Posted by: nordicnoir | April 11, 2010

Introductory Comments

After visiting Sweden for the past ten years and at times day dreaming about moving there and living among the contented, efficient, practical minded Scandinavians who are as addicted to group sing-alongs as Americans are to baseball (indeed, it has always struck me as being a little like Whoville (see this youtube video) I began to notice something: these people have a passion for crime fiction.  But unlike Britain—whose taste for seedy procedurals makes sense, given the prevalence of real life acts of violence, the hordes of drunken juveniles scampering about attacking pedestrians or wreaking havoc in town after the bars close—Sweden is relatively serene

It might seem easy to say that the Swedes, after years of importing English language TV shows, which have always included the best British crime dramas, decided to copy the Brits.  ‘Proven formula + new setting = success.’  But such an equation ignores how Nordic settings inform the age old tales of revenge, murder, investigation, and criminal insanity (for these tales go back to the beginning of history).  I’m not just talking about frigid conditions and dark winters, though these are worth considering.  As any reader of Sjöwall and Wahlöö knows (the classic ‘60’s and ’70’s crime writing duo), the ‘serenity’ of Sweden apparent to outsiders such as myself is arguably a thin veneer overlying the turbulent depths of Scandinavian society.  For instance, Sweden’s disturbing history of Nazi collaboration and coercive social programs–like the forced sterilization of certain social groups–is often overlooked in light of its progressive aims.

So while many of us outsiders see a peaceful, happy land, free of the urban blight surrounding our major American cities, some of the most famous Nordic crime writers have been critical of their own countries’ ‘mere’ social-democracies.

            Is there something political at the heart of all this Nordic noir?  Are there deep historical roots to this peculiar version of suspense?  What sort of literary and artistic traditions inform it (Viking sagas, Ingmar Bergman, Astrid Lindgren…)?  How much arises from the very landscape, the long dark winters with sun only from 9am to 4pm?  Or is Nordic noir just the naughty playground of a happy, contented people?

Much there is to discuss…



  1. I just stumbled on your Web site yesterday. I am very impressed by your discussion of Nordic noir, the Palme assassination and Swedish Nazism. You write as if you are an academic. Are you?

    And are you remaining anonymous for a reason?

    By the way, I am a real fan of the Millennium trilogy (books and movies), Mankell and just recently Jo Nesbo.

    I look forward to your future posts.

    • Thanks for your comments! Yes, I have an academic background (PhD) but I am focusing on writing now (all kinds). I currently like being anonymous to all but friends and family, though for no particular reason. And I hope to get to Nesbo and other authors some day soon!

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