Nordic sagas: A secret source
"I asked his permission and sat down beside him. Then I looked into his book and was able to read the page heading: NORDIC SAGAS. ... Beside Freddie, on the bench, I saw a paperback with a loudly coloured jacket: Dashiell Hammett, The Continental Op. ...
"`I think there is,' said Freddie with some enthusiasm. `I think that the Old Nordic sagas were the source for Dashiell Hammett's style, and his inspiration in general.'
"`Really? Usually it's assumed that he was influenced by the harsh realities of American big cities, and by Hemingway.'
"`I'm not saying he wasn't,' said Freddie, as if he were already defending his M.A. thesis. But his main inspiration came from the Nordic sagas.' ...
"I spent the next half hour on that bench, and Freddie, quoting from Song of Eric the Red and from the Hammett stories featuring a detective called Continental Op, demonstrated how identical were the respective poker-faced killers of those works, and how the authors presented their bloody brutalities with equal lack of comment or show of emotion."Why do I enjoy that so much? Because Arnaldur Indriðason also cited the sagas as an influence on his own laconic prose style, and because I've posted about crime-fiction-like features in Njal's Saga, commonly considered the greatest of the genre. It seems that Škvorecký was on to something.
(Link to free online versions of some of the sagas here.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2009