There's more to Scandi fiction than crime

Helene Fermont
Opinion - Books Thursday, 06 April 2017

Nordic literature is better characterised by its emotional honesty, says Helene Fermont


I'm a native Swede and divide my time between Sweden and the UK, and it always astonishes me that Nordic Noir is symbolic of Scandinavian literature as a whole. I enjoy it as much as anyone, but it's not all that's on offer by a long shot.

Lately, Swedish authors have been writing about real life situations and subjects people tend to shy away from - writing that's authentic, relatable and compelling. Realistic descriptions of characters with flawed personalities are typical of Scandinavian writing, and contemporary psychological fiction novels give an even deeper understanding of what makes people behave in a different way from society’s expectations of them, and the conflict they often find themselves in.

Scandinavian authors are particularly good at writing about subjects that don't always make for easy reading, and as soon as people get a taste for it they usually come back for more. The Most Forbidden by Kerstin Thorvall, referred to as "Confession Literature", vividly describes the author’s complicated relationship with her mother and her father's mental problems. Lena Andersson’s Wilful Disregard, awarded the August (Strindberg) prize for best literary fiction in 2013, documents the protagonist’s obsession with an older man and his subsequent rejection of her. Karin Boye, my favourite poet of all time, writes heartfelt works such as "Yes, Of Course It Hurts". I recently read two thought-provoking novels by female Swedish authors that stayed with me for quite some time after I read the last pages, both vividly describing relationship breakdowns in such a direct, almost blunt, but genuine and realistic manner that the reader shares the characters' pain.

My new novel, We Never Said Goodbye, contains the same elements. My characters are completely fictitious, but I draw from my professional experiences as a therapist to draw characters who are realistically flawed yet capable of transforming themselves and their lives.

My novels Because of You and We Never Said Goodbye are inspired by typical Scandinavian works with morally complex elements and three-dimensional characterisations. I am less focused on the outcome of the story than I am on the individual characters’ journey throughout the novel.

Scandinavian authors typically give honest descriptions of society and how it affects and shapes people. I'm proud of being a part of a culture that produces multifaceted literature that is as stimulating as it is reflective of real life situations.

Not all British authors write Chick Lit, so why would their Scandinavian counterparts limit themselves to writing Nordic Noir?

We Never Said Goodbye by Helene Fermont is out today, 6 April (Fridhem Publishing, £9.99).

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