High Crime in Contemporary Scandinavian Literature

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High Crime in Contemporary Scandinavian Literature

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Publication BookChapter
Title High Crime in Contemporary Scandinavian Literature
Author(s) Persson, Magnus
Date 2011
Editor(s) Nestingen, Andrew; Arvas, Paula
English abstract
The novel turning to crime fiction for inspiration is naturally not a new phenomenon. Writers as diverse as Joseph Conrad, Fjodor Dostojevskij, Graham Greene, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Paul Auster and Thomas Pynchon are prominent examples. In Scandinavia, Kjartan Fløgstad, Jan Kjaerstad, Klaus Rifbjerg, Dan Turell, Svend Aage Madsen, Kerstin Ekman and Aino Trosell can also be mentioned. In fact, with the emergence of postmodernism, high-culture interest in the genre of crime fiction rapidly intensified, which led to extensive attempts by literary theorists to describe and analyze what was often labelled the anti-crime novel. In Scandinavia, a postmodern variant of this phenomenon was epitomized by Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (English translation 1993). Critical responses to this work show a number of contradictions and ambivalences concerning the relationship between high and low culture. In this chapter I first describe and criticize how postmodern theory has regarded the relationship between high literature and crime fiction. I then analyse the reception of Peter Høeg’s novel. Although theorists and critics express a positive and welcoming attitude towards the influences of the popular, their high-culture expectations dispose them towards treating its crime-fiction features as parody or critique. The crime novel in itself is seen as an outdated literary form, incapable of renewal – unless the high-culture author revises it and rewrites it. Contrary to this, I show in my own reading of the novel that it is possible to see the novel as conforming to rather than transgressing the conventions of crime fiction. Finally, I discuss how Hoeg’s proximity to popular culture ultimately led to his dethronement. I also outline some possible changes since the release of Miss Smilla. Has critical and theoretical logic changed? How can the enormous appeal of crime fiction be explained – and its continuing ability to evoke strong feelings and struggles over what is, and what is not, legitimate literature?
Publisher University of Wales Press
Host/Issue Scandinavian Crime Fiction
Series/Issue European Crime Fictions;
ISBN 978-0-7083-2330-4
Pages 148-158
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) crime fiction
Peter Hoeg
high and low culture
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/12207 (link to this page)

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