Non-meurtre (French Edition)
Oppression, when it comes to letting alternative voices be heard, is a cultural characteristic of France: This could obviously change too many things in a nation preparing to mummify the memory of in rhetoric, oompah bands and banquets. Nos grandes fresques sociales sont toutes bourgeoises […] et intellectuelles Bouquet , p. All our grand social frescoes are bourgeois and intellectual] The only way to challenge the mummification of social action in France seems to be to impose an impetus from the outside. This is by contrast with the first translations of their work from the early s, which lacked the same focus on the construction of a supposed idea of Nordic identity as emphasised in the reception and presentation of Nordic crime fiction today.
Marketing strategies are motivated by commercial considerations grounded contingently in localised tastes and concerns. Accordingly, a political agenda is downplayed in one edition and foregrounded in another. National identity, too, can be seen to be a malleable concept. Correspondingly, in an early edition of a work, Swedishness can be associated trivially or flippantly with pornography, whereas it later comes to denote a morose seriousness, linked with sober stock-taking of the successes and failures of a social model.
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That it is Swedishness that is in question is secondary to a status of Other in relation to a French norm dictated by local considerations. In this light, images of Swedish or other national character are as much a surviving construct of the French gaze as they are a product of crime narratives written in the Nordic countries, where an imagined national identity is, by contrast, treated with scepticism and sometimes irony, contesting the very idea of a stable national identity.
If the role of the engaged crime writer is to observe, describe and critique issues within the contemporary polity, the surrounding participants in the publishing, distribution and consumer industry seem to act in a way that contravenes the literary narrative expressions thereby restricting the possibility of debating the social and political issues with which the literature itself engages.
The increasing amount of crime novels translated and retranslated from the Nordic languages and the current popularity of Nordic films and series — both in France and internationally — bears witness to this. An ensuing argument that is easy to make would be that crime fiction functions as a social and communicative platform for intercultural exchange and dialogue between the world and the Nordic countries.
Since it is a characteristic of noirs nordique that the foreign culture is not only illustrated, but also investigated, it is logical to assume that they provide French readers with insights into the cultures of the Nordic countries that go beyond national stereotypes and generalisations. Rather than promoting intercultural understanding, it seems, contrarily, to be a case of transfer, where: The noir nordique or variations of the term polar  nordique, polar scandinave function as an easy recognisable marketing brand used to cover literature and TV series from the Nordic region.
In French bookshops, Nordic non-crime-fiction authors are categorised and displayed under the signs of these categories. Even the works of French crime writers who have some affiliation with the Nordic countries like Olivier Truc, correspondent for Le Monde in Stockholm are branded as noir nordique. If there is a noir nordique template in media and critical discussions, there are a number of typical features that it could be said to include.
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Another important feature is reference to the Nordic welfare model, linked in turn to fundamental and universal problematics of the development of Western societies treated in the novels, such as globalisation, corruption, immigration, neoliberalism, and so on and so forth. It is linked in turn to the pervasive significance attributed to the Nordic climate, the typical coldness and darkness of which connote similar qualities in the moral sphere, not least in relation to the typically melancholic investigative protagonist.
In this respect, as in others, the noir nordique genre is one that is characterised as highlighting discrepancies between a stereotypical ideal and a less satisfactory reality. The novels thus describe a society that Prolongeau This kind of paradox is understood more generally by Graham Huggan , p. French characterisations of the North in discussions of noir nordique can be said to operate within such a circuit. We might term borealism the hybrid of the realist depiction of the everyday and the exotically nordique that appeals to French critical sensibilities.
Geography is another key feature linked closely to climatic otherness.
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This uniform marketing template also confirms an imaginary of spatial marginality, which explicitly establishes a spatial organisation based on notions of the exotically cold and thus on otherness in relation to France. These repetitive covers apply a symbolic distance through the conventional imagery of cold, barren landscapes, repeated in titles of reviews dealing with Nordic crime fiction where climatic stereotypes serve an equally epitomising function: There are numerous variations on this theme: The predominant outdoor images instead feature people going on their summer holidays, girls in bikinis, blooming trees, and chief investigator Martin Beck and his colleagues frequently suffer from the heat in their offices at the police station.
Evoking the polarity between the East and the West during the Cold War, the re-situation of the expression contains a sense of re- intrusion and of outsiderdom. While alluding climatically to the supposedly mono-seasonal USSR, the new polarity between the North and the South replaces old opposites. This is a notion bizarre to most Danes, Norwegians and Swedes, who live as far away from the polar circle as from Paris; or as the narrator states at the opening of the sixth Martin Beck novel, Murder at the Savoy: Witness this allusion which gives only some of the shocking details presented to the monograph that Roger Thiraud was writing:.
On 20 August , the flats of La Muette in Drancy were officially transformed into a concentration camp to hold French Jews prior to their deportation to Germany and occupied Poland. Roger Thiraud quoted the figure of 76, people, including women, children and the elderly, who were rounded up over three years within a few kilometres of the Place de la Concorde, and then deported to Auschwitz. He put the number of those who came back at less than 2, Every week, three thousand people passed through Drancy, guarded by four German soldiers assisted by a few dozen French auxiliaries.
Roger Thiraud had underlined the figure four. Indeed, to the perhaps better-informed readers of today, such links will already have been inferred from the way in which the French police and CRS deal with the pro-Algeria marchers. Then, as if these parallels with the Occupation were not clear enough, one night, as Cadin sleeps, his mind relives his investigation as a nightmare, in which Algerians have replaced the Jews in the railway cattle trucks pp.
Papon was, precisely, the epitome of the faceless, murderous bureaucrat whom Daeninckx has denounced elsewhere: Not for nothing does the epigraph to the book, in a restatement of the words of philosopher George Santayana, insist: Yet despite all of this, Daeninckx, as he regularly stresses, is not a historian. He is a novelist, and as such he is able to deploy a host of literary devices to reinforce his central points, and make them broader based and more subtly compelling. A whole raft of apparently minor details thus take on secondary, more allusive meanings, as the following examples will serve to demonstrate.
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When the CRS violently attack the Algerian demonstrators, the play on the bill of the nearby theatre is Goodbye Prudence. The most striking image of all, however, is the famous one with which the novel ends. At the Bonne-Nouvelle metro station linked to the police brutality in , an Algerian worker scrapes away posters which, for decades, have been pasted one on top of the other, and he eventually uncovers fragments of a German text associated with the persecution of Jews.
This particularly rich metaphor acts as a perfect conclusion to a number of the key strands in the novel: The novel indirectly illustrates the methodology of the historian, who, like the detective, is a searcher after truth, focusing on traces and fragments, journeying through time and memory to counter oblivion and reconstruct events. In conclusion, there is one final reason why this novel is worth studying.
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Witness this allusion which gives only some of the shocking details presented to the monograph that Roger Thiraud was writing: Ecrire en contre , pp. Here and throughout this review, all translations from the original French are my own.
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Daeninckx has never allowed his problematic first novel to be republished. The work entitled Mort au premier tour that is currently available is a completely rewritten version that first appeared much later Paris: All page references in this review will be to the Gallimard Folio policier edition.