Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not Just Dragons and Tattoos: What Sets Nordic Fiction Apart?

On The Rap Sheet, J. Kingston Pierce shares some snippets that didn’t make it into his Kirkus interview with British crime fiction critic Barry Forshaw. Forshaw is currently working on a book called Death in a Cold Climate: Scandinavian Crime Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan) that will be published early in 2012.

“What is it that sets Nordic crime fiction apart from what’s being turned out by writers in Britain, America, Germany, and elsewhere?” Pierce wants to know. “Is it the storytelling approach, the atmospherics, or the protagonists that are different?”

Forshaw’s answer is arguable, but he’s clearly given the matter a great deal of thought:
Many American and British authors are content to relate their narratives in carefully organized, linear fashion without attempting to test the elasticity of the medium. The result: work which is weighted with precisely those elements required to produce a Pavlovian response in the reader, with all the customary elements (suspense, obfuscation, resolution) employed in a straightforward contract between author and reader. Scandinavian crime fiction, however, is more prepared to toy with notions of improvisation and destabilization of the generic form, producing writing which may sketch in the rough parameters of the crime novel but also attempts to expand the possibilities of the medium--those possibilities which so often remained unexplored. There is often an initial resistance to unfamiliar, convention-stretching innovation, which is why so much anodyne product is available. Even the least ambitious Nordic fiction, however, is often prepared to take some audacious steps into the unknown, producing fiction which can function both as popular product and personal statement from the author.

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