Scandinavian and Nordic Crime Fiction
By Carol Van Why
Do you remember about 10 years ago when everyone was reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Swedish author Stieg Larsson? Larsson died unexpectedly in 2004 leaving crime fiction readers everywhere wanting more. By the end of 2012 his trilogy, beginning with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, had been translated into 50 languages and had sold 73 million copies worldwide.
It would be misleading to imply that Larsson was the first Scandinavian crime fiction writer to catch the attention international audiences. An English translation of a work by the writing team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö appeared in 1968. English editions of Peter Høeg’s award-winning Smilla’s Sense of Snow and Henning Mankell’s popular Wallender series followed in the 1990s.
But it wasn’t until Larsson’s works took the world by storm that the phrase Scandinavian Noir emerged as a name for this crime fiction genre. What’s more it should not be surprising that after his success, publishers scoured Scandinavia in search of books to translate for insatiable and growing audiences.
Those who follow this topic seriously report that at least 100 crime fiction authors from all over Scandinavia have been published in English. And since several Icelandic authors’ works have now been translated the genre is more inclusively termed "Nordic Noir. " It’s become such a phenomenon that Gustavus Adolphus College held a three-day conference on the topic in 2012 and the Swedish Institute shop offers a huge selection of crime fiction for sale.
For me good stories, believable sleuths and glimpses of Nordic culture, society and landscapes are the appeal. Insights into contemporary issues such as immigration and economic and social inequalities are often woven into the narratives. Descriptions of seasons, weather and geography are simultaneously familiar and yet very different for a Minnesota reader.
Coffman Library’s collection contains the works of over a dozen "Nordic Noir" authors, including those already mentioned. Other titles in the collection are by: Sara Blaedel, Arnaldur Indridason, Camilla Lackberg, Liza Marklund, Jo Nesbo, Kristina Ohlsson, Leif Persson, and Yrsa Siguaradottir. Look for them all in the Mystery/Spy/Adventure section on the library’s upper level. If you exhaust our library’s offerings both the Ramsey County Library and the St Paul Public Library systems have good collections of "Nordic Noir."
By Mary Lynn Kittelson
We have a place of wonder, where cherished books we love
are kept and organized on shelves But, as all professors know
— when scholarly push comes to artistic shove --
it’s committees that makes it go.
If the dining room’s the stomach, the library, above, is Coffman’s heart.
Inhabiting Two Stories, its staircase spirals like a spine.
What bookish creatures care for such a prize? Who does that,
cardiacal, and most silently, and with what art?
The tiny elves may want to sh-elve, but no, it’s the larger Gnomes
who can deal with the tomes. Unendingly it goes with the Toil of Librarying
Sometimes in dark of night, one gnome on its day, shelves books brought home.
They skip and totter, up and down and round (and sometimes elevatoring).
It happens that the smartest of patrons The Art of Filing sometimes lack.
PLEASE LEAVE SHELVING FOR THE GNOMES, the Gnomes recite (in rhyme).
The mis-shelved ones are never us! Oh, note the order of the stacks,
the lines of spines that stand for us, are (more or less) sublime.
Acquisitions and donations bring delight, but oh, the Gnomes must
timely judge when books we cannot use arrive — not make a fuss.
The ones they choose they do rejoice in! Then find the very place
they sure must go in — it’s a vaguely a priori space.
At times cataloguing gets quite gnarly, in ways you cannot start
to reckon; the lead librarians, revolving, say finally where each will go.
One Gnome excels in pencilling and stamping what’s necessary to know.
All is shelved, and then, with sad adieu, they place the other books on rolling cart,
accompany it, dirgelike, to the hall. At times, they slave away at dusting
book by book and all the shelves. And as advance, they’re lusting
for the tabled chocolate cake, their grand reward. On, snifflingly
they dust, and on, till finally they devour it, quite sneezingly.
Gnomes cast their votes for the very chairs we sit in,
and, knowing well the glare, discuss the placement of the table.
They have, in helping all survive the spiral staircase, used friends and wit.
Profound their task to recognize what’s best for the collection.
The gnomish noise crescendoes when they say what they’ve been reading.
In summary, it’s bouncing gnome to rousing tome, as all are able.
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