Saturday, May 12, 2012

There's No Crime in That: the other Scandinavian fiction

Despite the fact that the last book in Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy was published in English almost two years ago now, the book and the series continues to be talked about (and talked about, and talked about...). The Larssen phenomenon is widely cited as the reason for the burgeoning interest in English language translations of crime fiction from other Scandinavian authors including Jo Nesbø, Karin Fossum and Lars Kepler (who is actually two people, but, you take my point). I've heard a lot of fiction fans marvel at the apparent appetite for dark, crime fiction by Scandinavians and certainly it sometimes seems like the only fiction that is coming out of Denmark, Norway and Sweden is crime fiction, but each of these novels shows, that is just not the case.

Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in all the Confusion (M) by Johan Harstad: set largely on the Faroe Islands, this novel by a young Norwegain author has gained cult status in his homeland, even being made into a popular tv series. Mattias is in his early thirties but his life is at loose ends. His friends invite him along on their band's tour to the Faroe Islands in hopes of helping him back on his feet: but things don't go according to plans. A whimsical yet profound story of self discovery and space travel.

The Crusades Trilogy (M) by Jan Guillou. An epic series consisting of The Road to Jerusalem, The Templar Knight and Birth of the Kingdom.
Already an international sensation, The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou is the epic story of the Knights Templar. A major bestseller in Europe—with more than two million copies sold in Sweden alone—and the basis for the most lavish and expensive Swedish film ever made... Historical fiction lovers, particularly fans of the sweeping, bestselling adventure novels of Bernard Cornwell, will be captivated by this magnificent tale of romance,faith, and battle set against the backdrop of the Crusades." - publisher

It's Fine by Me (M) by Per Petterson: the most recent book by the IMPAC award winning author of Out Stealing Horses. Petterson's writing is thoughtful and introspective, focusing on emotion rather than action and with a writing style is descriptive yet spare. Set in Oslo, It's Fine by Me is the story of a difficult family through the eyes of a son. From the publisher: "On his first day of school, a teacher welcomes Audun to the class by asking him to describe his former life in the country. But there are stories about his family he would prefer to keep to himself."

We the Drowned (M) by Carsten Jensen. This large historical novel tells the story of the inhabitants of a Danish port town over a period of about 100 years. An epic novel that has been celebrated in Europe, it has been slow to catch on in North America. I'm intrigued by this quote from Kirks reviews: "Jensen is a sympathetic storyteller with an eye for the absurd, with the result that if this novel descends from Moby-Dick, it also looks to The Tin Drum for inspiration."

Looking for even more writing from Scandinavia? Check out these older posts from our Read Your Way Around the World series on Norway, and Denmark. And although not technically part of Scandinavia, you may also want to explore works from Finland and Iceland.

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