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Camp Concentration (1968)

av Thomas M. Disch

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
9872415,554 (3.65)25
In this chillingly plausible work of speculative fiction, Thomas M. Disch imagines an alternate 1970s in which America has declared war on the rest of the world and much of its own citizenry and is willing to use any weapon to assure victory.  Louis Sacchetti, a poet imprisoned for draft resistance, is delivered to a secret facility called Camp Archimedes, where he is the unwilling witness to the army's conscienceless experiments in "intelligence maximization." In the experiment, Prisoners are given Pallidine, a drug derived from the syphilis spirochete, and their mental abilities quickly rise to the level of genius.  Unfortunately, a side effect of Pallidine is death.… (mer)
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Camp Concentration by Disch and Otto by Tom Ungerer

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/479732712

A pair made in a sort of hell, I guess, birthday books read back to back.

I don’t understand why Otto is badly written, when the author is obviously capable of writing good text in English. If you want to write some sort of nightmare for children – even worse, a nightmare that really happened – one has to be very careful, I imagine and this isn’t. It uses badly cliched English that is inappropriate for any readership, let alone kids. He describes the bombing of his German town thus: ‘Among the ruins and the fires lay innocent victims.’ What on earth does that mean? That some of the civilians bombed in German towns weren’t innocent victims? Does he mean anybody killed by these bombs were innocent victims? One could conceive of an argument along the lines of all the innocent victims being in concentrations camps, after all – two words ignored by this children’s book. Then there is the general dilemma of writing about such a topic for children: I am uneasy about his treatment, really uneasy about picking such a theme and coming up with a happy ending. Finally, the language is stilted, quite unattractive to read. I don’t understand why a child would want to read it.

Nor, as an adult, would I consider giving it to a child. ‘Mummy why did Oskar let those men take his friend away? Why didn’t his mother help? Why didn’t….If somebody wanted to take my friend away, would you stop them, Mummy?’ ‘Well, no, I wouldn’t, Oskar. It’s better just to watch when that happens and be glad it isn’t happening to you’. Honestly. The more I think about this book, the more I am really unhappy about it.

The pictures are nice.

Unfortunately Camp Concentration has no pictures. It does, however, avoid avoiding the words concentration camp. One can only assume, knowing that Disch considers himself too clever for words – no, not too clever for words, his books are full of his cleverness, little jokes for his friends and so on, exactly the sort of thing I object to when reading clever dicks – one can only assume that moving the word order is a play on his own camp ways as they are expressed in this book, much as it may have other rationales as well. It was explained to me after I finished reading this – and I must confess that my reading became cursory after a while – that I had missed all the clues. Was I supposed to know there were clues and that I was reading a mystery book? If I was supposed to realise this, it was badly communicated to me. If I wasn’t supposed to realise it, we are left with a denouement which is rather like one of those who-dun-its where the author cheats. There are always flashes of good writing in Disch’s work, but the point is, SO WHAT? There are probably a thousand people on goodreads, and tens of thousands of bloggers out there who produce such flashes, or, amazingly, keep it up. I think Disch is lazy, but because he has such tickets on his cleverness, he doesn’t think that matters. I beg to differ. But then, to be fair, I don’t think cleverness is nearly sufficient to produce a good piece of writing. Not nearly.

It is interesting to consider that we have here two examples of genre writing, both of which consistently fall down in the writing department. Picture books need good pictures and good text is only ever ‘nice if you can get it’. Science fiction is full of examples of authors who have great ideas but who can’t write. Six year olds probably don’t care and nor do science fiction buffs. Unfortunately I am neither.









As I meander through...

p. 19 ...people who can't diet for days running shouldn't attempt hunger strikes

p23 What gives? A question that is on the tip of every guinea-pig's tongue ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Camp Concentration by Disch and Otto by Tom Ungerer

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/479732712

A pair made in a sort of hell, I guess, birthday books read back to back.

I don’t understand why Otto is badly written, when the author is obviously capable of writing good text in English. If you want to write some sort of nightmare for children – even worse, a nightmare that really happened – one has to be very careful, I imagine and this isn’t. It uses badly cliched English that is inappropriate for any readership, let alone kids. He describes the bombing of his German town thus: ‘Among the ruins and the fires lay innocent victims.’ What on earth does that mean? That some of the civilians bombed in German towns weren’t innocent victims? Does he mean anybody killed by these bombs were innocent victims? One could conceive of an argument along the lines of all the innocent victims being in concentrations camps, after all – two words ignored by this children’s book. Then there is the general dilemma of writing about such a topic for children: I am uneasy about his treatment, really uneasy about picking such a theme and coming up with a happy ending. Finally, the language is stilted, quite unattractive to read. I don’t understand why a child would want to read it.

Nor, as an adult, would I consider giving it to a child. ‘Mummy why did Oskar let those men take his friend away? Why didn’t his mother help? Why didn’t….If somebody wanted to take my friend away, would you stop them, Mummy?’ ‘Well, no, I wouldn’t, Oskar. It’s better just to watch when that happens and be glad it isn’t happening to you’. Honestly. The more I think about this book, the more I am really unhappy about it.

The pictures are nice.

Unfortunately Camp Concentration has no pictures. It does, however, avoid avoiding the words concentration camp. One can only assume, knowing that Disch considers himself too clever for words – no, not too clever for words, his books are full of his cleverness, little jokes for his friends and so on, exactly the sort of thing I object to when reading clever dicks – one can only assume that moving the word order is a play on his own camp ways as they are expressed in this book, much as it may have other rationales as well. It was explained to me after I finished reading this – and I must confess that my reading became cursory after a while – that I had missed all the clues. Was I supposed to know there were clues and that I was reading a mystery book? If I was supposed to realise this, it was badly communicated to me. If I wasn’t supposed to realise it, we are left with a denouement which is rather like one of those who-dun-its where the author cheats. There are always flashes of good writing in Disch’s work, but the point is, SO WHAT? There are probably a thousand people on goodreads, and tens of thousands of bloggers out there who produce such flashes, or, amazingly, keep it up. I think Disch is lazy, but because he has such tickets on his cleverness, he doesn’t think that matters. I beg to differ. But then, to be fair, I don’t think cleverness is nearly sufficient to produce a good piece of writing. Not nearly.

It is interesting to consider that we have here two examples of genre writing, both of which consistently fall down in the writing department. Picture books need good pictures and good text is only ever ‘nice if you can get it’. Science fiction is full of examples of authors who have great ideas but who can’t write. Six year olds probably don’t care and nor do science fiction buffs. Unfortunately I am neither.









As I meander through...

p. 19 ...people who can't diet for days running shouldn't attempt hunger strikes

p23 What gives? A question that is on the tip of every guinea-pig's tongue ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Amazingly good. No time to review. I will just say: good books give me the urge to read more, great books give me the urge to write. This is the latter. ( )
  ralphpalm | Nov 11, 2019 |
What should be shocking instead arouses a curiosity. Camp Concentration details a government experiment where prisoners are injected with a compound which makes them progressively hyper intelligent before the syphilis component in the injection leads them to madness and death. A poet who had been imprisoned as a conscientious objector to the forever war is asked to chronicle the process. The inmates stage a play Faustus (by Kit Marlow) and the poet pens a play Auschwitz: a comedy. The whole enterprise feels like it is staged, people speak in speeches, think Marat/Sade meets Punishment Park. The Peter Watkins reference is telling, both Camp Concentration and Punishment Park can't escape feeling dated. our concepts of dissent have evolved, been altered. My initial high hopes melted to bemusement. ( )
1 rösta jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |



Camp Concentration – American author Thomas M. Disch’s 1968 science/speculative fiction, alternate history set in the near future where the United States has declared war on the entire world and features main character Louis Sacchetti, a poet who resists the draft and chooses prison rather than the army. But what a prison! The poet is sent to a secret camp where prisoners are given an experimental drug without their knowledge or consent, a drug that increases intelligence but in less than a year will most certainly cause death.

Written at the height of the US involvement in Vietnam and in the aftermath of CIA experiments with LSD on unknowing subjects, Disch’s novel is a hornet’s nest of vicious stings. Below are a number of stinging direct quotes from the pages of Louis Sacchetti's diary that, in effect, comprises Camp Concentration. I have included a modest comment of my own coupled with each quote. Here goes:

“The cells are as bony-clean as a dream of Philip Johnson (Grand Central Bathroom), while we, the prisoners, carry about with us the incredible, ineradicable smell of our stale, wasted flesh.” ---------- The irony of much military mentality – make sure all objects are scrubbed antiseptic clean as counterpoint to minds of the dehumanizers that are little more than open cesspools inflicting a life of psychic filth on inmates.

“Nasty as this prison is, there is this advantage to it – that it will not lead so promptly, so probably, to death. Not to mention the inestimable advantage of righteousness.” --------- Sounds like our poet is a bit naive. Little does he know that the prison officials will subject any prisoner they want to any torture they want. If things get a bit touchy, well, those officials can have their guards snuff out a prisoner’s life with no more hesitation than stepping on a cockroach. And a prisoner’s righteousness! Such nonsense can be dealt with via all sorts of manipulations, including bad diet, light deprivation and powerful drugs.



“I have an almost desperate desire to understand him, for it is R.M. and his like who perpetuate this incredible war, who believe, with a sincerity I cannot call into doubt, that in doing so they perform a moral action.” ---------- During the Vietnam War, many were the officers and soldiers who, like R.M., thought their participation in the war was highly moral. But many in the country, both in and out of the service, did not agree. It is this contrast the author’s narrator finds fascinating - Louis Sacchetti endeavors to understand the mindset of those like R.M..

Sidebar: During George W. Bush’s war, a huge number of cadets from the Air Force Academy were pumping Mel Gibson’s film about Christ, attempting to bully all cadets, even Jews, into watching and supporting. This to say, when the goal is achieved, when everyone upholds a common religious zeal linked to their inflicting war, there is nobody left like Louis Sacchetti to question the morality of the military action.

“Not since the playground tyrannies of childhood have the rules of the game been so utterly and; Knowledge arrogantly abrogated, and I am helpless to cope.” ---------- Again, the narrator is naïve in assuming just because he is a United States citizen protected by the law that as a prisoner he will retain his rights. Sorry, Louis, the military mentality here says the ends justify the means. As a conscientious objector you have not only surrendered your rights but also your humanity.

“It is an investigation of learning processes. I need not explain to you the fundamental importance of education with respect to the national defense effort. Ultimately it is intelligence that is a nation’s most vital resource, and education can be seen as the process of maximizing intelligence.” ---------- In similar spirit to the LSD experiments conducted by the CIA on unknowning subjects, the death producing drug Louis and others are given will ultimately produce much more intelligent military personnel. Thus the sacrifice of their lives is a contribution to a worthy cause.



“Before you were brought here you may be sure we examined every dirty little cranny of your past. We had to be certain you were harmless.” ---------- Ah, the government has no scruples or misgivings in prying into the privacy of any individual. After all, if you have nothing to hide, you have no grounds to object.

“If I should ever start feeling subjective again, I need only say the word and a guard will bring me a tranquilizer.” ---------- Drugs and counter-drugs to the rescue. Those in power can be so kind and considerate - as long as it servers their ends, that is.

“And it isn’t just Camp Archimedes. It’s the whole universe. The whole goddammed universe is a fucking concentration camp.” ---------- Rather harsh words from one of the other prisoners. To discover why he would say such a thing, I encourage you to read this distinctive novel for yourself.


Thomas M. Disch, age 28 in 1968, the publication year of Camp Concentration ( )
1 rösta Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
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In this chillingly plausible work of speculative fiction, Thomas M. Disch imagines an alternate 1970s in which America has declared war on the rest of the world and much of its own citizenry and is willing to use any weapon to assure victory.  Louis Sacchetti, a poet imprisoned for draft resistance, is delivered to a secret facility called Camp Archimedes, where he is the unwilling witness to the army's conscienceless experiments in "intelligence maximization." In the experiment, Prisoners are given Pallidine, a drug derived from the syphilis spirochete, and their mental abilities quickly rise to the level of genius.  Unfortunately, a side effect of Pallidine is death.

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