Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Swede talking

Norm/Uriah at Crime Scraps leaps into a fascinating discussion of Swedish crime fiction and the attention it is currently receiving in the U.K. Some highlights:

"Will the professional journalists/critics move on to all the other Scandinavian crime writers who have not been televised and who have not been the beneficiary of a Stieg Larsson like marketing campaign [well deserved on the evidence of The Girl Who Played with Fire]?

"I very much doubt it as the media are quite fickle."
and

"In 1990 ... a Sami, who was very drunk, started a conversation with us on a train from Uppsala to Stockholm. He complained that he was a 'Swedish Apache', a depressed and oppressed minority in his own country. ... We were relieved that this was a short journey because he was very drunk, but as we were about to leave the train he said `if you are going to be oppressed this is the best country in the world to be oppressed.'"
© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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25 Comments:

Blogger seanag said...

What's quite fascinating to me is that this points out what the pros and cons of media fascination means for books. And how different it is from other ways that books do end up getting shared or passed along.

From my perspective, meaning, for those who don't know me here as a bookseller, Stieg Larsson is a bit of an afterthought. Or, perhaps more charitably, the latest 'it girl'. That's not to comment on his literary talents. It's just that the way I've seen it happen in our store is that people finally, and I would say belatedly, discovered Henning Mankell, and that immediately made them more receptive to a host of other Swedish and Scandinavian and Icelandic mystery writers. For certain avid readers, I'd wished that I had about a half dozen more to hand, though we've got a bunch, it's just that the public was and is still hungry for them.

But these kind of New York Times bestselling campaigns about an author aren't really about the links and relations. They seem to tend to be self-referential and ahistorical. They tend to want to make the author appear as if he or she has arrived on the scene without ancestors or precedent. It's not in their self-interest to cross publishing lines and recommend authors from different houses, or from the past, or, well, pretty much anything that doesn't tend to make their author stand out as unique.

January 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

On the other hand, those of us in the non-mainstream media have more freedom to write about books when we want to. I'm reading a crime novel published in 1997 and translated into English in 2003, and I will likely post some comments about it.

Having written what I did about resisting hype, I will add that I feel some pity for victims of the inevitable backlash. Stieg Larsson may be a hell of an author despite the hype, in other words.

January 27, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Yeah, there's no fault implied to Mr. Larsson. (I've heard that the series gets better as it goes along) Or actually to anyone. It's just a different way of transmission. Personally, I'm more comfortable with the kind of clusters I associate with people who read a lot and pass it along than with the kind of one shot spot that, say, an Oprah appearance or a big ad in the New York Times or any of these well-funded media promo type things mean in terms of the actual significance of the work as opposed to how deep the pockets are of its promoters.

It doesn't, of course, matter at all what I think, in terms of net profit, net loss.

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, one cannot accuse Mr. Larsson of being complicit in the book's hype. I share your feelings about getting the word out about books. This Oprah thing ... I remember the fuss after a book she had promoted to the skies was exposed as a fraud. She called the author back on the show and dressed him down. I remember thinking, "What the hell was anyone doing listening to her in the first place?"

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for the mention Peter.

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Man, and I was so depressed after I'd mentioned the series to all the US editors I knew, but none of them would take a chance on a first novel by a dead author who couldn't do the morning talk shows! I hope they're kicking themselves. That's publishing, folks. It's a crap shoot.

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Much obliged, Uriah. That post opens up some good, stimulating discussion about this business.

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, one wonders if publishers are now searching frantically for undiscovedred Swedish authors they can kill ...

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

I hope not, what would I do without them?

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I concede the point. While I may wait until the fuss dies down before I read Stieg Larsson, I have read Henning Mankell and Helene Tursten, among authors you've translated, and I'd prefer that they remain alive.

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Barbara said...

I'm tracking some suggestions for books that ought to be translated (or the rights have been sold but there's nothing published yet) - over here: http://scandinaviancrimefiction.wordpress.com/not-yet-translated/

Suggestions welcome. Whether any publisher will ever notice remains to be seen.

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's a superb, informative post with some equally good comments. Thanks.

Anything that will enlarge the pool of Nordic crime fiction available in English would give us more good reading and expand our ideas out here of what crime fiction up there is like. Finns, for instance, may be funnier than we suspect Nordic writers generally are. And I'm sure others on the lists in your post and comments would shatter or at least gently alter our view of Nordic crime fiction.

January 28, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Finns funny -- that's a good one! Check out The Man Without a Past (Finnish: Mies vailla menneisyyttä) directed by Aki Kaurismäki (2002) and see if you can figure out the humor. My in-laws thought it was a scream, but my half-Finnish wife and I didn't get it at all. On the other hand, his Leningrad Cowboys Go America is great.

Nice to meet a Larsson virgin -- let me know if you want to read the original American samizdat version instead.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have not seen any Kaurismäki movies, but from what I have heard of him, he is no barrel of laughs. But the first two Finnish crime authors I read were Pentti Kirstilä and Tapani Bagge, and whenever I mention their enjoyable, low-key humor, people always bring up Harri Nykänen. So yes, I can attest that some Finns are funny.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger marco said...

Not crime, but I like the humor in the novels of Arto Paasilinna, especially the one in which a Lutheran pastor adopts a bear (an actual bear, Peter,not a stocky bearded man -I say this b/c after your interview with Mehmet Murat Somer you're probably still immersed in gay lingo).

I think I'll have a look at Reg's blog and ask him a few things about translations.

Hmm.Looks like Barbara needs the hyperlink tutorial.
Lifting the latest version from my pupil:

This is how you do hyperlinks.

(a href="whatever you want to link to")a description of the link(/a)

and change the above parentheses to < and > - the reason I cant show you it like that is because it will think I'm trying to do a hyperlink.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

Hey Marco, Paasilinna is great, wish some publisher would pick up on him. I read him in Swedish, and highly recommend the one about the pensioners who chip in to take a final bus ride to Spain and then drive it off a cliff.

Not meaning to denigrate Finnish humor, but it's an acquired taste. When I was in Helsinki with Tiina, it seemed that Finns were allotted a certain number of smiles per lifetime, so they save them for appropriate occasions. Maybe it's that Russian influence, or as my wife's relatives refer to them, "our neighbors to the east."

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Not too many bears in Somer's books, I think, human or otherwise. I like the pairing of a Lutheran pastor and a bear. What languages has Paasilinna been translated into?.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Reg, you'll know better than I about Finns and the things that make them laugh. I have heard that the nation ranks high in literacy, cell-phone use, comics readership and suicide, so there's diversity to the national temperament, I'd say.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"the pensioners who chip in to take a final bus ride to Spain and then drive it off a cliff."

And that's not funny?

January 29, 2009  
Blogger marco said...

What languages has Paasilinna been translated into?

I've read it in Italian.
It's probably available in French and German also.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It sounds from your comment and Reg's as if Paasilinna's work may have a streak of deadpan humor -- unless I'm wrong, and it's more farcical.The deadpan would be more in line with what little I know of Finnish writing.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger marco said...

I'd say that situations may be farcical, but the style of narration,and therefore the humor, is deadpan.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That sounds like Pentti Kirstilä and even a bit like Tapani Bagge.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

No, Paasilinna is definitely funny! And certainly deadpan. I met him in 2004 at the Gothenburg book fair and he didn't have much to say, at least in English or Swedish. Signing books like crazy, though. Some smart publisher should check him out; he's written lots of books, and I could hook them up with an excellent translator, the star of Tiina's translation seminar.

January 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I hope some publisher is reading this, then. Thanks!

January 29, 2009  

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