Saturday, 29 March 2008

Scandinavian Crime Stories

I received a very nice surprise in the post this morning. My agent has very kindly got hold of the latest issue of the Norwegian magazine Vi Menn (which I'm told translates as Us Men). The reason she has sent it to me is that my crime story A Hunch Based on Bagels and Coffee is in there. Except it seems to have a completely different title. I think it might be Undercover, but I can't be sure (not being a speaker of Norwegian). I did try using an on-line freebie translator but it didn't seem to recognise the word Spaneren. But I did have a little fun typing in the opening paragraph of my story in Norwegian and seeing how the on-line translator converted it back to English . . .

It's weird that the Norwegian magazine should arrive today as this week I have been reviewing a couple of Scandinavian crime novels. The first is the latest English translation of a Jo Nesbø novel. There really should be a health warning or spoiler alert printed on the cover of Nemesis. It is the third of Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole series of detective novels to be translated into English. The first was The Devil's Star, but actually The Devil's Star turns out to be the third in the series and very much the sequel to Nemesis. For some reason, the novels have been translated and published in the UK out of sequence (I guess the reason is they published the best one first to test the water . . .). Unlike most detective series novels, you really do need to read Nesbø's Harry Hole books in the correct order to get the most from them. While each novel stands alone to a certain extent, there is a thread running through them that is best followed chronologically. So if you haven't read the first in the series, The Redbreast, maybe you should do so before you read this book!

You can read my full BookBag review here.

Also new on the BookBag site is my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. There was a lot of pre-publication hype about this book, the first in a trilogy about the Editor-in Chief of a Swedish magazine (Millennium) written by the real-life Editor-in Chief of a real-life Swedish magazine. Stieg Larsson died shortly after delivering The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the other two books in the Millennium series to his publisher. The books became hugely popular in Scandinavia and the publication of the first instalment here in the UK was heralded as the arrival of a masterpiece of crime writing. Well, for once the hype is not entirely unwarranted. It may not be a masterpiece, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very good read.

My full BookBag review is here.


Mary Witzl said...

These sound great, Paul, and congratulations on getting your work translated into Norwegian! Did you use Babelfish? They are pretty unreliable for Japanese to English and vice versa, and the system really fails whenever you try to translate idioms.

My husband and I used to be huge fans of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo's Martin Beck detective series and read almost all their books. In English, I hasten to add...

Paul said...

Hi Mary

I can't remember if it was Babelfish I used - I Googled a number of freebie on-line transltion sites. Once again, though, it made me appreciate the art of the literary translator. I mentioned in my review of Nemesis how impressed I was with the translator: it must be incredibly hard to maintain the essence of Norwegian - the idioms and even the cadence of the language - while converting it into English (and vice versa, I guess). I remember reading in Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel that Kundera was so shocked by the translations of one of his novels it left a permanent scar on him. One translator confessed to knowing no Czech at all (he translated the novel in question second-hand from the French translation of the Czech original!).