Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Håkan Nesser in London

I was very kindly invited to hear the Swedish crime writer, Håkan Nesser, speak at the Swedish Church in Marylebone last night. I've been a fan of Nesser for years, so I was acting like a little girl with a crush on a teacher when I spotted him on arrival at the church hall.

I'd insisted that my friend and I got there at least half an hour before the start. As the famous author graciously signed my books, I tried to tell him my life story. I mentioned we'd come early to get a good seat. The place was yet empty. My friend hid behind my back, but she was a good sport and didn't even laugh when I couldn't resist asking the man several questions after his talk. The hall did fill, and when Nesser delivered his funny and informative talk, it was full.

As I want my Babington book club to read Nesser, I asked him when more of his books were going to be published in English. 'One per year is what they've decided. They'll carry on way past my time on earth,' he said with a glint in his eye. He's written 21 books and does not look like stopping.

The first one to come out in English, which I bought there and then (and had it signed and dedicated to me, bliss of blisses), is called 'Mind's Eye'. It's the first in the Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren series. Others to look out are 'Borkman's Point' and 'The Return'. 'Woman with Birthmark' will come out in English on 1 May.

I have to admit I enjoy his latter books with the charismatic Detective Barbarotti more. But all of his books have a sense that the crime and the detective work is an afterthought in the storytelling. They are not conventional detective novels. But then what is ordinary or conventional? I think this is exactly the point.

The language Mr Nesser uses is extraordinary, it's economical, with every sentence and word carefully placed. One wouldn't associate his expressions with this genre. To add to the mysterious and abstract feel of the novels, he often makes up place names, names of characters as well as flora and fauna.

To cap the evening we found that the great man now lives in London. No, I'm not going to start to stalk him. Promise.


Robin Wilton said...

Sounds like I should try one of the Barbarotti books, then... What I meant by the Twitter comment was that for some reason, I found the fictional setting of Borkmann's Point distracting. I prefer the very strong sense of place you get from, say, Mankell (Skåne), Nesbø (Olso), Dibdin (Italy...), Indriðasson (Reykjavik) etc...

Helena Halme said...

I asked him if he thought his books got better but he claimed his first book was as good as his last and moved quickly onto the next person. I know I improve all the time...but then I haven't written 21 books and been translated into 20 languages. Glad you enjoy Scandinavian lit., sometimes it feels as if I'm running a one-woman campaign on it!