Monday, November 05, 2007

Cold-weather crime

I'm back in Scandinavia and in the countries that Scandinavians settled for this post. First, another brief passage from Iceland's great Njal's Saga, composed around 1280, set about three hundred years before then, and full of more killings in any number of its short chapters than contemporary Iceland probable sees in a year.

Here, I bring back Hallgerd, headstrong and vengeful instigator of the killing that occasioned Thjostolf's laconic account of a killing, cited here. This time, two of the saga's doomed heroes discuss her in terms that might remind readers of many a femme fatale:

"Skarp-Hedin said, `Hallgerd does not let our servants die of old age.'

`Your mother,' said Gunnar, `will no doubt see to it that this game is played by two.'"

Back in the present, to the the Fall 2007 issue Mystery Readers Journal. Editor Janet Rudolph made a decision that makes the issue an especially interesting experience for readers of international crime fiction: She does not restrict herself to fiction that has been translated into English.

Thus, for example, Paula Arvas offers insights that may help readers develop a sense of Finland and its fiction even if they can't read the language. "Finnish crime fiction," she writes, "differs from Swedish crime fiction typically in that Finnish writers often use criminals, like small time crooks, as their central characters." That might make sense to anyone who remembers my comment about Tapani Bagge. Some of his short fiction is available online; Arvas discusses his novels, not yet published in English.

Elsewhere in the issue, you can read about a very early crime novel set in the very far north, and the amusing lament of an author who bemoans "A Depressing Lack of Crime" in her native Iceland. Perhaps the biggest treat for the many fans of translated Swedish crime fiction are two bibliographies, one of Swedish crime fiction translated into English, another of reference sources about Nordic crime fiction. Lots of people in lots of places, it's nice to see, take Nordic crime fiction seriously.

P.S. One of the issue's articles is called "Have You Driven a Fjord Lately?" If you can resist that, you are made of stronger stuff than I.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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