Pocket Essentials £8.99. Order for £8.54 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Euro Noir by Barry Forshaw, book review: Exemplary tour of the European crime landscape
Thursday 26 June 2014
The once-closed world of Anglo-American crime fiction has long been infiltrated by foreign agents – in translation, of course. Barry Forshaw has been closely following the Euro invasion, and manages to cover an extraordinary stretch of continental shelf in this brief but comprehensive survey.
He arranges his material more or less geographically and linguistically, sweeping round the Mediterranean, up through German-speaking territory, across the former Communist states and into the chilly heartlands of Nordic noir.
Brief chapters form excellent introductions to the history of crime fiction in various countries. Forshaw notes the importance of Leonardo Sciascia, referring to this anti-corruption campaigner with neat irony as "The Godfather" of Italian fiction. The French section quite rightly includes Simenon (sorry, Belgium!), and Germany sensibly extends to include German-speaking countries, so that Forshaw can include the superb Swiss writers, Dürrenmatt and Glauser.
Differing political histories are reflected in crime fiction, in German from the presentation of the Third Reich in the work of Hans Fallada, whose Alone in Berlin was admired by Primo Levi, to the novels of the Austrian feminist Elfriede Jelinek. In Spain, Antonio Hill commented to Forshaw on the difficulties of developing crime fiction in a nation where, under Franco, any serious attempt at portraying social corruption and brutality was impossible.
Overall, this survey is a bravura performance, though there are points where one might cavil. I am not an admirer of Norway's baggy-plotting author Jo Nesbo and his blokeish bore of a hero, Harry Hole, for whom Forshaw seems to have undue reverence. I missed an entry on the splendid French writer Sebastien Japrisot, whose work took us south from Maigret-dominated Paris. And sometimes we seem to be drowning in a Nordic torrent: one might reasonably think that publishers are cashing in on Scandinavian crime to the extent where any authors with funny vowels in their names make it into print. The question of whether this craze penalises British writers might surely be legitimately raised.
But Forshaw is an inimitable Virgil to guide us through the hellish circles of crime fiction. He has personally interviewed many of the authors involved and his work conveys a comprehensive yet intimate knowledge of the genre. And, unlike many literary pundits, he is supremely readable.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 iPhone 6 review: bigger, thinner, faster, brighter - Apple proves you can make the best better
- 2 Sports Direct security guard allegedly banned Jewish schoolboys and told them: 'No Jews, no Jews'
- 3 Watch a man race the Circle line - and win
- 4 Pakistani passenger power forces two politicians off plane
- 5 Kanye West halts concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Emma Thompson admits being frightened ahead of Sweeney Todd West End appearance
Robin Thicke admits he did not write 'Blurred Lines'
Star Trek 3 to begin shooting in next six months
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
The Walking Dead season 5 air date, trailer and season 4 recap
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'