The classic 1940 Swedish dystopian novel Kallocain envisioned a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain's depiction of a totalitarian world state draws on what novelist Karin Boye observed or sensed about the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany of the 1930s.

Its central idea grew from the 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.

Kallocain has been translated in to more than 10 languages, and was adapted into a television miniseries in 1981 by Hans Abramson.

Plot Edit

The plot centers on Leo Kall, written in diary form. Leo Kall is a scientist who is incredibly loyal to the government and develops the drug, Kallocain, which is a truth drug. It has the effect that anyone who takes it will reveal anything, even things they weren't consciously aware of.

Major themes include the notion of the self in a totalitarian state, the meaning of life, and the power of love.


The use of the name Leo Kall might be a referenece to Socrates' fictional ideal city-state Kallipolis in The Republic.

Sources Edit

  • 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) article