course, an invention like that is easily exploited, especially, after a law is passed according to which one can be convicted on the basis of their thoughts and intentions only, because with the help of a little Kallocain, you have no other choice than to tell it all (Minority Report problems, anyone?).


It is the old, but unfortunately still relevant tale of exchanging freedom for assumed security which in the end results in a state of terror, because the omnipresence of surveillance creates fear and paranoia instead of security. The novel starts a bit slow, but picks up speed quite soon and stays exciting throughout despite having a relatively predictable plot and mostly ok characters with the exception of the protagonist, his wife and the chief of police - those three are great, multifaceted figures.


Despite its flaws, Kallocain offers a number of strong scenes, ideas and images, many of them concerning human relations and let me tell you, that some of them really go deep. There is a gruelling forlornness lingering in this text, but Boye shows an amazing finesse in dealing with it.