Sunday, 19 February 2012

Death in a Cold Climate -review

Death in a Cold Climate is a new guide to Scandinavian crime fiction published by Barry Forshaw, a highly experienced journalist who is one of our most prolific commentators on contemporary crime fiction. Barry’s various publications include a massive two volume encyclopaedia about British crime fiction, to which I contributed several essays, and he was kind enough to write a foreword to the recent Murder Squad anthology Best Eaten Cold. He also produced The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction.

Barry has been an enthusiast for crime fiction in translation for years, and when I heard that he was publishing a book on this subject, I was keen to get my hands on it. It is published by Palgrave Macmillan, who have produced a number of learned tomes about the genre over the years, and Barry’s style of writing here is, therefore, a little more academic than in, say, The Rough Guide. But it’s still perfectly accessible.

He makes a number of interesting points – for instance that “the rendering of Scandinavian literature into English offers problems to their translators that are subtly different to those encountered in other languages”. This is something I hadn’t thought about previously, and there are fascinating comments about the nature of translation from the wonderfully named Sarah Death, a senior literary figure in Sweden as well as a translator, that I’d like to explore further one of these days.

The emphasis is very much on books written in the last twenty years or so, and as a result there’s no mention of writers such as Jan Ekstrom, Ella Griffiths and Poul Orum, who may be in danger of being overlooked by present day fans (though this is where bloggers can come in: I recall, for instance, that Maxine, aka Petrona, has highlighted Griffiths’ work on her terrific blog.) But any writer of a book such as this needs to be selective - there is really no alternative. Barry Forshaw has produced a valuable guide to a branch of the genre that has become deservedly popular andI wish him every success with it.


aguja said...

An interesting review, Martin. A translation can never entirely capture the original language .... but a good translator can make it seem so.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Aguja.