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Alla monster måste dö Magnus Bärtås and Fredrik Ekman, Alla monster måste dö (All Monsters Must Die)

Albert Bonniers förlag,  2010. ISBN: 9789100124885

Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2011:2

Two friends, both writers with other artistic interests, go on a journey with the tacit aim of turning it into a book. They’ve written books together before: wry studies of closed, cultish societies. But they are keen on the cinema and its lore, and have now picked a perfect travel goal: secretive North Korea, whose actual ruler Kim Jong Il is passionate about the films. ‘Actual ruler’, because the acknowledged ruler is Kim’s deceased father, Kim Il Sung. Necrocracy is only one eccentric aspect of this strange country, where the story matters more – much, much more – than the reality. Even as just a whatwe- did-on-our-holiday tale, Alla monster måste dö would have been a wonderful read, by turns gentle slapstick and intelligent observation. But the crucial addition to the travelogue is their shared interest in the cultural and political fabric of North Korea. An introductory chapter describes the kidnapping in 1978 of a famous South Korean actress to join to her already captive husband, the equally famous film director Shin Sang-oks. Flashbacks to their story recur throughout the book. After various deprivations, they do what they must: create an indigenous film industry in North Korea. The cinematic medium, with its capacity to create fantastic allegories, became an essential element of Kim Jong Il’s own life as well as the lives of his oppressed, mostly impoverished fellow citizens. Fascinated, the authors launch an interesting if not always convincing analysis of The Monster in East Asian fantasy and especially of the successive versions of Godzilla, the creature embodying our fears of nuclear holocaust. People everywhere will use imagination and, unavoidably, simplification, to make living with the unendurable possible; dictators find manipulating such devices helpful. Alla monster måste dö offers the rare pleasure of writing so well informed and thoughtful that rereading it brings unexpected perceptions and new ideas.

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