This month it is 10 years ago that the “original” Nordic Noir Book Club was founded in London. The exact day in March 2010 has disappeared in the fog of a Nordic mystery, but we have chosen the 23rd of March 2020 (also known as Nordic Day) for our anniversary. We had planned to celebrate the day with an event at University College London – the home of the book club for all these years; however, due to the pandemic, we have had to cancel the celebration, which was planned to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the UCL Department of Scandinavian Studies.
Instead of a live celebration, we have put together a short history of the book club here, and in a couple of weeks, the Department will be publishing our brand new Introduction to Nordic Cultures (UCL Press), which we hope will be both entertaining and inspiring to all of our members and other fans of Nordic cultures and crime fiction. From the 17th of April 2020 you can read the open-access book here.
It is hard to imagine a time when Scandinavian crime fiction was still a novelty. In 2010 when we first had the idea for the Book Club, the third volume in Stieg Larsson’s global bestseller trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, had been published only five months previously in its UK English translation (in October 2009), the second season of the British adaptation of Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels featuring Kenneth Branagh had entered its second season on BBC ONE in January 2010, and it would be almost a year until the Danish drama series Forbrydelsen (The Killing) would initiate a Golden Age of translated television drama on BBC FOUR.
However, with Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy going on to sell more than 80 million copies world-wide, the final “original” instalment becoming the number one bestseller in the US in 2010, and Branagh’s version of Wallander on television, achieving viewer numbers above 5 million in the UK alone, it was becoming evident that Swedish and Scandinavian crime fiction was finding audiences well beyond the Scandinavian region, and that readers and viewers were beginning to wonder: what is it about these famously well-ordered, peaceful and perhaps slightly boring welfare-nanny-states on the other side of the North Sea, which seem to have nurtured an abundance of violent crime stories? And why do they fascinate a global audience?
The founding of the Nordic Noir Book Club in London, as a forum for readers and viewers to come together and share their thoughts and passions for Scandinavian crime fiction and Nordic cultures, was also meant to enhance our common experience of Nordic crime literature and television by providing relevant background information and facilitating discussion about Scandinavian cultures and society – engagements that did help us all make some sense of the puzzle: Why are there still so many (good) crime stories coming out of the Nordic countries?
Thanks and congratulations to all of our members, participants, crime writers, directors, organisers, friends and students who have made this “original” Nordic Noir Book Club a great and friendly place to explore Nordic Cultures over the past decade. Please leave a comment if you have any momentous memories of the NNBC to share.