lørdag den 23. maj 2009

Sara Blædel, Kun ét liv (2007)


This Danish crime novel has not been translated into English, and I am not sure it will be. The change from Colin Dexter yesterday to the former journalist Sara Blædel today is immense, and I cannot help yearning for Dexter´s vocabulary.
What is your experience with fiction written by (former) journalists?


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Fra ordglade, engelske Colin Dexter til den danske forfatter Sara Blædel, som er tidligere journalist, er der et stort spring. Måske for stort. Men når nu så mange læsere mener, at Blædel bliver bedre og bedre …

I denne bog findes en ung indvandrerpige myrdet i Holbæk Fjord, med en flise bundet om livet, og Louise Rick bliver udlånt til rejseholdet på grund af sin erfaring med indvandrermiljøet. Mulige motiver ved starten af romanen er det meget oplagte æresdrab, eller pigens modeldrømme.

Plottet udvikler sig noget trægt i starten. Efter hundrede sider hører vi følgende:
”Der er kommet et foreløbigt resultat af den tekniske undersøgelse af faderens båd, fortsatte han. – De fandt ingen spor, der tyder på, at han har haft en flise med i båden. Den ville uden tvivl have afsat ridser.”

Jaså, tænker den forvænte krimilæser. Men hvad nu, hvis den stolte bådejer havde haft et tæppe med? Eller en stump gulvtæppe?

Louises veninde, Camilla, som er journalist og enlig mor, dukker naturligvis også op i Holbæk for at skrive om sagen, og hun engagerer sig stærkt i familien, og forsøger at sætte sig ind i deres kultur. For så vidt en glimrende idé, men igen undrer læseren sig over, om en københavnsk journalist virkelig er på helt bar bund, når det gælder muslimsk kultur. Læser hun aldrig aviser? Den myrdede piges mor forsøger at forklare, hvorfor en jordansk mor til fire ikke bare kan forlade sin mand og skabe sig et nyt liv. ”Jeg vil hellere være hjemme hos min mand end at have frihed og være ensom”.

Hen ad vejen bliver handlingen lidt mere interessant, men virkeligt medrivende bliver den kun kortvarigt i løbet af de sidste hundrede sider.

Konklusion: der er for meget belæring om indvandrere og om politiarbejde på begynderniveau, og så er der en god del ”Louise og Camilla redder verden” over bogen. Og med hensyn til sprog kan man ærligt talt ikke beskylde Blædel for at være nyskabende og fantasifuld.

Se Louises anmeldelse af Kun ét liv.

Hvad er dine erfaringer med romaner skrevet af tidligere journalister?

23 kommentarer:

Uriah Robinson sagde ...

Former journalist Leif Davidsen does manage to develop characters and build up tension in a way that you perhaps don't expect from a journalist. The other former NBC TV correspondent is Daniel Silva who writes good thrillers. Alan Furst is also an excellent thriller writer so my experience with former journalists is very good.

Kate S. sagde ...

I can think of a number of excellent crime novels written by former journalists. Just from my recent reading, that includes books by Laura Lippman, Stieg Larsson, and Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo. And casting the net more widely, there's Ernest Hemingway whose famously minimalist style is often linked to his journalistic training. I guess how, and to what extent, a background in journalism would affect a writer's fiction is an individual thing, but it seems to me that it can foster writing with a sense of immediacy, and a solid narrative throughline to propel a book forward. And I bet that editors love working with former journalists given that they are accustomed to writing to deadline!

Dorte H sagde ...

Norman, quite a lot of our modern Danish crime fiction writers are former journalists, and some of them are excellent. Others know how to concoct a good story, but they still write as if they were writing articles, not fiction. In the one I finished today, the language tends to be flat, stale and unprofitable ;)
With regard to Leif Davidsen, I have enjoyed a number of his best novels, but his latest, "Searching for Hemingway", which has not been translated yet, was so disappointing that I put it down after fifty pages.
Actually I sometimes wonder what your translators do to the books, because some of the ones I find very dreary in Danish seem to come out well in English :)

Dorte H sagde ...

Kate, you also mention some excellent writers. No one can accuse Stieg Larsson of being boring or colourless :)

So perhaps it is just that some of the Danish journalists are not good enough at taking the plunge into fiction?
It also seems to me that many Danes PREFER short, simple sentences and no words with more than two syllables so it may just be me - because I have got used to the best of British fiction?

Louise sagde ...

Here is my review of Kun et liv: http://bogsider.blogspot.com/2007/09/kun-et-liv-af-sara-bldel.html

As you can see, I was not overly impressed, but I have to say, I was even less impressed with the next one in the series, which I read earlier this year (I think). I am SO TIRED of reading thrillers about 1) Immigrants and guest workers and the "us and them" phenomenon and 2) trafficked prostitutes from the former East block.

Those themes seem to be the number one themes for a wide range of Danish/Scandinavian crime writers and I've had ENOUGH.

I want serial killers, gory forensic details, psychological insights into the mind of the killer, detectives or investigators (and they can be journalists, or doctors or whatever) where they unfold the mystery page by page and not all this darn social realism ;o)

Ok, now I got THAT off my chest....

Dorte H sagde ...

Louise, at least you said her book was well-written. I think her language is boring and unimaginative and smells of former journalist :D
AND I agree on the content, plus I think she treats her readers as if they must be stupid.

As I told my daughter, I mostly reviewed Blædel because I thought bloggers had some kind of duty to cover a variety of authors, not only the very best.

Lauren sagde ...

I like social realism, I'm afraid ;). Perhaps I overdosed on Patricia Cornwell when I was younger - I plead long-term illness and limited reading options - but I can only take gruesome serial killings in moderation, and I prefer a modicum of reality to my crime fiction. (Unless I'm mistaken and vile psychotic murderers really do stalk the streets of Ystad/Gotheburg/Copenhagen/Oslo on huge numbers, only to be unmasked by crusading journalists, lawyers and cafe owners rather than the incompetent local cops!)

Actually, of the last half-dozen Scandinavian novels I've read, I think only one deals with illegal immigration (and it was by Arne Dahl, so rather good anyway, though with a truly bizarre side plot!) I'll dig out a list of titles and topics tomorrow.

Having just read the first Blaedel novel, I rather enjoyed it. (I'm quite fond of plots where there's a corrupt cop involved.) But I gather that quality goes downhill from there.

Incidentally, it's a little hard to tell, as I'm reading most of these novels in translation into a language of which I'm not a native speaker, but I wouldn't say most of them are particularly adventurous when it comes to literary style. (Which is again why Dahl stands out.) I'm not sure this is always a bad thing - I think literary flights of fancy can lead to wildy erratic quality in series writing (cf Dexter and Ian Rankin too) - but if you're going for simplicity of style you really need to have all the other elements in place.

(I should add that I spend part of my professional life unpacking some of the densest prose every written - Thomas Mann, I'm looking at you - so I'm a fan of clarity in my free time!)

Finally, regarding translations, Kjell Eriksson and Ake Edwardson are the only authors whom I've consistently read multi-lingually. (And yes, I know they're both Swedish not Danish, but my basis for comparison is limited.) Edwardson I find fine but not spectacular in both English and German, but for Eriksson I enjoyed the German substantially more than the English. Though I think the first Ann Lindell volume (which hasn't made it into English) is a better book than some of the later ones, which may affect my judgement.

Bernadette in Australia sagde ...

In addition to the others that people have mentioned I'd add Matt Rees to the list. He writes a series set in the Middle East and is also a journalist. I think he writes beautifully.

Let's hope we both have a better reading experience next time out :)

Ms. Bookish sagde ...

Louise Penny was a journalist with the CBC here in Canada before she wrote her Inspector Gamache books. I like the series - lots of character development, good mysteries and love the setting, too.

Carsten sagde ...

Fin anmeldelse - og endnu en grund til at jeg nok aldrig kommer til at give mig i kast med Sara Blædels bøger.

Mht. journalister der springer ud som forfattere, så er jeg meget begejstret for Michael Connellys forfatterskab. Han skrev i mange år om kriminalstof indtil han kastede sig over fiktionen og fandt på Harry Bosch-figuren. Man kan godt mærke, at Connelly ved meget om kriminalstof - både om opklaring og den journalistiske del. Hans seneste bog, The Scarecrow, handler vist nok om dette.

Søren sagde ...

I also like social realism, but do agree with Louise, that the topics get a bit boring. But with journalists turning crimefiction writers, it's maybe only natural, that they write about daily topics from the newscurrent?

I think almost every journalist in the world wants to write a book, and most of them shouldn't have :-)

Dorte H sagde ...

Lauren, this is not really a war against social realism - or at least not meant so. But in this novel, the language is boring, the plot is average, and she teaches the reader about police work and the culture of immigrants in a way I really don´t need. So here is a clear example of telling, not showing :)
And whatever Arne Dahl does, he does it much better than Blædel, that is certain.
I also have this problem about reading much fiction in translation, and I suspect that good English translators do a lot for some of the average writers. Life is too short, though, to begin testing dozens of bad reading experiences in TWO languages.
Finally, I heartily agree on this point: "but if you're going for simplicity of style you really need to have all the other elements in place."

Dorte H sagde ...

Bernadette, it seems I have just been unlucky with my Danish journalist. I can´t say I didn´t suspect it either, but I try to review a broad variety of Scandinavian writers which is the main reason why I borrowed Sara Blædel´s book at all. There are a number of Danish ex-journalists, however, who still write as if they would be punished if they embellish their prose the least bit.

Ms Bookish, I didn´t know Louise Penny had also been a journalist. From what I have heard, it doesn´t seem to have done her any harm.

Dorte H sagde ...

Carsten, det var i hvert fald en ærlig anmeldelse. Blædel scorer forholdsvist lavt på alle mine parametre, men jeg prøver bevidst at få lidt af bredden med på min blog, og det har jeg så opnået i denne uge ...
Connelly er en helt anden snak. Meget vidende, som du siger, og så vidt jeg husker, er der heller ikke noget at kritisere sprogligt.

Dorte H sagde ...

Søren, I think some of them should participate in "Saxo forfatterskole" LOL

There are also a number of people who are used to writing articles and reports, and they are not always willing to listen when some of us try to tell them that writing fiction SHOULD be different.

Louise sagde ...

I am currently reading the Arne Dahl series about the A-group in Stockholm and I am enjoying it, although the style tends to be a tad too dark and Scandinavian sometimes. Aasa Larsson has the same depressive style and tone in her thrillers and while I read them and enjoy them (much more than Blaedel & Co) I also sometimes feel soooooo tired and dark inside afterwards.

Dorte H sagde ...

Louise, Arne Dahl is such a pleasure compared to Blædel, but I agree that he is best enjoyed in small doses as some of the plots are very dark.
With regard to Åsa Larsson I do enjoy her books, but it might be a good idea for her to vary her stories a bit so they don´t come across as ´doom and gloom´ only.

Lauren sagde ...

Since we've been talking about (and in different) languages, might I intrude with a personal request?

My university, in its infinite (lack of wisdom), has decided to impose budget cuts on the Department of European Languages to the tune of 400 000 pounds over two years. This will mean the end of effective language teaching and learning, and will conceivably drive the whole department to the wall. (Subjects at even higher risk include Russian, Portuguese and one of only two Scandinavian Studies courses in the UK.) All on less than three weeks notice.

This is close to my heart because I'm finishing a PhD in a European language, but it's also a monumentally stupid decision given the wider importance of understanding other languages and cultures.

So much for being a city of literature. And as for the translators of the future...

I'd be extremely grateful if people could sign the petition and perhaps even forward it on if you know of others who might be interested.

Petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopedinburghunicuts/

And some background information:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/may/21/language-departments-face-cuts

Sorry for what probably amounts to spamming, but I'm seething at the moment...

Dorte H sagde ...

Lauren,I have signed your petition, and I am posting about it today - that is probably the best thing I can do.

Jane sagde ...

Jeg er enig med dig i, at Blaedel sprog ikke er noget at skrive hjem om - men jeg er virkelig begejstret for hendes boeger fordi jeg synes hendes karakteristikker af Louise og Camilla er rigtig gode. Jeg kan genkende en masse af mig selv og mine veninder i de to gaeve piger, og det er faktisk nok til at faa mig til at blive ved med at laese boegerne. ja, og saa synes jeg hun drejer et fornuftigt plot. Isaer i den af boegerne, som handlede om voldtaegt (titel, titel, noget med prinsesse?)

Dorte H sagde ...

Jane, jeg er nok bare blevet lidt for gammel til Blædel ;)
Louise og Camilla er helt klart det bedste ved bøgerne, og jeg kunne også bedre lide nummer to, Kald mig prinsesse.
Men af danske krimiforfattere er der altså ikke så meget andet end Egholm og Staun jeg for alvor bryder mig om disse år. Om vi kan lide at indrømme det eller ej, så synes jeg, vi kunne lære en hel del af de der svenske naboer.

Jane sagde ...

Helt enig, svenskerne er altsaa bedre! Jeg er igang med min anden Mankell, og manden kan virkelig skrive. Nesser har jeg laenge elsket, og en ny favorit er Theorin (overvejer lidt at smide en anmeldelse af Skumringstimen ud, naar jeg faar tid).
Egholm har jeg aldrig forliget mig med (generationsting, maaske, men hendes journalist fandt jeg bare virkelig ligegyldig og plottene fortegnede). Staun lyder som en, jeg skal stifte bekendtskab med, saa jeg giver nok hendes navn til mine litteraturpushere (mor og far som sender danske boeger pr airmail). Hvad synes du om Grethelise Holm - jeg synes at huske en ok krimi med en lidt aeldre heltinde fra hendes haand?

Dorte H sagde ...

Jane, jeg vil rigtig gerne se en anmeldelse af Skumringstimen, som står klar på hylden lige bag mig.
Susanne Staun er spændende mht plot; har stor viden om seriemordere, retsmedicin mm, og selv om hendes hovedperson er en kvindelig Michael Jackson (nye reservedele all over), er bøgerne altså ikke for sarte sjæle.
Gretelise Holm kan jeg også godt lide, netop fordi hun lader en ganske almindelig kvinde på omkring de tres være heltinde. Hendes trilogi om Karin Sommer er et udmærket sted at starte (den er vist nok blevet til fire eller fem hen ad vejen, men sådan går det vel, hvis bøgerne sælger).