Dark arts of the north

Prospect Magazine

Dark arts of the north

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The glint of blood on snow, the shattering of social order, or just the clothes: why does the world love Nordic tales of murder?

Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia in The Bridge, the latest and perhaps the most violent of Scandinavia’s crime dramas


A recent New Yorker cartoon nicely illustrates the case. A publisher and her author, both plainly American, sit in the publisher’s office, at the publisher’s desk, with the manuscript of the author’s latest novel between them. The publisher is enthusing over the work, declaring it a clever, well-plotted and fast-paced thriller—“only,” she says, “now can you make it Scandinavian?”

Nordic noir began, they say, with the ten books that the writing team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö published, at the rate of one a year, over the decade between 1965 and 1975. These two left-wing authors were determined to show the falsity of the Swedish dream, which according to them allowed their complacently slumbering country to ignore the poverty, underprivilege and heartsickness endemic among its broad underclass. Their protagonist, the

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  1. June 24, 2012

    gaynor elizabeth hamilton

    i have loved scandinavian fiction for years and when they began televising the dramas on bbc 4 i wasn,t sure if it would break the spell i had but yes i was wrong well crafted and characterised dramas fabulous settings and brooding melacholic police the ambiance is astonishing the adaptations into american and british don,t add up. i am a welsh woman and our home grown talent gets un noticed on s4c as if we were 3rd rate we have a lot in common with the scandinavian productions our own language for one we need more money but i,m afraid won,t be given a blank cheque any time soon.weep up the good work reporting the worlds foibles thank you gaynor

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