Thursday, June 21, 2007

A postscript to "Synergy and Swedes"

An April article in the Toronto Star, one of three(!) competing daily newspapers in that civilized city, offered thoughts on current Swedish crime fiction and its position in Europe and the wider world.

"We're riding the waves of Henning Mankell," says Håkan Nesser, whose name readers of this blog will know well.

"Germany is the door-opener to the rest of Europe," says Nesser, citing Mankell's earlier penetration of the German market as a key event in the ensuing proliferation of Swedish crime writing. "Between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, you have potentially 100 million readers in German. And, also, if you want to get published in Spain, the first thing they ask is, `Is he out in German?' That's when things can start rolling."
The article also traces the current wave of Swedish crime writing to a traumatic national event: the 1986 assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme, shot dead in Stockholm while walking home from a movie with his wife. Anyone who dismissed crime fiction as trifling might be intersted in this passage about the Palme assassination:

"In a way, Sweden has never recovered," says Swedish author and critic Marie Peterson. "Sweden changed, brutally, on almost every level, but this change was nowhere to be found in literature. No one explored it, analyzed it or wrote stories about it. Except the crime writers, starting with Mankell."

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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8 Comments:

Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

When Sjowall and Wahloo wrote their books from 1965-1975 they predicted that change was on its way, and that even Sweden would suffer a political assassination.
The last book published in 1975 was titled The Terrorists.

June 21, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Wow! I knew that disillusionment with post-war Sweden was one of their themes, but I did not know the disillusionment extended to prediction of assassinations. This will be worth looking into, perhaps in that new reissue of the novels, with introductions by current writers.

June 21, 2007  
Anonymous Karen C said...

I also thought it was fascinating that when Henning Mankell was here a couple of years ago he was saying that the motivation for his first book was that he disagreed with a general tendency towards treatment of refugee seekers, and that he felt, as it was a crime, the only response was to write a crime novel.

It's that sort of social perspective that makes Scandinavian crime so fascinating for me.

June 22, 2007  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Page 193-194 of the Terrorists 1975 concerns the attempted bombing of a Porsche carrying a US Senator and the Swedish Prime Minister.
I have just received two more of the series today, and now have 9 out of the 10 books.
I see the introduction to The Fire Engine That Disappeared was written by Colin Dexter, who had to admit that before being asked to write the intro had never read any Sjowall and Wahloo.

June 22, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Uriah, I wonder if that fictional assassination qualifies as a prediction. It sounds a good deal more elaborate than the Palme shooting. Perhaps in addition to the assassination itself, it anticipates the anti-American sentiment that has gone hand in hand with much contemporary terrorism.

Are you reading all the books in the new editions? It might be interesting to see the various guest introducers' takes on the influence of Sjowall and Wahloo -- perhaps especially if the introducers had not previously read the books.

June 22, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Karen, that sentiment of Mankell's seems closely related to the sort of empathy that Nesser, Frimansson, Tursten and Eriksson talked about in my article -- http://www.philly.com/inquirer/entertainment/books/20070619_Killings_not_the_key_to_Swedish_novelists.html, should you be in the mood for a browse.

Perhaps Eriksson, Frimansson and Nesser, especially, extend that empathy from a social to a more personal level.

I also heard Mankell read here in the U.S. a few years ago. Someone in the audience asked Mankell why his killings were so vicious and bloody, and he said simply that such things happened in the real world. He's a kind of social realist all the way.

June 22, 2007  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I have just received two of the new editions, but the other 7 that I have are in much older editions from 1978 on.
When the Terrorists was written in 1975 Sweden was still being praised as a socialist utopia. I expect the Martin Beck books were discounted as the fantasies of committed Marxists. The Palme murder in 1986 was such a shock to Swedes, because they believed the utopian myth. Events since 1989 have altered the social makeup of the country, and among other things provided more plots for Henning Mankell.

June 23, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I have two of the novels in older editions lying around, but this discussion is making me curious about the new editions.

Some of the newer Swedish crime writers take up the question of the failure of the utopia and how the Swedish public assigns blame for the failure. Satanism and The Glass Devil (Helene Tursten) is an interesting example.

June 23, 2007  

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