Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The French are coming! The French are coming!

Amid fascinating new theories I've been reading about the origins of English (Stephen Oppenheimer's Origins of the British: The New Prehistory of Britain could easily include chapters called "No Saxons, Please; We're English," "All Angles," or "Some of My Best Friends are Jutes"), comes crime fiction news about the French:

Fred Vargas' The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, translated by Sian Reynolds, and Pierre Lemaitre's Alex, translated by Frank Wynne, were named joint winners this week of the International Dagger Award for translated crime fiction by the Crime Writers' Association in the UK. The news release announcing the award says the CWA plans to establish a French chapter "in the near future."

Wynne, Lemaitre, and fellow French authors Antonin Varenne and Xavier-Marie Bonnot attended Bristol's Crimefest 2013 along with your humble blogkeeper, so perhaps French crime writing is about to start enjoying a higher profile in the UK and then, perhaps, in America (Alex is to be released in the U.S. in September.)

Whatever its profile in the UK at large, French crime writing has enjoyed an outsize profile at the Daggers. This year marked the fifth time in the International Dagger's eight-year history that the award had gone to a French novel or novels. The award was the fourth for Vargas/Reynolds, following on The Three Evangelists in 2006, Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand in 2007, and The Chalk Circle Man in 2009. Dominique Manotti's  Lorraine Connection, translated by Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz, was the other French winner, in 2008.
*
Your humble blogkeeper interviewed Fred Vargas last month and Sian Reynolds in 2008. It was Reynolds' solution to a bit of untranslatable wordplay in The Three Evangelists that spurred me to start interviewing authors and translators in the first place. I also reviewed The Ghost Riders of Ordebec in the Philadelphia Inquirer in June.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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43 Comments:

Blogger Kathy D. said...

I think it's great that Fred Vargas won for Ordebec. I did not read Alex so I won't give an opinion on this.

I am also glad French crime fiction is getting more attention.

It is sad though that Pierre Magnan, whose Death in the Truffle Wood is a great piece of crime fiction and a novel of the French countryside, passed away before this upsurge happened.

I am going to look for his other books.

DBB has featured other French writers, too, such as Manchette, so they have gotten accolades here.

If you haven't read The Collini Case, also a CWA Dagger nominee, suggest you do so. It contains information going back to WWII that is stunning. It's a quick read of 190 short pages.

July 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Who knows how much these awards mean? And who knows to what extent critical and popular success go hand in hand? The CWA kept honoring French crime novels even Scandinavian crime fiction was all the rage. Then it went Swedish for two years before honoring Camilleri/Sartarelli last year and now Vargas/Reynolds.

I also don't know if the judges who select the shortlists are the same groups who pick the winners from among those shortlists. What this all adds up to is that I don't know what a given award indicates about the popularity of a gien country's crime fiction. I do know that what little chatter I had read in my little crime fiction circle favored the books that did, indeed, win.

I have not yet read Alex, but I hear good reports, and Pierre Lemaitre was the most gregarous of the French contingent at Crimefest.

July 16, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and thanks for the recomendation.

July 16, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Alex is probably too violent for my taste, but it generated discussion around the blogosphere.

So did the other books nominated.

There was controversy about The Collini Case's nomination, quite an expose of the German legal system regarding WWII. Well-worth reading.

Some bloggers thought the nomination was based on its political content and another thought that it is an important book for this reason.

Anyway, if you read it, look forward to your comments.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think I read, too, that the grandfather of The Collini's cases author was an active Nazi. This introduced the possibility that the book may have been an effort to shed guilt.I also seem vaguely to recall that someone connected with the awards themselves suggested that "importance" was a valid criterion for consideration.

One favorable discussion of Alex said it included "an unspeakable act." This does not increase the chances that I'll rea it.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

Describing Baldur von Schirach (the grandfather in question) as an active Nazi is something of an understatement, actually. However, having read the novel, I didn't feel that it was an effort to shed guilt at all (in any case I don't think it's fair or necessary to assign specific guilt to the grandson, who's certainly not writing to make light of Grandpa's crimes), and the postwar German legal response to Nazi crimes which provides the novella's framework is an extremely interesting (and yes, that horrible word, important) topic in its own right. It's the courtroom scenes that are the most powerful, for what it's worth. I think the Vargas is probably a better novel in literary terms, but Collini isn't stylistic tripe by any means. It also covers genuinely new ground, which in such a crowded genre is no mean feat, and I don't see anything wrong with nominating some books for ideas, and some for craft, as long as the hurdle for decent prose, plotting etc isn't too low. Obviously, it'd be nice to have innovation plus great style, but one can't having everything, and beautiful prose with nothing to say is just as annoying at times.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not heard of Baldur von Schirach until I read an article about his grandson's novel. But

"Over the next few years Schirach was responsible for sending Jews from Vienna to German death camps. During his tenure 65,000 Jews were deported from Vienna to Poland, and in a speech on 15 September 1942 he mentioned their deportation as a `contribution to European culture.'"

is just part of what an online article has to say about him. I pass no judgment on the novel, since I have not read it. But I think some readers were uncomfortable with even the possibility that the author or publisher may have intended the book as an act of expiation.

Germany has got a better press for its actions in the years following the war than have other countries, so a criticism of its legal response might well make compellin reading.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Lauren makes excellent points in the contributions that a book of ideas can make.

I read about Ferdinand von Schirach and his grandfather's horrific crimes before I read his novel. I was curious.

The author is very honest about what his grandfather did, that he served several years in jail and was not remorseful.

Having read the book, I do no think it was written as a gratuitous piece or one written for atonement or clearing of the family name, as one blogger charged.

It is a genuine story, told with much sympathy for the Italian worker charged with murdering a German industrialist.

It also exposes shocking "international laws," which allowed for some horrendous war crimes. And it exposes German laws, which protected (and still protect) the perpetrators.

The book generated much discussion in Germany -- good -- and caused a commission to be set up to examine these laws. If the book led to actual changes in the law, even better, although it may be too late to prosecute many war criminals who would be long gone.

The book should be read before anyone passes judgment. I was surprised by the honesty and empathy of the writer, which moved me to tears several times. And it made me think about the issue of what "laws" allow the worst brutality.

Read it and think about it; that's the only way to know. I've read several reviews and comments about it and came to my own conclusions, similar to Lauren's.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The grandfather served twenty years in Spandau prison, I think. I consider you a fair barometer on such matters. If the book was unrepentant or dishonest about Germany's activities during the war, I suspect you;d have jumped all over it. So yours is a good endorsement.

It sounds from the brief descriptions here as if the novel is moving in territory familiar to such French crime writers as Dominique Manotti and Didier Daeninckx.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy: Blogger must not have liked my reply to you because it swallowed it up. I wrote that the grandfather served twenty years in Spandau Prison, I think, and that I consider you a good barometer in the matter of this book. If the book had been dishonest about German wartime and postwar activities, I suspect you'd have jumped all over it.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, that was lovely. The comment did not appear because Blogger had sent it to the spam file even though I am the author of the blog. But you know, a little inconvenience a small price to pay for security these days, isn't it?

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Yes, thanks Peter for your endorsement of my views. Lauren also was on target in her comments.
So is Nancy Oakes at Crime Segments. She thought Collini should have won the CWA Dagger for its political and social revelations and contributions.

I also don't know what good the Daggers do, but I'd imagine they help book sales. What I enjoy is the conversation before and after of these books.


I would have jumped all over it, true, if it had justified Germany's war crimes. It does not! It's wholly sympathetic to the victims written about here.

What shocked me was that international laws allowed much brutality and what the German legal system did to hold the perpetrators responsible -- or not!

You should read it, see for yourself and comment.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

Thanks for the kind remarks, Kathy. And apologies in advance for the length here.

---
Somewhat bizarrely (or maybe everyone here knows the name - I can't say), many or even most of the early reviews in the German press didn't mention the grandfather's past at all. Just that Ferdinand, noted defence lawyer and short story author, had written his first novel. Whether that's good...Very mixed reviews, and again, most of them didn't draw the parallel. The impact came later. However, I suppose the discussion was inevitable, particularly since the novel has a key character with certain authorial similarities, to keep things vague.

Personally, I didn't feel I was reading an autobiography (the scale is different, and I think the legal point being made is something other than atonement), and I didn't get the impression at all that the publishers were promoting the text with a unpleasant dollop of expiation.

Saying the book was vastly less offensive and more insightful than Schlink's The Reader may seem like dammning with faint praise, but it's not intended that way. I'm hard to please on this topic, and I thought it worked.

Ultimately, I think there's a question here independent of whether the novel is any good - is it morally OK for the grandson of a high-profile Nazi leader to write a crime novel dwelling on themes relating to that era and the issue of punishing war criminals/for this text to be published? Or does the name overshadow whatever qualities such a novel might have or whatever points it might raise, even if the tone is not one of shedding historical guilt? Would it be more acceptable under a pseudonym, or a cop-out? And for how many generations could/should/would such an author be tainted? Collini includes a somewhat over-the-top but probably appropriate exhange about inherited evil that plays on this. I doubt you can actually discuss this kind of authorial responsibility in a vacuum, though.

On the other topic, Germany's good press for dealing with the past is not *entirely* undeserved post-1968 (even if the law at the heart of the novel is vile), but it's comparative - better than Austria, certainly, but a very long way from justice.

As a footnote, the dramatisation (sort of) of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials by Peter Weiss (known as The Investigation in English) is worth a look as a comparative way of dealing with the topic in art/literature. Collini's a lot more accessible, if artistically less satisfying, and I think that accessibility is worth a lot to get people talking.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

Since there's been a couple of posts while I was typing that monster, I'll just add:

Kathy, I agree that the discussions around books matter too, and I have a lot more to say about Schirach's novel than I do about Vargas'. Whether that makes the one more prizeworthy than the other is a decision I'l leave for someone else.

On post-war laws, the novel made it a bit easier to understand where 1968 came from in Germany (though not to the extent of understanding the extremes - I live in Ulrike Meinhof's home town, so the topic crops up now and then!)

And Peter, one day I will post on a topic completely unrelated to Germany. Promise.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I won't presume to judge the book's worthiness for the award until I've read the thing. I am, as I mentioned before, slightly uneasy with the idea that any book "should" be read for its "importance." The phrase "a must read" causes me almost physical pain, and I have vowed that it will never cross my lips. A discuss such as this might send me off to buy The Collini Case. I had been hoping for Giorgio Scerbanenco's A Private Venus, published in 1966 but not translated into English until 2012, to make the short list at least. The CWA issued an odd statement at some point to the effect that several worthwhile books had not been submitted for consideration. I wonder if that was one.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lauren, I have a kind of sympathy for what Germans born after the war must have to deal with. I first heard the term Year Zero from a German woman and her daughter years ago. The daughter certainly and the mother almost surely had been born after the war, so there was no possibility of their having been complicit in any war crimes. But this idea of even mentally erasing the past and resetting the calendar was the creepiest thing I had heard in my life, sort of like what Pol Pot or the French Republican calendar tried to do.

I remember a few years ago when leadership was the current buzzword in business circles that reading that the German press was hesitant to write about the concept because of the German word for leader: Führer.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lauren, I forgot to add that German reviewers' skittishness about the author's grandfather does not surprise me. How does one face up to the past without at the same time assuming guilt for it? Is such a thing possible? I certainly do not mean to suggest that the grandfather of a high Nazi official should be constrained not to write a novel about the war. No laws ought to regulate the degree of familial affiliation by which a person is marked as guilty.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lauren, I should mention, too, that my recent reading about France and Algeria led me to tangential mentions of France ugly use of active Vichy collaborators who went on to oversee atrocities against Algerians, and this overseen by De Gaulle, of all ironies.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

Peter, I agree, but I'm not sure how mainstream a position that is, and I know my responses aren't typical, given my background. (It's been a while since a random stranger asked me how I can live in a country that murdered my family. Note the impersonal 'that': the butler - or the Nazi - didn't do it, it was the country. I'm about due for another enquiry, I feel.)

And I agree with your dislike of 'must-read'. Thought-provoking is just as hackneyed, since all novels provoke thoughts in some way (good ones inspire thoughts of the 'how authentic is the portrayal of Finnish police sexism?' variety; bad ones tend towards 'how did this rubbish get published?/is it morally wrong to throw a book away?). But I suppose some novels provoke deeper thoughts than others. I don't know how much this can be tied to literary merit or reading enjoyment, however.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

As a last remark for the evening, and a nice fusion of the two topics, Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police is (to me) a good example of a novel which doesn't fictionalise history in a way I find satisfactory. The problem is precisely the one you mention - Vichy and Algeria, and what happens when one comes back to haunt the other. Great idea, but the climax ruined it. (OK, I don't expect great historical and moral consistency in English novels about rural police chiefs in wine-growing parts of France, and that's not why I picked the book up, but when you throw in a Balkan war trauma for the hero as well, I don't think unresolved historical atrocities make for as happy an ending as the novel suggests.)

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Oh, wow, what a discussion. No, no one has to read anything! It's just helpful in this conversation to read a book to discuss it fully.

Yes, Germans have to take responsibility for their past. However, I also believe that many people of later generations do blame their parents' generation for going along with the Nazis and don't forgive them for it. (I've met such people, and friends have met here and in Germany activists who protest bigotry there against Jews, immigrants, people of color.)

Can one hold responsible the grandchild of a Nazi war criminal? It depends what he does with his own life; that's fundamentally the question. Is he an apologist? No. Does he expose the crimes? Yes. Does he have sympathy for the victims? Yes. Does he take aim at the German legal system for its weaknesses and for making it harder to prosecute perpetrators? Yes.
Is he making a contribution on this issue? Yes.

So, I'd say let's judge this generation for what they do.

So, I gently suggest interested individuals read this book and see what von Schirach says.

Also, fyi, I paid $9 for it with shipping from an online seller, so one doesn't have to spend a lot.


July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lauren, it would be fascinating to probe the mind of someone who would ask how you could live in a country that murdered your family. I could imagine that from am elderly survivor who made aliyah right after the war, and I could also a imagine the question asked much less harshly and in a spirit of genuine inquiry, phrased, perhaps, as "How you you feel living in ... " But really, such a question is about as facile as the purported wonderment by people who affect to be puzzled that a people brutalized by the Holocaust could do such horrible things to the Palestinians.

I also hate references to a some book or other being a thinking man's (or person's, these days) anything. That just reeks to me of intellectual insecurity and snobbery on the writer's part.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lauren, I should look for Martin Walker. I think I have a book of his around the house. I had not heard that his novels took in historical crimes.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, I just don't know what it means to "take responsibility" for the past. Of course, I live in the United States, where "I take responsibility for" as used in public discourse means "I disclaim all responsibility for." What is the right position for a German born or matured after the way to take, other than a principled wariness of grandiose proclamations.


The younger Schirach is an author, so he can discharge, or at least address, those responsibilities in the tangible form of a book. But what about Germans of his generations just as moral, just as concerned with the past as he is, but less articulate?

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Take responsibility for the past? Criticize the Nazi regime and denounce their war crimes, for one thing. Don't go along with it. Separate oneself from it, even if not an author -- to one's children and grandchildren and friends.
Raise one's offspring to oppose it.

I would say as someone who lives in the U.S. and has opposed the post-WWII wars that one can say, write and live one's views, and easily differentiate them from "the official story."

Years ago I met German visitors to the U.S. who clearly disagreed with their parents on WWII and made it quite clear -- and were still aghast at their relatives' support of the war. It was the first time I'd met such people and since them have met others.

I was heartened by a message from a noted Jewish author whose books are partially set in Germany. She said that one meets good and bad people in Germany, like anywhere.

A writer-friend who is Jewish spoke at a conference in Berlin about 15 years ago. She taught herself Yiddish to do it, gave the talk in Yiddish. Hundreds of people stood up cheering, clapping, crying -- in support.

That gave me an optimistic sense of many in the post-war generations.

Anyway, glad you gave the example of Vichy criminals being sent to Algeria. Why they were still around is my question. It's shocking they weren't jailed for decades.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I know of a klezmer musician who says he told an audience in Germany that he was happy to play Yiddish music "because we hear you speak a dialect of it here."

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Great comment!

Anyway, I'll be glad to see what you write about The Collini Case and what you think of the book, its points and the author.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall keep you posted. Thanks.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Speaking of French/Vichy Nazi war criminals who participated in atrocities in Algeria, here is an excellent post by Cara Black at Murder is Everywhere in October, 2011.

It's about Maurice Papon, who sent many Jews to their deaths and then carried out the Algerian Massacre in Paris on Oct. 17, 1951, against Algerian immigrants.

He wasn't tried for war crimes until 1998.

I really wonder why the French government didn't try and convict these war criminals after the war. I can see they were useful in the war against Algeria.

But I wonder if the French public was clamoring for justice. Or why the post-war courts didn't try them as well as the Germans.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The massacre (actually in 1961, not 1951, which puts in the the middle of the Algerian War) forms the core of Didier Deaninckx's novel Murder in Memoriam.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Oops, I meant to write 1961, as Cara Black was discussing the massacre's 50th anniversary, and the awful living conditions for Alergians currently living in France.

And here is the link to her post:
http://murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com/2011/10/in-france-its-complicated.html

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That has long been a big issue with Cara. And you'll see who the most recent commenter on her post was.

July 17, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Yes, I noticed. (And I also saw that I wrote a comment there, too.)

Cara Black writes excellent posts on WWII history, including on memorials to Resistance members.

Anyway, I'll have to think about why the French government didn't execute or imprison for decades the Nazi collaborators in government.

It is shocking, or not the more I know, that Papon wasn't tried until 1998. However, he lived to a ripe old age.

July 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Papon episode was especially surprising to me after I had learned how much the renegade army officers of the OAS hated De Gaulle and what he was doing in Algeria. This got me interested in De Gaulle.

July 18, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

This is tangential, and I won't go into further detail here, since it's not my blog and my opinions aren't necessarily typical, but I'll say this much: if people around me were constantly discussing Nazism, even to condemn it, and comparing all current social evils and problems to the Third Reich, then I don't think I could live here. I certainly don't the past to be forgotten, but it's exhausting having it present all the time as well.

On a different note, there's quite a few crime authors who've tackled this issue of integerational responsibility and punishment with relation to WW2 and Nazism, some with more success tha others. PD James' Original Sin ends up being a bit too clinical on the topic for my tastes, but is extremely fair. Robert Wilson's A Small Death in Lisbon is one of my favourites, and also includes guilt and responsibility from the Salazar dictatorship. What those authors have in common is that they don't choose the easy vengeance and keeping the past in the past option, which is what irritated me about Walker. Actually, Arne Dahl is also guilty of this to in one of his A-Group novels that isn't in English yet, although he disguises this in hyper-philosophical prose along the way. The idea that it's not really a murder worth investigating (as opposed to being something that can be put as a defence in a court of law) if a victim's descendent kills a Nazi or if said Nazi goes to jail for another crime they definitely didn't commit is surprisingly mainstream in crime fiction. I find the idea that the police should let me off if I decided to kill someone's grandfather as retaliation because they were never punished for what they did to mine rather alarming, to be honest. As a plotting 'get out of jail free' card, I'd almost prefer secret tunnels and long lost twins in what I read!

And that's without mentioning the subgenre where people kill to keep Grandpa's Nazi past secret (Deborah Crombie produced one of these recently) - I find it very hard to buy a plot where this is plausible as the best option to maintain the family's dignity. Surely it's better to announce that the family money comes from war crimes and to work out a way of making amends than it is to be exposed covering that up.

July 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I may reply at greater length but yes, it's easy to imagine that constant chin rubbing and hand-wringing would drive you nuts. And you are not the first to have commented on the hackneyed ease of digging up old Nazis as villains.

July 18, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

I can live with old Nazis as villains, actually. What I find odder is the trend of assuming that a person who bumps said old Nazis off isn't one! (Arguing this point is one thing; automatically assuming it's best to let sleeping dogs lie is precisely the attitude that encouraged a lack of prosecution the first time round. I know retribution's a classic crime fiction plot element, but with WW2 the right to vengeance seems to be stretched beyond credibility - or morality, even - more frequently.)

On post-45 Germans, I want to be treated normally. Which isn't going to happen if I regularly ask people if they're prepared to disown their great-grandparents. Even if they are. Or actually, given the extent of migration since then, if people are expected to publically condemn someone else's great-grandparents. In any case, it's fairly well recorded that awareness of how bad it all was (even via extensive education programes) doesn't automatically translate to behaving well in the here-and-now (the 'how could Israelis do that to Palestinians?' problem mentioned above), and that's important too. It's not that evil is inherited, or that people haven't dealt with the past, it's that 11-year-olds reading and even crying over Anne Frank don't automatically translate that story to not bullying their mixed-race classmates.

But that's wandering quite a long way from the original topic, so I really should stop now.

July 18, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nah, don't stop. Retribution is a classic plot, and perhaps the authors of the sorts of books you find problematic have latches onto old Nazis as a respectable way for writing revenge stories that would otherwise be be beneath them.

July 18, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

All fascinating discussion and things to ponder.

I can understand not wanting to be around constant discussion of people's Nazi grandparents' past affiliations. But to remove these plot themes from mysteries?

Not only mysteries but wondering about Germans' families' past histories is also the stuff of non-mystery novels.

For instance, Binnie Kirschenbaum's Hester Among the Ruins features a Jewish woman from New York who visits Germany and is very curious about her companion's family's doings and affiliations during WWII. I think this is a normal response for humans as well as characters.

Also, we could have different responses about whether someone whose relative was victimized by Nazis absolves one of guilt in their murders. The same thing is true of people whose relatives were killed by the murderous apartheid regime or Pinochet's henchmen in Chile.

It would be a big factor raised by any defense attorney in a trial -- real or fictional.

I suggest (not saying a "must-read") perusing The Collini Case on this subject.

WWII is a neverending topic of discussion and fiction.

July 19, 2013  
Blogger Lauren said...

Kathy, that's one of the reasons I liked Collini, and one of the reasons I was irritated by many of the titles I mentioned. I'm not against discussing whether this is a justifiable defence in court, but it seems to be a frequent plot device that the investigations into such crimes never get that far. OK, *maybe* this is arguable if everyone involved is 85, but if it's the later generations I really do find the assumption that it's OK not to prosecute without even debating the issue extremely problematic.

And of course people can use whatever plots they want. But I don't find 'what did grandpa do/what did my host's grandparent do?' particularly compelling, and perhaps more relevantly, I'm not sure how useful that discussion is in terms of stopping similar attitudes emerging. But my position on that (as someone who lives in Germany despite my family's past here, and researches the topic as well) is fairly radical, and I'd never say it was typical.

I'm stuck at my desk working on other things for the next little while, but this is a topic I'd like to come back to. Maybe I can pin down exactly which iterations of Nazi storylines I find so irritating.

July 19, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe I can pin down exactly which iterations of Nazi storylines I find so irritating.

That would be welcome. I have seen the thought expressed that setting up old Nazis as villains is an easy way for crime writers to avoid criticizing current attitudes in their own countries.

July 19, 2013  
Blogger Kathy D. said...

Lauren, that would be interesting.

I am a person who has a policy of not reading books, including series, that are set during WWII and get into the horrors.

One side of my family fled anti-Semitic czarist pogroms in occupied Russia in the early 1900s. And in my childhood, I knew at a young age about what happened during that world war.

I don't particularly like reading about it -- and deny some great series and stand-alones, I know -- but I made an exception with The Collini Case because there was a lot of commentary in the crime fiction blogs about it.

Reactions were very positive at a few; then when it was nominated for a CWA Dagger, doubts crept in.
Should a book that's not a superb writing job, but politically important, get an award? Did von Schirach write it to absolve his family name?

Alternatively, another blogger was disappointed because it didn't win, as she thought its social importance was vital.

So, I read the book and was stunned by some of the legal information -- on what international laws allowed the Germans to do and on the limitations of German laws in prosecuting -- or not -- war criminals.

I actually would want to know if a host's family or friend's family was actively involved in war crimes. That's the same way I'd feel here if a relative belonged to the KKK or other ultra-right group.

If the friend renounced all of that, fine. But I'd never want to meet the relatives.

I am for prosecuting these war criminals. When I read an obituary that a Nazi in his 80s or 90s died here or in Canada, I want to know how they escaped capture and punishment and am outraged.

I have a hard line on this.

I may need to read more novels about the war but am not sure that I want to do that, although many Nordic novels now trace back to that war.

I am tempted by Gordon Ferris' Pilgrim Soul.

July 20, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lauren, if you get this, and if you're willing to answer a question about translation of a sentence from German, would you drop me an e-mail? Thanks, Peter

July 25, 2013  

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