This post is by way of atonement. If Henning Mankell is a father to the current boom in international crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
are grandparents. Their ten Martin Beck novels, from 1965's Roseanna
to The Terrorists
in 1975, were among the first to examine a society critically as well as tell a crime story, and authors to this day cite them as influences.
Despite this, I had not read Sjöwall and Wahlöö until now. Mankell's introduction/appreciation to the 2008 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard reprint of Roseanna is a brisk review of its highlights, its influence, and its remarkable freshness despite the apparent distance of its world from Mankell's and ours. I am especially impressed that the first adjectives Mankell applies to the book are "straightforward" and "clear," and that he says "Even the language seems energetic and alive."
So far he's right. The first two chapters are like an operatic overture or prelude, sounding, one by one, miniature versions of the themes that will follow until, in Chapter 3, we meet Beck — the same Beck whose ordinariness as a human being, along with that of his colleagues, was such a revelation to Henning Mankell forty years ago. I have a heady feeling that I am exploring a source of much that has become familiar to me.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010
Labels: Henning Mankell, Maj Sjöwall, Nordic crime fiction, Per Wahlöö, Roseanna, Scandinavia, Scandinavian crime fiction, Sweden, Sweden crime fiction