No Dark Magic

books, Sweden, and computers, not necessarily in any order

Kallocain by Karin Boye

Posted at — Sep 13, 2021

“Kallocain” cover

A Swedish classic about a surveillance state. Closer to a theater play than to a Hollywood movie in feeling.

The narrator is a true servant to the state, but something is always a little off in the bright propaganda-rich life he shares with his comrades. He gets irritated by his somewhat liberal colleague without really understanding why. He’s afraid of his wife, also for all the wrong reasons. He has to always be vigilant but it’s such an integrated part of his whole identity that he does not acknowledge the stress it’s causing him.

Spoiler alert for a book from 1940: eventually some light gets through the cracks, some warmth seeps in, some people open up, and then there’s some hope and some bitterness.

Short and sweet (and referenced from time to time, since it’s a classic), but the language might be somewhat difficult under B2 level, I think. On the bright side, the audiobook is available through the Swedish libraries, so one can read and listen at the same time for better learning experience.


(223 pages, ISBN: 9789187291531, Worldcat, Open Library)

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