Wednesday, August 03, 2011

More on "The Boy in the Suitcase"

Either Agnete Friis or Lene Kaaberbøl told an interviewer that their novel The Boy in the Suitcase is about powerless people, those who enjoy no social protection.

I'm not far enough into the book to know how this plays out, but there's a nice bit of foreshadowing early on. I'll avoid spoilers, but the punch line is a woman emerging from unconsciousness, struggling to make out a nurse's face, and seeing this:
"There was something there, in the tone of her voice, in the set of her jar, that was not compassion, but its opposite. Contempt."
Discussions of Nordic crime novels always say the books probe the ugly reality beneath the welfare state's placid surface, and they have been saying it for more than forty years.  Friis and Kaaberbøl here find a fresh way to show it.
***
Another early scene has a character recalling a doctor's rage over a rape victim's horrific injuries. The authors handle the subject with commendable restraint that only enhances the horror. The same has not always been said of, say, Stieg Larsson. So, while it's early yet to pronounce judgment on the novel, I'm developing respect for it already. Too bad the title doesn't lend itself as easily to parody as does The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
***
Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbøl will be part of my panel "A QUESTION OF DEATH: HOW IMPORTANT IS WHODUNIT?" on Thursday, Sept. 15, 10 a.m.-11 a.m., at Bouchercon 2011.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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25 Comments:

Anonymous kathy d. said...

I just cannot wait for this book's Soho Crime publication date of Nov. 8. This is one book I'll have to purchase, and will do so immediately.

Everything I've read about it, including here, just makes the anticipation increase.

And I have not yet read a thriller by a Danish writer, or two, as here.w

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This is the first Danish crime novel for me, too. I think you can tell that I'm impressed.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Your first?

I am happy that you grabbed one of the very best!

If you should want more, Jussi Adler-Olsen is also a good choice.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was reading about him recently, perhaps on your site.

Say, once you're here, how does one pronounce the g in "Agnete" and the double i in "Friis"? Thanks!

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Hm. "Aunete", but German pronuncation, not English. A bit like the vowel of ´down´.

We´d only use a double i in a name so it wouldn´t make any difference, but the i is longer than that in ´frisk´(because of the two consonants).

Hope this makes sense, but I´ve never taught Danish. ;)

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tak!

Tomorrow's lesson will take up stress, perhaps? Stress on the initial syllable in Agnete and Kaaberbøl, I presume?

August 03, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Hmm, in German the "g" in Agnete would be pronounced.

This sounds interesting. How in the world does one deal with restraint with "horrific rape injuries" that upset even the physician? One might also wonder why the preponderance of horrific sexual abuse of women in recent mysteries.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Dorte H said...

I.J.Parker: yes, but I only suggested you should pronounce my ´phonetic spelling´ the way Germans would so the first syllable of Agnete would sound like they´d pronounce August.

Peter: stress on the first syllable of Kaaberbøl, but the second of Agnete.

August 03, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Aha. Not a long "A"? (As in Ahgnete?) Really an "ow" sound? As in August?
Pretty name, by the way.
And the "o" with the slash (oe) is the same as the "o" with the Umlaut in German, right? Related languages. And mostly pretty phonetic.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Dorte, for letting me know how to place my stress correctly. I have learned over the course of this little burst of research that Danish phonology differs in some interesting ways from Swedish and Norwegian.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I'm wary of quoting from the book because my copy is an uncopyedited advance reading copy (which probably makes no sense, since I've quoted briefly from it in posts the past two days).

Some readers and commenters have indeed wondered about the proliferation of sexual violence against women in recent mysteries. It was because of one such commenter, in particular, that I posted this comment.

The authors here are able to handle the passage with restraint for two reasons: the rape or rapes happened in the book's narrative past, and the point-of-view character in the scene is neither the victim, the attacker, nor the angry physician. She is a nurse, so she is able to appreciate the severity of the injuries without being shocked into apoplexy. The passge is exceedingly short, and the authors describe the injuries briefly and without a trace of gleeful or salacious detail.

August 03, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I also have no tolerance for this rise of gratuitous violence against women on the pages of mysteries -- all types of violence.

There are so many books which I avoid or else must skip descriptive sections.

Many women whom I know won't read books with this violence.

I read last year of a woman editor at a publication who just wouldn't read books with this violence. She was through with that.

She did comment that publishers ask cover designers to feature violence against women, even if the murder victims are not women!

So, my question is to whom do these books appeal? Is it the lowest common denominator for writers and publishers? What audience is this? It's downright creepy.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Dorte H said...

I.J.: yes, ø = the German ö.

And yes, we pronounce the Danish name Agner (man´s name) so it rhymes with downer.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, one recent Nordic crime novel may make fun of the phenomenon. Its prologue includes a torture device so far over the top that I have to believe its wry or sarcastic comment.

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dorte:

Agner/downer. Some would call that rhyme appropriate for the Nordic countries, though a comment on yesterday's post said Danes were definitely the funniest of the Nordic peoples.

August 03, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Fascinating pronunciation, Thanks, Dorte.

And Peter, I absolutely believe that you wouldn't deal with gratuitous violence here. I was really more fascinated by the phenomenon. The Larsen books are pretty graphic. It's a toss-up if his sales are due to his choice of protagonist or the fact that people like to read about violent sex directed at women. Authors make choices about subject matter. I'm not always convinced that such books are motivated by the need to make an argument against this violence.
Still I haven't read the book, so I'm just my usual suspicious self. :)

August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I'm not sure the lines between calculation, titillation, and making statements against violence are entirely clear. I can imagine a particularly skillful, devious author seeking to make a statement against violence by implicating his or her audience in being titillated by it -- and I can also imagine an author and his or her apologists disingenuously claiming to do this.

August 03, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Exactly right. And the reader's motives are also ambivalent in many cases.

Since I write books that are considered "exotic", graphic sexual abuse is perhaps almost expected. I note that the late Robert Van Gulik took an enormous and repeated interest in describing and showing (he also illustrated his books) beautiful women with bare breasts being tied up and whipped by men. Back in the 60s, this passed for being "historical" and "exotic" behavior.

August 04, 2011  
Blogger Barbara said...

Interesting discussion. The rape scene in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is actually fairly short and most of it is off stage - in the book. The film is much more graphic. The hidden chamber where women are tortured is another matter, but even there we don't actually see women assaulted; only Blomqvist.

I just sent in a draft of a book chapter for a book Palgrave will be publishing ... eventually ... about rape in crime fiction, a project which asks many of the same questions. If you are having an episode of egg-headedness, Sabine Sielke's Reading rape: the rhetoric of sexual violence in American literature and culture, 1790-1990 is interesting in the way it points out the various ways rape has been used to frame various social issues and anxieties.

My main "aha!" when working on this essay was in seeing a divide between the way Sjowall and Wahloo (and Muller and Paretsky and other women writing about violence in the 1980s and 90s) see crime in a social context versus the way Thomas Harris and his multitudes of imitators frame it - as a Manichean struggle between good (FBI profilers) and evil (monstrous but clever killers who arise out of a combination of bad seed genetics and moral choice). Larsson borrows from the Harris tradition (he borrowed from everything and everyone) but his concept of where evil comes from is firmly in the Sjowall/Wahloo camp.

August 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I think book-jacket biographies list Van Gulik as a collector and maybe writer as well of erotica in addition to his accomplishments as author, diplomat, and illustrator.

August 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Barbara, that sounds like the seeds of a panel for the more serious-minded at some future Bouchercon.

Maybe the monster tradition is the real target.

August 04, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

What are you saying about Van Gulik? :) Theoretically, he researched and translated Chinese erotica, among a lot of other things. He was a scholar (well respected) of Ancient Chinese history. However, I've wondered a bit myself.

August 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm saying nothing that his mother would have blushed to hear. He was a man of the world in an old-fashioned sense who lived a highly interesting life. I wouldn't mind tracking down Janwillem van de Wetering's biography of him one of these days.

August 04, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

If you're referring to the torture scenes in The Leopard by Nesbo, there have been several articles about this online. I don't know if I'll read it, but if I do, I'll skip that part.

I would like to read Barbara's book, and will look for news about it.

I have read posts by respected bloggers' about publishers telling writers to have violence against women in their books. They think it increases sales.

Again, I wonder who reads this or who buys the books. It is creepy to me and to many women friends -- who love to read mysteries, but won't read very violent books or else, as in the case of Stieg Larsson's books, skip the worst parts, which I did, too.

However, Larsson make the correlation between the worst misogyny and Nazism, in the first book in the trilogy.

August 05, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, that's precisely the scene I was referring to. It did not increase my desire to read the book, but I will allow for the possibility that Nesbo was being satirical.

August 05, 2011  

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