Lars Kepler: Behind The Hypnotist

Lars Kepler: Behind The Hypnotist

Revisiting their early success with ‘The Hypnotist’, here the duo discuss the idea behind their first bestseller and why they chose hypnotism as an area of interest.

Many crime novels are about getting inside the head of the perpetrator, about understanding behaviour that seems incomprehensible or terrifying. We thought it would be exciting to use a hypnotist as a key character in a crime novel, because a hypnotist can actually see other people’s memories, through their own eyes.

The last time we visited New York, we had lunch together with some people from a major newspaper. Their Books Editor told us that as a young teenager, she had been a witness to a crime but because she could not remember anything a hypnotist was contacted. This remained a very positive memory for her, as she spoke of sinking into the deep relaxation where the doors to the subconscious hang loose on their hinges. Under hypnosis she could suddenly observe the sequence in detail and easily remember the perpetrators license plate and other key details.

Hypnosis is really a fascinating and remarkable state of mind, the level of consciousness measured with the help of an EEG in between 4 Hz and 7 Hz, (the level just above deep sleep). But while the relaxation of one part of the brain is almost complete, other parts are extremely active and alert. In an awake state, we react to the outside world but under hypnosis we turn almost our full attention inwards. A person under hypnosis can be led past their own will to censure memories and thoughts, they can enter rooms which are otherwise hidden from themselves and others.

For several years we fortunately had direct insight into hypnosis. Under hypnosis you feel very relaxed and at the same time in total control of the situation. You notice the surrounding world the whole time, but it’s not that important for the moment, because you want to hear what the hypnotist tells you. And when he tells you to do something, you think that you can refuse, but you can’t see why, it’s easier to do what he tells you, there’s no reason to refuse, no reason to be afraid.

It’s unlikely that you can be hypnotized if you are mentally averse to it. But if you’re in a state of shock it is still possible to be mentally open enough to give in to the trance. You can absolutely lie under hypnosis, but you can’t lie to yourself and a skilled hypnotist can induce you to tell the truth. They can make a second last for hours and make every speck of dust glow, so you can remember details that otherwise wouldn’t be possible to recall. Even Sigmund Freud used hypnosis for a while but thought the direct path down to the subconscious worryingly fast. We have had a lot of very positive reactions from professional hypnotists. They all like Erik’s personal picture of sinking down in water: “They didn’t know that for me they were deep under water at the same time, slowly floating down past an enormous coral formation, a deep-sea plinth, the rough wall of a continental rift, all of us sinking together through gently bubbling water.” Even though none of the hypnotists used that exact picture, they loved it.

It all started for us when we heard a doctor say that hypnosis is like a very fast elevator down to the subconscious. That sent our imaginations into a spin. We thought about something going terribly wrong during a session of hypnosis. What if the hypnotist finds something that nobody knew was there, down in the recesses of a soul . . .

The Hypnotist is available to buy online today.