Friday, September 18, 2009

Enough with the jokes

Last week I promised a post on small ways Arnaldur Indriðason articulates big themes. Here's one example, from the opening pages of Arctic Chill, where police are at a loss for information about a murder victim:

"Could be Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese," Sigurður Óli reeled off.

"Shouldn't we say he's an Icelander until we find out otherwise?" Erlendur said.
Later, Arnaldur puts these words in the mouth of a character who is not quite the anti-immigrant yahoo he seems at first:

"I've got nothing against immigrants ... But I'm against changing everything that's traditional and Icelandic just to pander to something called multiculturalism, when I don't even know what it means."
This character expresses revulsion at crimes against immigrants and full support for government programs to help integrate newcomers into Icelandic society.

One character says: "This is all so new to us. Immigrants, racial issues."

Another muses on the problem of immigrant children who refuse to integrate: "Same problem with the Icelanders living in Denmark. Their children refused to learn Danish."

Finally, any number of crime writers might have delivered lengthy exposition on the dreary conditions under which immigrants live. Here's how Arnaldur does it: "Erlendur was astonished there was no lift in such a tall building."

No diatribe, no ringing indictment. Instead, Erlendur and his creator, in their customary manner, making a heartfelt effort to understand their country.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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6 Comments:

Blogger Margot Kinberg said...

Hi!
There is an award for you at my Splashed and Lovely space.

September 19, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks!

September 19, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

The protagonist Erlendur has always been the master of understatement and economy in his diction. Arnaldur Indridason--one of my favorite writers--has consistently maintained exquisite control in his characterizations. There is nothing wrong with the precision of his plotting either. And as for setting, the author evokes all of Iceland's stark beauty and singular culture with the same kind of careful and restrained attention.

September 19, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Arnaldur is one of the best, all right. I've mentioned elsewhere the interesting source of his understatement and economy. Arnaldur attributes this to the influence of the Icelandic sagas.

September 19, 2009  
Blogger Dana King said...

Indridason is as good at saying more with fewer words as anyone. He's my favorite Scandinavian writer.

September 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He's one of my favorites anywhere. I expect I'll be posting more about him soon.

September 21, 2009  

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