(2012) by Karin Tidbeck
The protagonist Vanja - a bureaucrat in a dystopian, backward society - is sent to the settlement Amatka to perform a survey among the population.
The bleak, emotionally repressed setting is strongly reminiscent of some northern European Communist country. At a first impression, the reader might think AMATKA is a satire or pastiche of life in the Soviet Union. However, things are much more bizarre than that.
Amatka, it turns out, is not located in reality as we know it. Vanja, who is already feeling alienated, gradually uncovers the dark secrets of this society and why it came to be so totalitarian.
I don't want to spoil the plot by saying too much – but if you have read novels like Stanislaw Lems SOLARIS, or the works of Philip K. Dick, you may recognize some themes in AMATKA.
This is a remarkable novel which can be appreciated both as science fiction and as literature. It may require a second or third reading to catch all its subtleties and things happening beneath the surface.
I especially enjoyed how Tidbeck creates a surreal, dreamlike mood and builds to an intense, ambiguous ending. AMATKA is highly recommended. Keep an eye on this writer.
Other works by Karin Tidbeck:
-Who is Arvid Pekon?
Footnote: Tidbeck has written a column for the Swedish newspaper Expressen, about how the Swedish cultural climate is hostile to fantasy and science fiction (I can confirm that this unfortunately is 100% true):
”Varför krävs en pizzeria i Linköping för att räknas?”
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