Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A long forgotten bag

The always entertaining Mike Ripley has recently caused a minor stir by referring, perhaps a mite disparagingly, to the 'love affair between Nordic crime and the chattering classes'.  Whether or not the very talented Mr Ripley has a point (and I think he's right that the focus on Scandinavian crime fiction has caused some other excellent translated fiction to be overlooked), it occurred to me that, if I were so inclined, this story might give me the chance to jump on the bandwagon.  

In brief, a Mongolian silver crown stolen in 1984 from a Stockholm museum has been found in the police headquarters in the city, after some twenty years in what's described as 'accidental storage'.  The museum chief Anders Björklund  is quoted as saying: "We would like to thank the national police service for housing the silver Mongolian crown for such a long time."  I can't help thinking that there might have a been a touch of irony in his tone. 


1. cfr said...

It would be interesting to know which ones you consider in the category "some other excellent translated fiction to be overlooked."

2. Michael Walters said...

Hm...I knew that comment would get me into trouble, cfr. I'm wary of expressing any strong views because I've read only a fraction of the possible contenders. I very much like Niccolo Ammaniti and, of course, there's always Camilleri. I was also very struck by Philippe Claudel's 'Brodeck's Report', although I suppose one could debate whether that's a crime novel. I'm also conscious that there are authors like Andrea Maria Schenkel, Esther Verhoef, Xavier-Marie Bonnot - oh, and numerous others, whom I've not yet got round to reading, but whose books sound interesting and have been well-received elsewhere. I should say that I've nothing against the Daggers shortlist, which includes some superb books and some of my favourite writers. But I think Mike Ripley has a point that Scandinavian fiction has now become a publishing fashion to the extent that it risks overwhelming equally good stuff from elsewhere. And while there's some really excellent Scandinavian crime fiction, the quality overall is perhaps a little more variable than some of the hype might suggest. And, on that note, I'll tiptoe quietly away...

3. cfr said...

I don't think you are in trouble. I was suprised that Yrsa Sigurdardottir's first novel Last Rituals was not on the list, although there's a question mark over the "Scandinavian" as it's Icelandic. Having had a push to read Simone Van Der Vlugt from HC earlier this year, I decided to try the three Dutch authors translated, that I knew of, to compare. So I added in Saskia Noort and Verhoef, who you mentioned. I found all good. Interestingly, they all have a certain style and I wonder if that's the culture coming through, or if it also has something to do with the fact they share the same Dutch publisher.

I really ought to get around to reading Camilleri at some point...

Thanks for the reply. I don't think you're being controversial. I was talking to a friend earlier this week who believes Skand CrimeFic is now a fashion and not always good. He'd tried a Lackberg, after about a decade since last reading something in translation, and he's not about to pursue more.

4. Michael Walters said...

Thanks, cfr. I think the 'fashion' element is to some extent inevitable. Publishers have to be commercial. If they sense a bandwagon, they'll try to jump aboard while they can, whether it's Scandinavian crime, boy-wizards or books about the Holy Grail. The challenge is always to get a book noticed, and it's much easier to do that if there's already a buzz in the air. The terrific thing about the current Nordic crime-wave is that it's opened up a whole new seam of excellent writers to English readers. In that context, it's probably a little harsh of me to complain that the quality's variable or that other, equivalent seams of excellence are being overlooked. And, of course, critical judgements are very subjective - I can think of several well-reviewed recent books that didn't do much for me.

But, yes, you should definitely try Camilleri...

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