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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  6,724 ratings  ·  406 reviews
This is a novel of the future, profoundly sinister in its vision of a drab terror. Ironic and detached, the author shows us the totalitarian World-state through the eyes of a product of that state, scientist Leo Kall. Kall has invented a drug, kallocain, which denies the privacy of thought and is the final step towards the transmutation of the individual human being into a ...more
Paperback, 193 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by University of Wisconsin Press (first published 1940)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,724 ratings  ·  406 reviews

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Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, dystopian
I don't know how famous Kallocain or Karin Boye are outside Sweden, but she's pretty much one of our most renowned authors. I actually read this book back in 2007, but today at the flea market I just so happened upon a FREAKIN' ORIGINAL COPY FROM 1940 AND BOUGHT IT FOR FIVE FREAKIN' CROWNS! IT'S AMAZING AND SO FRAGILE AND THE PAGES A BLOODY HAND-CUT AND I LOVE IIIT!


Excuse me for that.

So anyway! Kallocain is a dystopian part-scifi about the chemist Leo Kall, who invents the first ever truth
Amy Sturgis
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Amy by: Pontus Liljeblad
This poetic and moving novel deserves to be remembered in the same breath as We, 1984, Brave New World, and other great twentieth-century dystopias.

Leo Kall is a scientist who employs chemistry in the service of the oppressive Worldstate. He develops kallocain, a drug that exposes the private thoughts of his fellow-soldiers, thus paving the way for the Worldstate to ensure that either each individual becomes a "happy, healthy cell in the state organism" or he/she is eliminated.

To quote Leo's t
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sweden
Political dystopias found their form in the first half of the 20th century, with books like Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as the big three. Karin Boye's Kallocain (1940) deserves to be mentioned in the same context. It's certainly at least as good, and its central message - that fear, hatred and paranoia demands a conscious effort, which cannot be sustained forever - certainly more hopeful, as bleak as the novel and its author's untimely end is.

The set
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In vino veritas

According to roman historian Tacitus some Germanic peoples counseled only while drinking wine, because they believed that the drunk always speak true.

Wine is no longer necessary to loosen one's tongue since Leo Kall developed the drug called Kallocain. Kall is a chemist and the narrator of (t)his story. He is living in Chem(istry)town #4 in a nation called Worldstate. Like everyone else he is a fellow soldier and his work and after hours are filled with duties for the state. He is
Poet and novelist Karin Boye’s Kallocain wasn’t at all what I expected, billed as dystopian fiction bearing traces of Kafka and elements of Zemyatin’s We, it read more like a detailed, psychological character study. When Boye wrote this, WW2 was in progress, the Soviet Union and Germany were allies, highlighting possible global domination by one or the other’s particular brand of totalitarianism. This had been an anxiety of Boye’s for some time. During the 1920s as part of radical Stockholm grou ...more
The book is set in a future, dystopian, totalitarian world state, after a World War. The government surveillance, with eyes and ears, reaches everywhere. Even the maids are bound to report every week about the family at which they work. The main protagonist, Leo Kall, is a dutiful citizen, accepting the rules of the society. He even invents a truth serum, Kallocain, to increase the government's control over the people, making the world state the owner of not only the peoples' identities, but als ...more
270315: bleak, believable, banal, beautiful- best dystopia of which i had never heard, written by a woman poet. some reviews characterize Kallocain (1940) as kind of a Swedish 1984(1948) or Brave New World (1932), but i suggest the lineage more fruitfully explored is We by Zamyatin (1921). this is a lyrical, poetic, rather mundane world without either the melodramatic oppression, the great names, the obvious powers of orwell's book- ministry of truth, thought police etc.- or the conspiracy of in ...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
Leo Kall wakes up one morning to read the newspaper and the headlines say "Thoughts Can be Judged." Well, Leo already knows this, having invented a drug which he named after himself: Kallocain. Early in his career as a scientist for the Worldstate, a totalitarian regime, Kall realized that when people become intoxicated they tend to spill their guts to total strangers. Working from that idea, he develops Kallocain, and after a few subjects from the Voluntary Sacrificial Service are injected with ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it liked it
You know the feeling when you read something you know is good, I mean not just because others have told you so but because you can actually feel it when you read the book? You read on and you still get the feeling that this is a good book...

...and yet you don't particularly care for it. This was such a book for me. I can understand why it's a classic, well known, and I'm glad that I've read it. But still my feelings for it are no more than lukewarm.
Verdes Anos
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually write reviews but this book just made me go for it.
It is impressive to realize how a book written in 1940 can bring to light some of the most complex ethical discussions, some of those still remaining pretty present nowadays. Also relevant to note that some of the controversial issues are related to the scientific progression, almost serving as a real prediction for the worldwide reflections that came up after the first attacks using nuclear weapons (1945)
The book also served as
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A brilliant dystopian novel set between We and 1984 and A brave new world. However Boye's perception is far more narrowed than aforementioned books and her point of view focuses on the inventor of the drug that makes thought privacy almost impossible. What starts off as an ideological view of the world, it decimates quickly to the dystopian nightmare.
With lyrical prose and a controlled narration, Boye's world seems awfully familiar with all the censorship that once was and has always existed in
Elin Adler
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hc-hce
I decided to read 12 classic books this year and this is one of them. I read this when i was in high school and i just remember i dissliked it alot. When i read it today i dont get it, because this is such a masterpiece!!! Was i to young maybe? To unintrested to think?

I dont know how famous karin is outside of sweden but i think this book is a must read. Intresting how she thought this was how the 2000 would look like.....almost like the cold war or like a very strict dictatureship.

Truly intre
Jose Moa
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Once i have read Kallokain ,for me there are three absolute totalitarian distopian materpiece novels : We,Kallokain and 1984,the other two : Farenheith 451 and A brave new world dont fall in the same class.

In the first three the life, the thougths,the sons and daughters are absolute property of the state.
Paradoxically this regímenes in the theorical apareance of all be for the good of the comunity,the state,are the most insolidarian and individualistic societies,the individual is the most selfis
Oleksandr Zholud
This book is best seem as a part of dystopian quartet from the first half of the XXth century, the others are: We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, brave new world by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell. The novel was nominated for the Retro-Hugo for 1940.

The novel depicts a totalitarian society where the protagonist developed a truth serum (Kallocain), which allows to take oppression to a new level – to judge the very thought and intentions of people. The story does a great job in showing the internaliz
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dystopia
Still ever so relevant, and beautifully written at that. This book deserves attention at least as much as Farenheit 451, 1984 or Brave New World. Is it because Karin Boye was a woman that the book hasn't reached the same level of fame? ...more
Thomas Strömquist
The fascinating Kallocain, the last novel by famous author and poet Karin Boye and published not 6 months prior to her tragic suicide in 1941. Well deserving of it's mention along with 'the great dystopies'; We, Brave New World, 1984 and This Perfect Day (yes, Ira Levin belongs there too!). Leo Kall creates the drug Kallocain after noting that people tend to reveal their inner thoughts following the intake of alcohol. Kallocain is much more effective and a great tool for the ones in power and th ...more
Cecilia H.
Gosh. I'm just relieved and overjoyed that I got through this boring book! I never really got into it or understood everything. And we're going to analyze this in my Swedish class... -.-' Well, well.

Okay, now about the book:
Kallocain was written by a very famous Swedish author, Karin Boye. She was mainly a poet, but wrote several novels too. Boye worked with the book during WW2, it was published 1940, so the novel has a lot of influences regarding both Germany and the Sovjet Union during that pe
Natalie (CuriousReader)
I have always been interested in Karin Boye, she's famous in Sweden mostly for her poems. I found Kallocain in a thrift store by chance, and decided to pick it up. It's rich in its language, beautiful in it's storytelling. The world that she describes is frightening, as it should be - being a dystopian. It's frightening, and even more so, the character of Leo Kall - a typical/average man living in this society. His journey, his growth, is fascinating to follow, and it made an impact. It's so cle ...more
Amazing! I would put this book on a level with Brave New World and 1984. May be, it's not that well-known because it was easier for a Swedish author to win the Nobel prize than to become popular worldwide. At least until writing Swedish thrillers became a guarantee for popularity. But seriously, the suicide of the author shortly after its release and being published during WW II probably caused the slide into oblivion.

Kallocain is a dystopia. The Earth is divided into two totalitarian states fig
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1940s, dystopian
So this is a philosophical dystopia kinda half-way between We and 1984. Maybe a little of the dryness of Meccania, the Super-State.

Its main character is a strange sort of combination of the protagonists of We and 1984, in that like the guy from We he's quite happy as part of a dystopia but also like Winston Smith he's terrified of everything. This cognitive dissonance is just one of the confused or complex elements of the story.
Its quite a complicated tale and maybe a little is being lost in t
I absolutely adore this book. It is, without a doubt, one of the better ones I've read in my life. Explaining why I like it is a little difficult, however, since I'm having a hard time putting my finger on why.

I think it's a combination of the world that Boye builds up — the strange, cold future that scares me a lot more than some of the other dystopian novels I've read — and the absolutely beautiful use of language. Boye paints everything with a poetic surety and while the book doesn't always g
Amanda Landegren
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
Actual rating; 3.5

I usually don't use half stars for my ratings, however, this time I feel like I really needed it. I liked this book, quite a lot actually, but comparing it to 1984 by George Orwell (an amazing book and my all-time favorite classic) makes it shrink in comparison. It is by no means the same plot, but there are clear similarities. Kallocain just does not have the same precision and complexity in my opinion.

We follow a fellow solider, Leo Kall who is a Chemist. He is absolutely loy
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia, swedish, 2012
Kallocain is a Swedish classic (written in 1940), dealing with themes of love and sense of self and the meaning of life, in a totalitarian state. Everytime I read certain kind of dystopias, I get a sense of unease at how poignant a lot of them still are. Kallocain takes place in a totalitarian state, much like 1984 does, although Kallocain predates the latter, and a lot of the surveillance in it, that probably seemed outlandish and outrageous when it was written, is commonplace today.
Kaj Samuelsson
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have heard a lot about this book and I never really wanted to read it but when I found it as a Swedish e-book when I needed something "new" after finishing some good fantasy books...
I found the book a bit (very) rambling, but still interesting and it was mainly about thoughts and feelings you are not supposed to have in the all powerful World State.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually even scarier than 1984.
John Hatley
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant book, first published in 1940, about the fate of the individual in a totalitarian future world where the state is more important than the individual.
Daniela Maia
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I do know is that by sick parents and sick teachers still sicker children are being brought up, until the sick has now become the norm and the healthy a horror.
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
A strong theme of this book is that if the individual versus the state; tied into this is a theme of ownership. How much can a state expect from a person? In Kallocain the state expects everything – your children, your work, your words, your actions. The plot ties in with this as Leo Kall, a chemist, invents the drug Kallocain which makes the receiver reveal their most inner thoughts. And so it poses the question: can the state also own your throughts?

Kall is living through a very interesting di
Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of 1984, We, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Gardener's Tale, Anthem
easily on same level as 1984, Brave New World, We, and Anthem
Johannes Jansson
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Not as profound as 1984, but not as dense to get through either. This book was a pleasant fast read with all the elements you would expect from a big brother dystopia novel, well worth a read!
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Karin Boye was a Swedish poet and novelist.

She is perhaps most famous for her poems, of which the most well-known ought to be "Yes, of course it hurts" (Swedish: "Ja visst gör det ont") and "In motion" (Swedish: "I rörelse"). She also wrote a few novels including "Kallocain". Inspired by the rise of National Socialism in Germany, it was a portrayal of a dystopian society in the vein of Orwell's Ni

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