The foundations of evil

I have just finished Magnus Dahlström´s very recent novel "Spådom" (means predicion, as in having one´s fortune told). A quick check with amazon shows that Dahlström has been translated before, to French at least. This last novel of his has been much talked of and if Stieg Larsson is translated to English, than why not Dahlström? But there is no justice in the world...

Anyway, it took me a while to finish it. Had to take a couple of breaks, as it is kind of demanding, emotionally. The narrative mode is stream of consciousness and it is very well executed, I think. We get to follow three men, one doctor, one police officer, and one social worker. They often have several strands of thought at the same time, like what´s being said on tv, what´s going on outside the window, what´s going on at work, at the same time as they are having a conversation with their wife or a colleague and brewing over a grudge. Actually, it could all be the same man, just in different circumstances. They all have an inner language completely modelled on the vocabulary of their professions and the bureaucracy and protocoll of their workplaces. It´s like they are personifications of the Swedish state. The wife is just a wife, their child is just a girl, or a boy. They have no capacity at all to directly experience or express their emotions. Instead, something happens to them, something trivial, that is misunderstood or blown out of proportion and it sets them off into a spiral of destructive behaviour fueled by some emotion that is totally beyond their understanding or control. With one, it´s a fear of dying, with another it´s anger and vindictiveness, and with a third it´s persecution mania.

One recurrent theme is an obsession with hands. Not sure what that signifies, but perhaps it´s something to do with the connection between our thoughts and actions. These men often act without thinking at all. All the same, their thoughts trigger those actions. But in a warped way, with that emotion kind of hijacking them. And I suppose they all cross over into real psychosis, at least once. Makes me think of all those psychopaths one reads of, saying they have no memory of when the butchered some innocent victim. Saying that they weren´t "themselves". Dahlström is saying, I think, that they are themselves, they just have no self-awareness. And I suppose the awareness of the emotionality that drives them is something the reader has to supply. I you have no awareness of your emotions, I don´t know how you would read this book. Not at all.

Sometimes actors say that evil people are so much more interesting to play. But historians and psychologists often say that evil is boring and banal, with the mechanics of the Holocaust as prime example. I think Dahlström is trying to expose the foundations of evil in the human psyche. Some critics have written that the novel needs editing, but I think not. I think Dahlström knows exactly what he wants to achieve, and the length of the novel and the monotony and repetition of the thought-processes are necessary to really get across that feeling of being trapped inside the skulls of these men, trapped in Hell. Like, Forever.

This is not a book to love. It´s a book to be impressed by and informed by. It´s meant to educate. Make us realize that not everyone has that connection to themselves or others, that emotional stability that most of us take for granted. It´s there to remind us that evil can be brewing very close by, indeed.

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