Historical crime novels and meta-reflective aesthetics

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Contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction feeding on history makes use of a variety of genres and approaches, some of them launching advanced aesthetic strategies. In this article I will discuss two of these strategies. The first will be represented by the historical crime novel mixing historical layers with a contemporary setting. The second will be represented by the ‘literary’, meta-reflective novel involving crime and investigation, but in untraditional ways where various levels of reflection form a part of the plot. In various ways, both contribute to highlight the influence of fictitious modes on the way in which we conceptualize crime and its consequences.
The tendency to mix a historical point of view and a representation of historical events with contemporary points of view and events, suggesting that they are mutually interrelated, is widely applied. In a Scandinavian context Kerstin Ekman’s Händelser vid vatten/Blackwater (1993/1995) represents perhaps the most influential specimen. My assumption is that it paved the way for the combination of contemporary consciousness and history for later crime authors such as Arne Dahl, Jo Nesbø and Jussi Adler-Olsen. In Mordets praktik (2009) Kerstin Ekman continued her exploration of the act of crime, inspired by, re-writing and commenting on Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas (1905). This novel represents a peculiar way of combining a historical setting with a meta-reflective strategy, which is strongly appealing.
This strategy has been pursued by several other Scandinavian authors, perhaps most prominently by Svend Åge Madsen in his novel Syv aldres galskab (1994). This novel starts with a baby murder and offers an exhilarating journey through different times and conceptions, through generations, philosophies and mysteries, searching for a pattern, before the killer is found. I shall pursue this strategy, highlighting the connections between plot, philosophical insights and aesthetics.
Translated title of the contributionHistoriske kriminalromaner og metareflektiv æstetik
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe poetics of crime : Understanding and researching crime and deviance through creative sources
EditorsMichael Hviid Jacobsen
Number of pages19
Place of PublicationFarnham
Publication dateOct 2014
ISBN (Print)978-1-4094-6995-7
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4094-6996-4, 978-1-4094-6997-1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014
SeriesClassical and Contemporary Social Theory

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