while my back was turned . . .

I’ve been tied up at work with one thing and another, so have neglected loads of links that ought to have been posted to this blog earlier. So I shall just do a link-fest.

There has been much buzz about the release of The Girl Who played with Fire.

  • The Rap Sheet notes it scored first place on UK bestseller lists, the first ever translated hardcover to make the top of the list.
  • Elisabeth Salander has won over Uriah (aka Norm); quite the turn-around after he was underwhelmed by her first appearance. “If reading ‘Tattoo’ was like struggling through deep snow reading the last 400 pages of ‘Played With Fire’ is like skating on ice. ” Thinking it over, he believes she is “the investigator for our time.”
  • John Baker liked it, too. “Lisbeth Salander is no ordinary heroine, she is a comic-book super-hero, delinquent and dangerous, a genius computer hacker who tolerates no restrictions imposed by individuals, society or the law. . . . She’s fantastic.”
  • And Material Witness testifies “Fire is Salander’s story. It is brutal, bleak and emotionally bruising, but it is quite brilliantly told and never less than gripping – even when off on one of its many diversions. It emphatically confirms that the Stieg Larsson phenomenon sweeping out Sweden and conquering Europe was no one-off as well as the great sense of loss that the next Larsson book we read will be the last. . . . Fire is nothing less than a triumph and the wait for the third instalment of Millennium will be a long one.”
  • Glenn Harper offers his own analysis, which is, as always, penetrating, finding parallels with Dumas and Sand. “Larsson gives all of us something: a naturalistic crime story with fantasy elements, a morality-and-adventure story that’s entirely contemporary, without (almost) any superpowers, and totally without metaphysics or theology. It’s our world, but with swashbuckling (of a very contemporary sort) and even cliffhangers.”
  • Michael Carlson of CrimeTime agrees and contextualizes it in terms of Scandinavian crime fiction generally.

Larsson has created an interesting trope on the most popular style of Swedish crime books, that established by Sjowall and Wahloo’s Martin Beck and taken on by Mankell’s Wallender. These books are valued for their perceptions about Swedish society, and their depressive cops are always about to be overwhelmed by the seamy realities underneath what is supposed to be a state devised rationally for the benefit of all citizens. Larsson’s Blomkvist is more of a Per Wahloo figure (as a left-wing journalist) than a Martin Beck; Blomkvist is a socially well-adjusted journalist committed to righting the wrongs he investigates within that society, where Salander is, on the surface, exactly the kind of person with whom Swedish society cannot cope. This novel reveals much of Salander’s back-story, and with it the roots of her anti-social personality. But as the plot is uncovered, and we, the readers, get deeper into what she already knows but never tells, and what others are trying desperately to either uncover or keep hidden, we discover that not only has she been let down by those who should protect her, but that her abuse has been deliberate, and condoned by powerful forces who control the Swedish state. . . .

Carlson also spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book programme about Scandinavian crime writers. See a recap of it at his blog, or listen in.

For more about Larsson mania, you can’t do better than read Maxine’s coverage of the blogosphere’s response at Petrona.

In other news, the Eurocrime reviewers top books and authors for 2008 are up – and there are lots of Scandinavian names among them: Stieg Larsson, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Johan Theorin, Arnaldur Indridason, Jo Nesbo, Helene Tursten, and Sjowall and Wahloo.  This seems an appropriate time to thank Euro Crime’s team (are they Euro Criminals?) for all for their hard work and great skill.

More from Maxine on translations – and also from Bookwitch.

SkandiLit points us toward a new translation of a K.O. Dahl novel, The Last Fix.

And further evidence that Scandinavian crime fiction has made its mark internationally, Karen Alvtegen’s Missing has been nominated for an Edgar for Best Novel of 2008. Should she win it wouldn’t be a first; in 1971 Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s The Laughing Policeman won the Edgar. That said, it has certainly been a while. And it does seem a trifle odd – one of the vagaries of translations and publishing territories – that a book published in 2000 and translated into English in 2003 is just getting a “best of the year” award.

4 thoughts on “while my back was turned . . .

  1. Yes, I caught it before the work vortex caught me up and sent me to another universe. You had a nicely balanced reading of the book – noting some significant flaws while acknowledging its real strengths. It is an interesting question – would some of those flaws been fixed had the author had a chance to revise? Or are they actually intrinsic to the story he wants to tell?

    I’ll have to wait a while to find out. Since I was in the underwhelmed camp with the first book, I’ll be curious to see if I have Norm’s born-again experience :o)

  2. Thanks for the mention.
    It took about 600 pages to achieve that conversion. TGWPWF does not really get going until the triple murder.
    This post and ‘review soup’ are fantastic sources of information and links. I shall know where to go to find everything Larsson in future. I now see it was the Times review that said Salander ‘was unbelievable and her attributes exaggerated’.

  3. Pingback: Stieg Larsson and that girl with her dragon tattoo | Nordic Bookblog

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