Tag Archives: Henning Mankell

Nordic Noir

Before I knew what I was doing, I was hauling a Nordic (well, Swedish) crime novel off the shelf to read. That’s how fired up I got once I started on Barry Forshaw’s Nordic Noir guide book.

He knows a lot about this subject. More than most. Certainly more than I do. And that made me envious and I wanted to begin my new career as a Nordic crime specialist, which is when I discovered the book I’d found was in English. So I put it away again, and I will pick something else. Later.

I will never be an expert on Nordic crime. Barry didn’t set out to be. It just happened to him. Now he has read quite a bit, and he has met most of who’s who in this genre. And in Nordic Noir he shares it with us.

This slim volume is probably more for looking things up in, than to sit down and read from cover to cover. Barry lists books from all six countries, includes interviews with authors, as well as talking about recent films and television shows. There’s not much that’s missing.

The Swedish section is the largest – naturally – and the Faroese is definitely the smallest, with the other four countries nestling in the middle. For a non-Nordic speaker Barry has steered an almost perfect route between å and ä and ö, past ø and ð. The few near misses could be due to printers, and not the author. Only the one Norwegian writer has ended up listed as a Swede, but these things happen.

And when Henning Mankell saw mice, he did so in a posh London hotel. These things happen, too.

Any fan of Nordic darkness could do worse than equip themselves with Barry’s guide. You know, you could show off a little next time you’re in the right kind of conversation.

Leave my archipelagos alone!

In his review last week of Camilla Läckberg’s The Lost Boy, the Resident IT Consultant mentioned the standard clichés you tend to encounter in Nordic crime fiction. OK, neither abuse nor suicides are terribly enjoyable, albeit facts of life and probably quite appropriate in crime novels that tend to deal with death and violence.

But I claim the right to have my motorcycle gangs, and my archipelagos! They are a way of life. They are also common enough not to merit cliché-dom, simply because you expect them.

Waffles

Motorcycle gangs are rarely young killers in real life, though. They are middleaged and orderly, living their dream. What’s not to like about wearing black leather and driving around the beautiful Nordic countryside? Stopping for coffee and waffles at some scenic outdoor café, and life is just perfect.

But the crime novelist might be better off not mentioning the waffles.

As for the archipelago; we ‘all’ have one. Strictly speaking, it needn’t be an archipelago. A beach will do. Somewhere by the sea. Or the side of a lake. If the water is missing, there will be forests. And in that forest or by that stretch of water – on or off an island – is a cottage.

Your cottage. You either own it or rent it or borrow it or simply visit someone else’s. Preferably with an invitation. Although the urban myth (?) depicts how you just decide to go visit the Nilssons for the day (or the weekend) because they own that nice cottage, and so by default will be desperate for your obnoxious company. You arrive armed with a packet of biscuits, ensuring they will be so dreadfully appreciative…

You don’t have to be rich. Not on the breadline either, obviously, but you can be – and most likely are – completely ordinary.

Varberg

I have had an ‘archipelago’ all my life, in the shape of a beach on the Swedish coast. The landscape looks like Kenneth Branagh’s Ystad. My first trip I was one week old, and we spent the next eleven summers in the same cottage. It belonged to Favourite Aunt, and the cottage next to hers was Aunt Motta’s, and all the cousins crowded in and slept packed like sardines.

Beach and sardines. Privy. It couldn’t have been more wonderful if it tried.

And it goes without saying that had we been the murderous type, we’d have done the dirty deed in this idyllic and sunny setting. That’s why you set your crime novel in an archipelago. Not because everyone else does.

By my twelfth summer Mother-of-witch wanted her own cottage, so saved and scraped and bought one. (Come to think of it; that’s where the postman thought we’d done the Retired Children’s Librarian in.)

Crab fishing in Steninge

We still holiday there and whenever we go for waffles, the motorcycle gang is sure to follow.

Henning Mankell OAP

Thank goodness someone had the sense to celebrate some kind of birthday at last! I’ve been thinking it’d be nice with a birthday. But it had to be someone special, and I wanted a good number.

Henning Mankell is 65 today, but despite what it says in the heading, I very much doubt he’ll be retiring. Does he look like the retiring type?

No.

Henning Mankell

Here he is, looking a bit grumpy. Perhaps he’s thinking about his presents. Or just ‘when can I get out of this?’ And ‘I want my cake now! With coffee.’

Bookwitch bites #48

I so want to go to the Oxford Literary Festival. And that does sound pathetic. I know. I found this really good selection of events that would suit me perfectly, on Sunday 3rd April. And do you know, the trains aren’t running that morning. This is Britain, after all. Thwarted by a train! Or lack thereof. When I started looking, the fare was even quite reasonable. But you don’t buy a ticket in order not to get somewhere. Candy Gourlay, Michelle Magorian and Meg Rosoff… How can I not want to go? Christ Church College frowned on people sitting on their quad wall last year. I suppose that sneaking in the night before and sleeping on the very same wall wouldn’t go down any better.

Pity.

Some people are off to Bologna next week. That’s another place I’ve not tried. Not sure it’s suitable for the likes of me, but whenever people say they are getting ready to go I feel a pang. It honestly doesn’t hurt much at all. I’d rather do Oxford.

Henning Mankell

Antibes now, that’s something else. I’m not sure that’s where my guest blogger Declan went to interview Henning Mankell. It’s probably just the Guardian who sent their interviewer there for their Mankell interview. The current glut of Mankell interviews suggests a new book. It’s the end for poor Wallander, in some way or other.

And please note that we have our own Mankell photo from the same session as the Guardian’s. I’ve learned to recognise that green backdrop now.

After this week’s travelling I have an excellent quote from Julie Bertagna. It really should go on the cover of my book, but I haven’t written one yet and it seems like a long wait expecting that to happen. Julie was reading Bookwitch, as any self-respecting author ought to, and found she couldn’t ‘get off the site’. She suspects an entrapment spell.

No comment.

Guaranteed Norwegian

Nordic Noir on BBC4 on Monday was a lesson in many things, but pronunciation was not one of them. The Resident IT Consultant (who fell asleep towards the end) fondly imagined that the Danish Mariella Frostrup would cope well with the Nordic names. Not even the Norwegian-born Mariella could do anything but sound British, though at least she did so in that sexy voice people go potty over.

The programme didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, so was one of those I sometimes moan about, which assumes the customer is new to the topic, and there is no need to take it further. Quite fun to tick the number of people who took part who I’d met. Poor souls.

The wise participants, like actor Krister Henriksson (Wallander) and author Maj Sjöwall, were interviewed in Swedish. It must be tempting to say yes to requests to do an interview in English. When you can. But it’s worth remembering you ‘can’ less than you think. Krister and Maj came across as intelligent, rounded people because there was nothing to stop them from saying exactly what they wanted to say.

Val McDermid

Val McDermid, likewise, sounded good, Scottish accent and all. She knows her stuff when it comes to Nordic crime. And OK, Jo Nesbø speaks good English. But it’s not as good as his Norwegian, I’d guess. It was he who mentioned some form of music (Norwegian metal?) and CDs in Latin America labelled as being ‘Guaranteed Norwegian’.

Karin Fossum sounded somewhat less bloodthirsty in English, so it might have been a blessing she didn’t speak Norwegian after all. After hearing Karin in Bristol I remember having a good look at her books, and coming to the conclusion I wasn’t up to reading them.

They rather skirted past Arnaldur Indridason and Iceland. Some nice scenery. Though speaking of scenery, I wonder whether much of any of it was of what they talked about. Ystad is always Ystad, of course. Even when it’s Yshtad.

That wasn’t the only disappointment. I can see that a non-native speaker may choose to put the stress on the first syllable only. Or the second syllable. You’re allowed to get it wrong (though I have said before that most people would try to get a French name correct, and you can always ask around if you are presenting for the BBC). But how come the stress-on-the-first-syllable words invariably got stressed on the second and vice versa? Wallander and Sahlander rhyme. Stress-on-second-syllable names. Mankell is a stress-on-first-syllable name.

Henning Mankell

With Wallander the programme went a little tabloid over the suicide of an actress. Sad but irrelevant. And Stieg Larsson was fat. Really? Maybe Stieg lived off junk food and smoked himself to death, but I wouldn’t call him fat.

His friend John-Henri Holmberg would have come across much better in Swedish. He was obviously in a position to say a lot about his friend, but could have said more. I dare say he’s saving it for the book about Stieg he’s writing with a few others.

In fact, this whole programme confirmed why we often think foreigners are idiots. They are not. And it’s time British television interviewed more people in their own language. In this case we had a bunch of interviewees who make a good living off their mother tongues. I’d have liked more considered facts, spoken by people who were comfortable with what they were saying.

But other than that, I enjoyed my hour on Nordic Noir. It confirmed why I don’t read more of it, though.

Knowing when to stop

I’m knackered. I’m so grateful I’m not ‘on the road’ right now. But I most likely would have been if lack of funds had not prevented me from booking a few more trips to do with books. So that’s good.

It’s very easy to decide to do something when that something is in the future. I just look at the programme and think how much I’d like to see X or hear Y, or simply that it’d be generally fun to be at the Z book festival. It’s like going shopping for food when you’re hungry.

Today is the last day of the Gothenburg Book Fair. Despite this year’s programme not being totally to my taste, I was very tempted by it. A good many of the Nordic murderers were there. Along with Alexander McCall Smith, on account of this year’s theme being Africa. Hence Henning Mankell, and Deon Meyer. Nadine Gordimer. Sophia Jansson, various famous singers (Swedish ones) and Eva Gabrielsson of Stieg Larsson fame. This year’s ALMA winner, Kitty Crowther. Etc.

Luckily Experience spoke to me. She said that after Edinburgh I’d be so relieved not to be going anywhere else. I’m glad she knew.

On that basis, and had I gone to Gothenburg, I knew I wouldn’t get to Bath this year either. I’ve spent several years not going to Bath. Bath, of course, is special in that it’s only children’s books and children’s authors. So it’s really where I ought to be. But then, half the authors in Bath I’ve already seen elsewhere.

I’ve not even looked at the Wigtown Book Festival. Well, truthfully, I have, but only just now. I had to quickly avert my eyes, and I told myself that finding somewhere to stay would be really hard. And travelling could present problems. Probably. I only knew it’s on, as everyone on facebook seems to be going.

Smile

And don’t get me started on Cheltenham. I so want to go. But at the same time I’m blessing every day I have at home, with nothing special happening at all. I wake up and (almost) smile at the thought that I can cook and clean and blog and not go anywhere.

I may even get to my two remaining interviews. Once I’ve found a little more of the house under all the assorted debris. One thing Experience forgot to mention was the effect of seven weeks away while the house still had someone living in it.

No Wallander this

Anyone used to Henning Mankell’s crime novels, or his other adult books, or for that matter his children’s books about Joel, might be surprised by The Cat Who Liked Rain. It’s for quite young readers, around seven, like its main character Lukas, I should think. It’s a very gentle tale about a boy and his beloved cat.

It’s also very Swedish, for all that it’s been translated (by Laurie Thompson whose name crops up often in these circumstances) into English. You’d need to understand why a seven-year-old doesn’t go to school yet. You also get introduced to the Swedish way of holidaying. And I was more than surprised to find a stay-at-home mum, which is very unusual, even for 1992.

The seasons confused me until I thought that perhaps I mustn’t be quite so southern about it. If this book is set in the far north of Sweden I can just about accept that you sweep leaves before school starts around August 20th, and that you might ‘catch your death of cold’ by going outside without shoes in August.

Lukas is given a kitten for his seventh birthday, and it changes his life. The quiet little boy simply falls in love with his cat, and they are never apart. At least as much as is possible with a cat. And then of course the cat does what cats often do. It disappears.

This story doesn’t end quite as you’d expect, or might fear.