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Boye, Karin

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1900-1941) Swedish poet and author, whose first-hand experience of the fall of Weimar Germany during 1932-1934 directly influenced the work for which she is best-known by English-language readers, the Dystopia Kallocain (1940; trans Gustav Lannestock 1966), one of the several great dystopias set in a dreaded Near Future to have appeared in the decades-long aftermath of World War One. George Orwell, whose novel adds World War Two to the mix, almost certainly did not encounter the text, which did not appear in English until long after his death; but Kallocain and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) depict similarly desperate worlds in remarkably similar terms. In Boye's novel, the "World State" is locked in a condition of perpetual War with the "Universal State" to the East; both states – each of them claustrophobic warren-like male-dominated repressive societies – are gripped by Paranoia and fear, with Thought Police ubiquitous. The protagonist's fatal Invention of the eponymous truth Drug only generates further repression in the "World State", as the involuntary self-betraying inner thoughts of everyone are now punishable. He eventually becomes a prisoner scientist in the "Universal State", where he continues his work. As in Orwell's novel, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. [JC]

Karin Maria Boye

born Göteborg, Sweden: 26 October 1900

died Alingsås, Sweden: 24 April 1941


  • Kallocain (Stockholm, Sweden: Albert Bonniers, 1940) [hb/]
    • Kallocain (Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1966) [trans by Gustav Lannestock of the above: hb/uncredited]


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