Your correspondent in Oslo woke up to bright, blue and sunny skies, ever-so-slightly hungover after and evening of good fine and wine, but eager to get back to the city’s fourth annual Krimfestivalen. There’s another full day of programming here at the Cappellen Damm publishing house, again mostly featuring Norwegian and Danish-speaking panels, but there are some English-language sessions sprinkled throughout.
The first session I saw today comprised one Icelandic writer Árni Þórarinsson and, from Denmark, the duo of Anders Rønnow Klarlund and Jacob Weinreich, who write under the name of Anna Eckberg. As you’d expect from these venerable writers, some wisdom was dispensed. Norwegian writer Gunnar Staalesen moderated.
In a quick session, attention focused on Arni, who was asked about Icelandic crime and relationship between fiction and reality. We’ve come to understand there is very little crime in Iceland, and also that Icelandic crime fiction – despite centuries of storytelling tradition – is a relatively new phenomenon. Arni said that crime fiction didn’t really exist until the 90s, when Arni, Arnaldur Indriðason and Stefán Máni started up. It just wasn’t a tradition.
Arni’s protagonist, a journalist, mirrored his own professional, which, he said, made it a logical choice – you write what you know. Although he added that fictional journalists are far more fun than real-life ones.
The discussions then turned to that thorny old question of ‘Nordic Noir’ and how it fits into the landscape. Anders Rønnow Klarlund and Jacob Weinreich, who write under the name of Anna Eckberg in their native Denmark, explained they didn’t really read much crime fiction outside of what they write (they only concentrate on the stuff they write). (They also told us how and why they decided to start writing together, under a pseudonym: they had both gotten older and were going divorces and general life upheaval. They had shared an office anyway, and now they found themselves sleeping on sofas and thinking about making some money from their mutual misery. They were against the idea of using both of their names on the cover – it would have been like a Rolling Stones and Beatles somehow remixed together – so they decided on Anna Eckberg.) What unites the Nordic nations is, Anders said, landscape and surroundings. Especially when you start writing young. As you get older the real deep connections with the region and past become more importan. What you write begins to go way back.
Arni also talked a little bit about Reykjavik and how everyone knows everyone else. It’s impossible to keep a secret, which presents new challenges.