/ notes

Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin

I recently finished reading through Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin. As I read it, I couldn't help but notice the early twentieth century dystopian preoccupation with the destruction of memory. It’s a concern integrated with concerns about fascism, but paradoxically, in the face of bubbling fascism in the West today, a concern of ours is not the destruction of memory but the persistence of it.

That isn't to say we live a world where the truth is always accessible or known. Our concerns are not that truth will be disappeared, but things that should be repressed (white supremacists manifestos) will resurface [1] or that a deluge of misinformation is leveraged to drown the truth out – even when pointed out as inaccurate or untrue, the falsehood travels further than the correction [2].

Despite the way technology has changed our relationship with memory and notions of truth, I don’t think this makes Burdekin’s novel any less worth reading, in fact, I think it tackles fascism with critically needed nuance we find missing in, say, Orwell’s 1984. Where Orwell captures the fascism enabled by an omnipresent surveillance state, Burdekin handles toxic masculinity, borders, and what patriarchy gains by denying women the ability to have pride in themselves and their sex (108).

Her work forces us to consider the importance of freedom of movement, the problem of male anger, and what the state gains when they criminalize abortion and other reproductive health services. If the events of today encourage you to go back and reread Orwell, leave his work in your earlier years, and pick up Burdekin instead. Her work is meatier and you haven’t heard her name invoked for every political scenario your entire life.


  1. https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2019/08/04/the-el-paso-shooting-and-the-gamification-of-terror/
  2. http://news.mit.edu/2018/study-twitter-false-news-travels-faster-true-stories-0308