Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The longue durée of crime

Sometimes I may reach a bit for a crime-fiction connection in my non-crime reading, but this time the connection is clear: the archaeologist Barry Cunliffe's invocation of the historian Fernand Braudel's three-level scale of time and history, roughly translated, in ascending order of duration, as events, underlying trends, and geography and environment (longue durée), reminded me of a discussion here two years ago about crime crossing national lines in a repetition of ancient patterns.

The authors in question were Sweden's Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström, and I noted the multiple border crossings that lay at the heart of their Dagger-winning novel Three Seconds. (The police protagonist's name means border, for one thing.) Here's part of what I wrote at the time:
"I like to think that globalization in their world (and in that of Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbøl, where Lithuanian streetwalkers are part of the Danish human landscape) is neither new nor monolithic, but rather a reawakening of old, even ancient economic ties previously obscured by wars and revolution. In this case, the ties are those that bind the Baltic and North Seas and the nations that surround them. Once they traded herring and salt; today's commodities are methamphetamine and hookers.

"The authors rarely make this point explicitly or didactically, and that's part of what makes their books exciting. They really do take readers into a new/old world."
Discuss without, if possible, submitting an academic-style paper on crime as a medium of economic and social exchange.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Unknown said...

Eschewing the academic-style commentary? Oh, I think I detect some repudiation of earlier comments.

In any case, consider this: literary critics (and reviewers) are detectives. So are archeologists and historians. All seek to understand causes and effects.

As for economics of crime, those two concepts are often tied together. After all, crimes often involve someone seeking either advantage of another (via murder) or property of another (via dozens of other kinds of crime). In all cases, there is a sort of economic and social Darwinism at work in all crime (and crime novels).

Well, perhaps that is food for thought. Too academic?

July 02, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You detect only gentle self-mockery on my part. In re causes and effects, here's Fred Vargas on the relationship between her careers as novelist and historian:

"I assumed over the years that there was no link between my two jobs. Writing detective stories was a way to forget in a small way the hard scientific work during holidays. But little by little, I understood that, probably, my passion for resolving things, problems, for finding the truth, was at the very heart of the two jobs."

Her novels may not be your cup of tea, but she has interesting things to say.

Yes, crime is a matter of economics if one thinks of it as a reallocation of resources. Three Seconds managed the delicate task of conveying the author's political and social views without interfering with an exciting story, which made the novel a worthy award winner. They have not always negotiated the balance so successfully.

July 02, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ah, so--in your self-mockery--you were being ironic.

Let me tell you something about irony. That is one aspect of reading comprehension that is most problematic for students; they tend to miss the irony in its most subtle forms in literature. On the other hand, as the ultimate irony, I (as a teacher of literature) sometimes also have difficulty picking up on irony. Perhaps I should have chosen a different profession.

On your advice, in spite of my ghosts (i.e., memories of another Fred during college), I will seek out Vargas's books and give her another try; I know that I read one or two of her earlier titles but cannot remember which ones, so I will start at the beginning.

Have a great day!

July 02, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, de gustibus non est disputandum, and all that. I have seen it suggested that one either likes Vargas' work or hates it. But even if one does not like her writing, it is possible to enjoy what she has to say about crime writing and her own reading and careers.

If you read French, you might like the interview from L’Express to which I link from my interview. Jake Kerridge's interview with her in the Daily Telegraph is also worth reading.

July 02, 2013  

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