Tag Archives: Alexandra Ahndoril

Kepler, take 2

Translations can be tricky. I’m sure that in some cases it doesn’t matter what they are like. In the case of instructions for household appliances it does help if they don’t cause people to be injured, or worse. On the other hand, it has been claimed once or twice that a good translation of mediocre literature can win awards for authors, including the Nobel.

But does a bad translation prevent sales? After all, you tend to buy before you discover this, if you are able to tell. Sequels might suffer, though.

I read about the plans to reissue the crime novels by Lars Kepler, with new translations into English, and was reminded of a comment on here when I reviewed The Hypnotist, which was their first. Adèle Geras felt quite strongly that the translation was what put her off finishing the book. On the other hand, Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril (aka Lars Kepler) reckoned the translation was good. And I found no immediate fault with it, but could have been handicapped by having already read the book in Swedish. It was just not a favourite of mine.

Now, however, Niclas Salomonsson of the Salomonsson Agency believes he knows why the books haven’t done as well in the US as he feels they deserve. When he ‘discovered’ that the translations were bad, he first spent a lot of money on buying the agency which owned the rights and then he bought back the US rights and hired a new translator to retranslate the first three books (of six). And he has high hopes of success, second time around.

It will be interesting to see if he’s right.

Another ‘fascinating’ aspect is how this all goes down in the translating community. A job is a job, so I can understand if the new translator feels OK about this improvement task. But it must surely also feel a little icky, re-doing what your colleague seemingly has ‘failed’ at? And if you’re the ‘failure’? Except, according to my in-house translator, we don’t know who did the first translation, as it was a pseudonym, so I imagine no one will be publicly embarrassed.

In the end, I wonder if it will make a difference. I believe more in a good publicity effort, even if it is second time lucky. After all, we mostly don’t read crime novels and thrillers for any literary chills that might run down our spines. We want quick thrills.

But the blurb by Lee Child probably won’t hurt.

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The Nightmare

Lars Kepler’s second crime novel is far better than the first. I’d say the two Ahndorils have got the hang of what they are doing. The plot is still pretty gruesome, but it makes sense. The recurring characters are no more attractive than they were, but familiarity makes up for some of that. Some of the other characters are almost likeable. Actually, I did like one or two of them. Hence I sort of prayed they would last until the end and not be slaughtered halfway.

Their fondness for bloodbaths at the drop of a hat means you can never take a single thing for granted. Maybe that’s good, but sometimes it’d be nice to know there are certain things that just won’t be allowed to happen.

The plot has taken half a step towards the social conscience of Stieg Larsson, featuring the export of weapons to the wrong countries. This makes it easier to approve of the stance taken by some of the characters.

People are murdered, and sometimes appear to take their own life, for some really obscure reason. The police with Joona Linna race to find what exactly lies behind the deaths.

The police. I suppose it’s wrong to feel you’d want your law enforcers to have a higher moral standard than these do. Incompetence is human, but some of these people are most unpleasant.

And I can only assume foreign readers believe Sweden to be full of weird men and women, with hardly a normal average person anywhere. Very compulsive reading, though.

There is an epilogue which almost made me lose faith in what had gone before it. Sometimes we want to believe that things are fine, until the next book comes up with a new horror. I hope I misunderstood it, but I don’t think I did.

Lars Kepler and the Ahndorils

The Lars Kepler interview is finally here! Don’t let it be said that an inability to type will stop me for long.

Lars Kepler

Not that I was ever a typist, but RSI will fell the keenest witch. Thanks to Son who has done his utmost to be useful, and time has helped.

So here is what Lars Kepler had to say for himself on writing good crime, plotting and watching a great many films.

Identity problems

‘Do you smoke?’ was the first unlikely question. ‘Would you like a go in the rooftop jacuzzi?’ came next, closely followed by a query whether I drink. The bowler-hatted Scottish concierge at the hotel seemed bemused by this non-drinking, non-bathing, non-smoking witch trying to gain access to his rooftop bar. I assured him the only thing I’d possibly want to do was throw myself over the edge if my vertigo got the worse of me. So he sent me up in the lift, which incidentally didn’t quite reach all the way. There was still some manual climbing to be done. And then he had the nerve to suggest I could walk down…

Lars Kepler and concierge

London saw me coming. Big time. It had managed to put up scaffolding over most of town, in my honour. Even Leicester Square was off limits, being improved for 2012. So no sitting in the square between engagements. Pah.

Lars Kepler

I was down in the sunny smoke to see two, or possibly three, cruel and violent Nordic ‘killers’. Lars Kepler flew in for his (their?) launch yesterday. As soon as I heard they (he?) was/were coming I asked for an interview. We had tried to find a mutually convenient time and place in Sweden, but it fell on the difference in school holidays. They (he) have a holiday home close to me, so it could have been ideal. But as it happened, London was easier.

The Hypnotist launch at Goldsboro Books

Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril (it’s going to be such a pain working out what to call them…) deposited their children at school and then flew into London, met up with the witch and then went on to the launch of The Hypnotist at Goldsboro Books, which specialises in signed first editions. Covered in plastic, which I will have to be persuaded is a good idea. (It reminds me of the Beanie Baby Daughter was told to play with through a plastic bag so as not to ruin it for when she got to be as old as her mother! It could have suffocated in there.) I will however be putting my Debi Gliori Pure Dead Magic in a safe from now on.

The Hypnotist launch at Goldsboro Books

Goldsboro Books

A and A were surprisingly excited about the excitement of all this. Not the plastic, but the rest. I suppose it’s not every day you launch your first crime novel in London. They certainly dressed the part, and the rest of us were nowhere near as elegant. Alexandra wore red high heeled strappy sandals, which she could actually move about in. She wore a dress too, obviously. A green affair. Alexander had a suit on, which is not too common among Swedes.

The Hypnotist launch at Goldsboro Books

Lars Kepler, The Hypnotist

They sign their books three times, and yesterday they also added a quote. Goldsboro didn’t run to a signing table, so they signed on the edge of the bookcase, perilously close to the glasses of red wine. But they were only collectible books, so no matter…

The witch doesn’t move in crime circles often enough to recognise even a few at a gathering like this. The only one I ‘knew’ was Peter Guttridge, after ‘our’ weekend in Bristol a few years ago.

Lars Kepler thought I might be driving back. I didn’t admit to broomstick, so they are under the impression I went home by train. Of course I did. It was coach B for Bookwitch, as usual. It’s a good one. After you’ve walked all that way to reach it, you’re halfway to Manchester already.

Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril

The Hypnotist

Three members of the same family have been slaughtered, with a fourth one (aged 15) in hospital, severely injured. The boy is hypnotised in an effort to save another life, and this brief act leads to so many horrific things happening, that you can barely grasp quite how many or how bad.

There are current problems and there are problems from ten years earlier, and they all intertwine, somehow. Or maybe they don’t and it just looks like it.

Is this going to be the next big thing from Sweden? I have no idea. It’s done very well in the original, and while the Larsson/Nesser/Mankell fever rages I see no reason why it shouldn’t make its authors rich. I’ve seen reviews which suggest it’s much better written than the Millennium trilogy. It might be, but it does lack one important thing for me, and that’s someone to like.

I realise the detective is meant to be an attractive character, but there’s not very much of Joona Linna, and he’s not attractive (=nice) enough. The hypnotist is a dreadfully wet wimp, with problems galore. Job goes badly, his health is iffy, the marriage is not good and his son disappears. And someone is trying to kill him. Trouble is, I kept feeling I wouldn’t mind if they did.

Lars Kepler, The Hypnotist

It is very bloody. It’s probably borderline for what I can read and not feel faint. There’s some pretty ugly gratuitous sex. I usually don’t mind sex scenes that feel as if they are there because ‘you have to have them’, but this was something else. The plot is farfetched and one of the solutions at the end feels really quite unlikely, even for fiction.

But, and it’s an important but, the book reads itself, more or less. I could have left it when I was 100 pages in, and nearly did due to the lack of loveliness, but it’s very much a page turner. In the end I read and read until I was done and went with less sleep than I needed to fit it in.

So, that says something.

There is already another book out by ‘Lars Kepler’ – Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril – which is considered much better. I’m reading it right now, so will be able to report back at a later stage.

If you want more Nordic gore and misery The Hypnotist could be the book for you!

The Ahndorils

Alexander and Alexandra Ahndoril, by Carl-Johan Paulin

I found this picture both fascinating and scary. It’s from the latest edition of the magazine Vi, which by some previously unheard of miracle turned up on the right day, i.e. before Christmas, which I’ve never experienced in the past. (It’s the Christmas edition with seasonal quizzes and stuff, which tend to feel irrelevant in mid January. Likewise the Christmas food recipes.)

Photo, yes. It’s good, from the point of view that so many magazines have rubbish photos these days, and I don’t enjoy them. But isn’t it a little scary, too? You can access the first part of the interview in Vi online, where there is another photo. The paper version of Vi has a third photo, and they are all large. All scary.

What I found fascinating was that just as I was about to read the article, I came across a mention of their much hyped crime novel Hypnotisören on the Scandinavian Crime Fiction blog, and a short discussion in the comments section ensued, involving Stieg Larsson’s translator. He has, unlike the witch, read the book, and was not impressed.

Vi has seemingly moved from their sheer utter disgust earlier this autumn, that ‘proper’ authors should lower themselves to writing popular books for money, to admiring them. Hence the interview.

I’m all for people entertaining others and for authors to make money. I’m just a little concerned over the automatic assumption by both Vi and the Ahndorils that they really are such very proper and such very real authors. Some quite lofty remarks were made by both of them, along lines that tend to make me a bit nauseous.

(Photo by Carl-Johan Paulin)

Quality?

I was going to begin by saying that you mustn’t all start writing romances after this blog, but then I thought that if you did, I’d most likely find myself reading some very good romances some time soon. (Well, not soon soon, publishing takes time. But soon.) It’s not the genre that is bad, it’s the quality of the writing. Just as I have a fondness for opera singers singing popular songs, really. It’s supposed to be really dreadful that they do, but I like popular songs, and I love them being sung by someone who really knows how to sing. Take Pavarotti singing Ti Adoro. Wonderful!

Anneli Rogeman who is editor of my favourite Swedish magazine Vi usually writes good editorials, commenting sensibly on whatever topic she has a go at. I tend to agree most of the time. I was just a little disappointed with her latest editorial, where she attacks light reading.

At least, I think she is. In the summer I blogged about what Swedes were reading, and mentioned the latest publishing phenomenon, Lars Kepler. He’s a pseudonym. Now he has been outed, and Anneli Rogeman is disappointed. Lars is in actual fact two very ‘proper’ authors, married couple Alexandra and Alexander Ahndoril (yes, really!), about whom I know virtually nothing, living in exile as I do. But they are good, I understand that much. Good as in serious, and promising to reach greater greatness in future.

Or they would, had they not stooped so low as to write for the man in the street who has little interest in literature. She moans that now we will lose years of real books from them, as they’ve been contracted to write eight books. But surely, they have the right to write anything they like? This way they will provide reading material for many more people than their ‘proper’ writing would. That’s not a bad thing, I feel. I don’t know what this Lars Kepler book is like, but assume it’s a well written novel; that they have written lighter, not badly.

AA and AA stand to make a lot more money doing this. I can see that this would be attractive. But it seems this is to be sneered at. You have proper literature for the few and possible financial hardship, versus ‘rubbish’ and authors who are well off. Hm. Tricky.

Apparently there are five reasons for writing under a pseudonym, according to Anneli Rogeman. To get read at all, if you’re a woman, say. To attract curiosity and attention. To joke with the establishment. To avoid ruining your ‘proper’ writing. To simplify your own name.

Bo Balderson

The reason I got a little incensed with the editorial was that an old favourite of mine was listed under the second reason, and was rubbished by Anneli Rogeman. I now feel that my earlier fondness of and appreciation for Bo Balderson* has been ruined in my mind. His crime novels from forty years ago are only mediocre, it seems. It was just the fact that none of us knew who BB was that made people buy the books. Really? I read them because they were funny, and I enjoyed them. The mystery was fun too, but even now that BB has been found to have been a mere primary school teacher (and I expect my Vi to be less scathing on the subject of being a ‘mere’ anything), I still like him. I wished he’d turn out to be King Gustaf VI Adolf, but this is OK.

OK, so let’ move back from mere school teachers to potential Nobel prize winners; they are still allowed to write what they want. And if they do a light genre well, then that is good and will give pleasure to many. Maybe one day they will sink so low as to write for children. No, surely not…

(*Footnote – Bo Balderson wrote crime novels about a sleuth who just happened to be a government minister. He was really only an affable, wealthy man with about 14 children, but he accidentally became a minister because his galoshes were too large. He is assisted in his sleuthing by his long suffering school teacher brother-in-law; a nervous and over-sensitive man. At the time almost every public person in Sweden was suspected of being Bo Balderson. I really favoured the theory that it was the King.)