Arne Dahl in Athens 2018 World Book Capital!
A few days before arriving to Athens, Arne Dahl, Swedish writer of crime literature, talks to Anna Routsi on the sociopolitical issues and the role of the writer, his research and its surprises, the literary criticism and, of course, his visits to Greece!
- Instead of Intercrime and Opcop, in your (in Greece newly published) book we have Sam Berger and Molly Blom. How is that? What does it mean, this change of route/focus?
This is a rather big change of focus. It was time to get some new blood into my veins, so that I didn’t lose my literary touch and got lazy. I had to do that by getting rid of all my safety nets –the social and political focus, the big collective of cops, the global themes– and move into a more psychological thriller form.
- You are well known for your handling of sociopolitical issues through your books. Does it change now with the new series? And what can the role of a writer be, regarding interventions in such issues?
It’s more focus upon the intensity of the story than on the political issues, yes. I have in no way lost interest in politics, and I know that it will sneak into the on-going story of Berger and Blom as well. The political role of the writer is hard to estimate –we are after all not politicians but artists and entertainers, but I think we do contribute to a heightened awareness of political issues going on into the world– and maybe reaching people who don’t follow the news so closely.
- Conducting additional research for your books, were you surprised by hidden, unknown sides of history, politics, society? If yes, such as? And how is it, getting confronted with that?
There have been a few surprises over the years, yes. About the role of Sweden during the 2nd world war, for example, or the role of Italy in the cocaine trade of Europe, or the business connections to Saudi Arabia. And this is what I live for, researching for the books. I need to learn something new every time I write a new book.
- Being a critic and being parallel exposed to critics for your books, how does it feel? Do you think of critics while you write? And how is it, expecting and reading the critics afterwards?
I wrote literary criticism for almost three decades and loved the width of learning that it gave me; without it I wouldn’t have been the writer I am today. But I also had enough of that perspective – so I stopped writing criticism a few years ago. I needed to be a writer and nothing else. Still, the critique lives within me, and it still doesn’t feel good to get a bad review. It sticks much longer and harder than the good reviews. But in general I have been blessed with very good reviews.
- Why you think people from all over the world, including Greeks with such different mentality and lifestyle, are so much into the Nordic crime fiction during the last years?
The combination of a long, good tradition of high level crime fiction and the interest in Sweden as one of the well-functioning welfare states in the world is explosive. You get really good crime fiction about a social “paradise” that turns out to be a problematic country like most other countries. It is, I think, a bit of a relief to see that also paradises have snakes.
- You have been in Greece before, you are now visiting Athens in the frame of Athens 2018- UNESCO’s world book capital. How do you feel about this and what is your notion of Greece in general?
I have loved Greece since I was 20 and started travelling around, especially in the archipelago –and when I later started to study classical literature, the ancient world of Greece came close to me– and I realized that you actually INVENTED crime fiction (Aischylos, Sophocles). And somebody recently remarked that Greece is mentioned in almost all of my books, one way or another.
- Do you, yourself, like to live in a city or further away from the crowd? How decisive factors are the cities for the mentality (and the criminality!) of their inhabitants?
I live in a city (Stockholm) and I love it. But I have come to the conclusion that I also need the peace and quiet of the countryside. So for me the combination is perfect. (Especially since new kinds of crime are spreading through the suburbs of our big cities, gang shootings and drug crimes and gangster mentality dominating whole neighborhoods).