Original Noir Fairy Tales: Hans Christian Andersen event at UCL on 9. Oct. 2014

Join Scandinavian literature fans for an afternoon exploring the works and relevance of the great Danish fairy tale writer

Nordic Noir was not the first Scandinavian-grown genre or trend to reach global dominance. Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish fairy tale writer (among many other things) ‘modernised’ the fairy tale, and is still on the top ten of most translated authors in the world (ahead of the bible but behind Barbara Cartland, Disney and Lenin, of course). His tales are not strictly noir even though heads role and blood flows in ‘The Tinderbox’, women and children are violated in ‘She Was No Good’ and social inequalities are laid bare in ‘The Little Matchgirl’ – come to think of it, maybe Andersen’s tales were really as scandi noir as it gets!

On the 9th of October, 2014, from 1:00 to 6:00 pm every interested reader in London will have a chance to learn more about Andersen at UCL. We have invited Paul Binding, who will present his major book on Hans Christian Andersen: European Witness (Yale UP, 2014) and three researchers from the Danish H.C. Andersen Research Centre in Odense. They will talk about Andersen, his relevance for us today, Andersen and the uncanny and his century long popularity in China.

Visit the event website for more information and to reserve a seat for this free event.

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Where to start with Scandinavian crime fiction

Barry Forshaw’s quick and easy guide to Nordic Noir introducing some must reads for new (and more seasoned) readers (a few of my own favorite Scandinavian crime novels in there!) is now available via the isuu app. Try it out!

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The truth is, Scandinavia is neither heaven nor hell

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, University College London

Earlier this year, British travel writer and resident of Denmark, Michael Booth, riled Guardian readers with a provocative article claiming to dispel the myth of Scandinavia as the perfect place to live. Many are now confused. Is everything we believed about the social ideals of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland a lie? Well, not entirely but we’re not all drunk serial killers either.

Based largely on his book, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle, Booth’s “revelations” about the rot eating away at Scandinavia’s welfare societies were meant to “correct the imbalance” of the recent utopian idealisation of the Nordic countries in the British media.

It’s true that the Nordic countries have received unprecedented good press in the UK. This is partly due to a a trend that emerged in the early years of the 21st century for assessing the well-being of nations not according to their GDP but other, more human factors. Nordic countries consistently come out top.

In the 2005-2011 Gallup World Poll, Denmark ranked first for happiness, followed by Finland and Norway. The OECD’s Better Life Index of 2012 had Norway, Sweden and Denmark among the top five nations and the 2014 State of the World’s Mothers report from Save the Children, assessing the well-being of mothers and children world wide, had five Nordic countries in the top six. Meanwhile, lifestyle magazine Monocle’s Quality of Life survey named Copenhagen the most liveable city in the world for the third time in 2014.

But these figures are starting to be undermined by people in many different quarters. If life is perfect in Scandinavia, why are there so many dramas and books that depict Nordic societies as rampant with corrupt institutions, alcoholics, dysfunctional families and men who are violent against women? These dark depictions can’t come out of a clear blue Nordic sky.

While the Killing and The Bridge are new though, interest in the rotten states of Scandinavia is not. The perception of the Nordic countries abroad has swayed between two extremes for nearly a century.

In 1936, the American journalist Marquis Childs published the international bestseller Sweden: The Middle Way. Written in the time of the Great Depression, Childs viewed the Swedish Social Democratic compromise between liberal capitalism and state communism as a pragmatic model that could guarantee full employment, social security and equality without jeopardising economic development and democratic institutions.

In the 1970s, the image changed radically with the British journalist Roland Huntford’s book The New Totalitarians. To Huntford, Swedes, dominated by the Social Democratic party for 40 years, had come closer to living in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian Brave New World than the Soviets. Even Sweden’s otherwise much admired sexual liberalism became an expression of totalitarian state control in Huntford’s eyes. High suicide rates and heavy taxation were other less than perfect trends he sought to highlight.

The utopian view has since made a come-back but perhaps that is less of a reflection on Scandinavia and more of the rest of the world. Global recession and austerity have taken their toll across Europe in recent years and people are starting to look around for better models. When fearing the corrosion of well-being and social cohesion, it is natural to seek consolation elsewhere, even if that elsewhere only exists in the imagination (as any good utopia) or in surveys that lack any form of cultural context.

Defending his dystopian counter-narrative against thousands of critical comments on The Guardian, Booth explained that his portrayal of jingoistic Danes on anti-depressants, lethargic Norwegians drunk on oil wealth, and gun-toting, binge-drinking Finns is largely based on what Scandinavian experts themselves have reported. That said, you could equally argue that he has carefully selected data to prove a predetermined narrative.

Booth’s book does prove an important point regarding perceptions of the Nordic countries, though. Scandinavians are predominantly satisfied with their lives but they are not utopians. Nor are they blinded by their success. They might not experience social problems on the same scale as people in other countries but they still fiercely debate what issues they do have. These include the purpose of the welfare state in the 21st century and how large it should be.

The Nordic countries are real places – not utopias – and as many other countries they struggle to overcome social divisions as they adjust to changing global realities. Austerity measures and welfare reforms have been implemented across the nations and it seems no entitlement previously guaranteed by the welfare state is off the table when it comes to cuts. A rise in mental illness may be the first severe consequence of widening socioeconomic gaps in the Nordic countries – just the kind of problem that is proving so fascinating to lovers of dark Nordic crime stories abroad.

The Conversation

Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.


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The Glass Key 2014 goes to…

Gard Sveen with Jørn Lier Horst

Gard Sveen with Jørn Lier Horst

The Scandinavian Crime Foundation (SKS) has the pleasure of announcing that their great award, The Glass Key 2014, will be awarded to the Norwegian author, Gard Sveen, for his novel ”Den siste pilegrimen” (The Last Pilgrimage).

This is his debut novel, and is thus the first in a planned series about the investigative detective, Tommy Bergmann, who is trying to piece together a connection between a murder during the summer of 2003 and a skeletal finding from World War II.

Not only has he won the Glass Key as a debutante author – he also won the Riverton Award. This is the first debutante who is awarded with both awards since Jo Nesbø in 1998.

Gard Sveen (1969-) is the senior adviser in the Norwegian Department of Defense.

The other nominees for this year’s Glass Key was:
Simon Pasternak (Denmark)
Reijo Mäki: Sherrifi (Finland)
Christoffer Carlsson: (Sweden)
(Iceland did not have a candidate this year)

This year, at the crime festival, Krimimessen, the three candidates from Norway, Sweden and Denmark were introduced to the enthusiastic readers, along with last year’s winner, Jørn Lier Horst.

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Forshaw’s new Euro Noir published.

ImageBarry Forshaw’s Euro Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to European Crime Fiction, Film & TV is out! http://goo.gl/aH4jVe.

From the publisher:

Barry Forshaw covers influential Italian authors, such as Andrea Camilleri and Leonardo Sciascia and Mafia crime dramas Romanzo Criminale and Gomorrah, along with the gruesome Gialli crime films. He also considers important French and Belgian writers such as Maigret’s creator Georges Simenon to today’s Fred Vargas, cult television programmes Braquo and Spiral, and films, from the classic heist movie Rififi to modern successes such as Hidden, Mesrine and Tell No One. German and Austrian greats are covered including Jakob Arjouni and Jan Costin Wagner, and crime films such as Run Lola Run and The Lives of Others. Euro Noir also covers the best crime writing and filmmaking from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Holland and other European countries and celebrates the wide scope of European crime fiction, films and TV.

There is even a new section on Nordic Noir!

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by | May 21, 2014 · 2:23 pm

Trust in Nordic Welfare States

A public event on Monday 19 May in London will discuss the history and future of Nordic Welfare States and particularly their role in making citizens trust each other and the public institutions.

The event is called Generating Social Trust in the 21st Century and will feature the Danish Ambassador, Prof. Klaus Petersen of the SDU Centre for Welfare Studies, Claire Fox, Uta Steiger and UCL’s Mary Hilson.

Please find more details from the following link including how to sign up for this free event: http://goo.gl/zZwhcw

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The Glass Key: The best Nordic crime authors crossing swords


The Nordic cooperation when it comes to crime fiction is blossoming – and the countries are contributing to each others’ publications like never before. But on the stage at the crime festival, Krimimessen, in Horsens, there was also room for a fierce sense of competition between the candidates for the Scandinavian crime award, The Glass Key, which is handed out in June.

On the stage, we have three out of the four candidates for this year’s crime award representing Sweden, Norway and Denmark, as well as last year’s winner from Norway, Jørn Lier Horst. At the head of this battle of crime fiction is the Danish critic Bo Tao Michaëlis who asks them questions about their candidacy as well as the international interest in Nordic crime fiction.

This year, the battle is between Swedish Christoffer Carlsson (Den osynlige mannen från Salem), the Norwegian Gard Sveen (Den siste pilgrimen), the Finnish Reijo Mäki (Sheriffen) and the Danish Simon Pasternak (Dødszoner). Iceland has not submitted a candidate this year.

There are plenty of smiles, humorous remarks and friendly banter on the stage. But The Glass Key is not a pity award; as a consequence, there are no room for the selected authors to rest on their laurels. There is a general consensus among the candidates that The Glass Key plays a huge part in opening doors for the nominated authors as well as the winner.

According to the Norwegian candidate, Gard Sveen, the Nordic crime fiction achieves its massive international popularity due to the outside world’s romantic notions about the Scandinavian countries, where the crime fiction is able to take you behind the scenes of this rosy picturesque image. However, the Swedish candidate Christoffer Calsson has a more cheeky and direct suggestion: “Because we are better than everyone else.”

But the remaining question begs to be asked – who is best? As Bo Tao Michaëlis ends the panel by saying: “May the best man win.”

And speaking of being the best. After this year’s crime festival in Horsens, one of Denmark’s most popular crime authors, Jussi Adler Olsen, complimented Krimimessen on being the best in the world – even when up against big book fairs and festivals in the rest of world, including USA etc.
“We are happy and proud,” says Vibeke Johansen, program director for Krimimessen.

Photo: Willy Wegner. From the left: Gard Sveen, Simon Pasternak, Jørn Lier Horst og Christoffer Carlsson.

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