Torben is a Danish novelist (though he hasn't been writing lately); he's married and a father; and he's living in a Copenhagen of the near future that has become such a welfare state that the only behavior which is frowned upon is individualism (conscience included). The state has police, but they're called Helpers. It continually examines and recertifies the fitness of couples to bear and raise children. It is stultifyingly group-ish. And so when Torben, in depression and rage one night, kills wife Edith, the one thing the state will not then allow him to do is. . . to feel guilt. All personal action is mitigated by ""circumstances,"" it seems--so punishment simply does not exist. But Torben knows, of course, that he's guilty--even if, officially, the death is termed accidental (as a sop, Torben is sent for a brief, perfunctory stay in a psychiatric hospital, then quickly released). And he eventually is driven close to madness in demanding a sentence--which he finally gets, grudgingly: he is sentenced to write a series of four socially ""uplifting"" novels. Stangerup is economical with this story; Torben is a very denatured sort of Raskolnikov. But, even presented so sparely, it's a one-idea parable--an obvious mini-1984--which goes on too long after making its tangle, sermonizing point.
Pub Date: Jan. 21, 1981
Page Count: -
Publisher: Marion Boyers (99 Main St., Salem, NH 03079)