Global best sellers, Nobel Prize winners, and more
We can credit Stieg Larsson for the steady stream of visitors coming to Sweden to walk “in the footsteps” of their favorite literary characters. But Larsson’s “Girl” is only one part of Sweden’s great literary tradition.
Where the Bodies are Buried
These days, everyone knows Sweden as the home of Scandinavian crime fiction. (Before we go any further, we must note that the real-life crime rate in Sweden is admirably low. On the page it’s another story!)
For fans of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and his other Millennium Trilogy novels featuring journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, the Millennium Tour of Stockholm is a must. Stops include Blomkvist’s office and Lisbeth’s posh high-rise apartment. (http://www.stadsmuseum.stockholm.se/museet.php?artikel=109&sprak=english)
Another author exploring Stockholm’s seamy side is Jens Lapidus, a criminal defense attorney whose gritty crime novels have been compared to those of James Ellroy. Easy Money, the first book in his best-selling Stockholm Noir Trilogy, was released in the United States in April 2012.
For true, old-school crime novels set in Stockholm, investigate the Martin Beck detective series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö from the 1960s and 70s. They’re pretty much where Swedish crime writing began.
Outside of Stockholm are more “crime scenes” that lure mystery fans. The first is Ystad, home of Henning Mankell’s renowned Inspector Wallander. Visitors to this pretty city in the scenic, southern region of Skåne might find it hard to believe Wallander encounters so many criminal types there. Yet after a guided or self-guided “In the Footsteps of Wallander” tour of Ystad it’s easy to imagine him hurrying along the city’s narrow, cobblestone alleys to track down a murderer, or pondering a case over a cup of coffee in Fridolfs Konditori. (Viewers take note: Season 3 of the Inspector Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh will air in the United States on PBS later this year.) (http://film.skane.com/en/content/kenneth-branagh-inspector-kurt-wallander)
Meanwhile in West Sweden, best-selling author Camilla Läckberg has turned the quiet fishing village of Fjällbacka into a Swedish crime capital in novels such as The Ice Princess and The Preacher. Her many fans visit the area to see the places where the dastardly deeds were done. (http://www.vastsverige.com/en/West-Sweden/Articles/Activities/Known-places-from-the-Camilla-Lackberg-books/)
Gothenburg is the setting for Åke Edwardsson’s Inspector Erik Winter novels—including his latest Sail of Stone—which often feature actual local events such as the 10-day Gothenburg Party that takes place in August. (http://www.goteborg.com/en/)
Award-winning authors Kjell Eriksson and Håkan Nesser, both of whom are from Uppsala, also write contemporary crime novels set in Sweden.
Celebrating Sweden’s Literary Giants
2012 is the 100th anniversary of the death of August Strindberg (1849-1912), Sweden’s most celebrated author and playwright. His works—Miss Julie and The Ghost Sonata among them—are classics of modern theater, both for their deeply defined characters and their revolutionary exploration of psychological and social themes. Strindberg-themed events will be held in Sweden and around the world to mark the occasion. (http://www.stockholmtown.com/upload/Pressbransch/Pressidor/features/Auguststrindberg2012_EN.pdf)
In October 2011, poet Tomas Tranströmer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for a body of work that began with his 17 Poems, published in 1954 when he was just 23. He is the seventh writer working in Swedish to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He joins Selma Lagerlöf (1909), Verner von Heidenstam (1916), Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1931), Pär Lagerkvist (1951), Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinsson (1974, shared prize).
More Swedes to Read
Torgny Lindgren’s name might not be familiar to most American readers, but his novels—Hash and Light among them—are considered modern Swedish classics and are available in English. (http://www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Literature/Reading/Torgny-Lindgren/)
John Ajvide Lindqvist created a sensation with his vampire novel Let the Right One In and its subsequent movie versions (one in Swedish and one in English). His other horror novels, Handling the Undead and Harbor are just as chilling.
And finally, no discussion of Swedish authors is complete without mention of Astrid Lindgren, creator of that energetic little girl with the silly pigtails, Pippi Longstocking, whose adventures continue to charm young readers the world over. (http://www.astridlindgren.se/en)
For English-language editions of Swedish books, visit: http://www.swedenbookshop.com/
For more on Literary Sweden, visit: http://www.visitsweden.com/sweden/Local-pages/USA/Swedish-Literature/
Annika Benjes, Director Public Relations, VisitSweden
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