Kallocain is a classic 1940 Swedish dystopian novel which envisions a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain's depiction of a totalitarian world state may draw on what novelist Karin Boye observed or sensed about the Soviet Union and the early Nazi Germany of the 1930s. An important aspect of the novel is the relationships and connections between the various characters, such as the marriage of the main character and his wife Linda Kall, and the feelings of jealousy and suspicion that may arise in a society with heavy surveillance and legal uncertainty.
One of its central ideas coincides with contemporary rumors of truth drugs that ensured the subordination of every citizen to the state. Both Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Boye's Kallocain are drug dystopias, or societies in which pharmacology is used to suppress opposition to authority. However, unlike Brave New World, where a drug is used to suppress the urge to nonconformity generally, in Kallocain a drug is used to detect individual acts and thoughts of rebellion.
The plot centers on Leo Kall, written in the form of a diary or memoir. Leo Kall lives with his wife Linda Kall in a city intended for chemical industry. Leo is a scientist, who is initially very loyal to the government and develops the truth drug Kallocain. It has the effect that anyone who takes it will reveal anything, even things they were not consciously aware of.
Major themes include the notion of the self in a totalitarian state, the meaning of life, and the power of love. Apart from the laboratory work and testing by Leo Kall, much of the novel takes place in the home of Leo and Linda.
- John Hickman. "When Science Fiction Writers Used Fictional Drugs: Rise and Fall of the Twentieth-Century Drug Dystopia." Utopian Studies Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 141-170. (2009)
- "Kallocain" (1981) (mini) at the Internet Movie Database
- Full text English translation from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
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