The capital of Sweden, Stockholm, deserves a stop of its own. Stockholm has every element of a metropolis: vibrant culture, great shopping, exquisite cuisine, exclusive accommodation and an internationally renowned nightlife.
Stockholm seen from above. Photo: Jeppe Wikström/Johnér/Image Bank Sweden
But what sets Stockholm apart from other major international cities is its closeness to nature and the clean waters surrounding the 14 islands on which it is built. The 700 year old capital seduces its visitors and lures them back — time and again.
Sweden’s largest city is best discovered on foot as most interesting sites are within walking distance. Nonetheless, the public transport system is extensive and well-coordinated, making walking optional. And those who prefer to just sit back and relax, while taking in the beautiful views, can do so in one of the many coffee shops or on a boat trip in the archipelago.
As any capital, Stockholm attracts people from every corner of the country with promises of fame and fortune. It is the playground for the rich and famous. The way to the top, however, can be bumpy and if you get there, you stand the risk of others wanting to take you down. In the spotlight, there is no room for error. When pressure mounts, a seemingly flawless facade may very well crack, revealing things that were never meant for public display. The taste of La Dolce Vita is sweet, the loss of it bitter.
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall back in the day. Photo: Private
The pioneers of modern crime fiction are Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, who between 1965 and 1975 wrote ten novels with detective Martin Beck as the main protagonist. Their novels were the first to analyze the challenges of a developing society from the perspectives of those left behind during modernization. Today, the couple form a major reference point in the crime fiction genre in Sweden as well as internationally. Through their writing, Sjöwall and Wahlöö shed a light on Stockholm that the beautiful city was not used to: one that is quite different from the positive one likely to be experienced by visitors. Sjöwall and Wahlöö paved the way for the rich flora of Swedish crime fiction that has been written since and has resulted in a large number of films and TV series.
For those new to the Swedish crime fiction phenomenon, the Millennium Trilogy is perhaps the best illustration. Stieg Larsson’s series created an instant hype worldwide and have topped bestseller lists all over. In the Millennium Trilogy, maladjusted computer wiz Lisbeth Salander and truth-seeking journalist Mikael Blomkvist encounter the worst of a society where greed and disrespect for human lives is mixed with cynicism.
Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy has been immensely popular, and has been made into a film series, both in Swedish and a Hollywood remake in English. Photo: David Lagerlöf
Stieg Larsson, who passed away in 2004, shared many personal traits with Blomkvist, including that of the probing and political journalist. The Millennium Trilogy was yet another way for Larsson to describe the risks of corruption and societal collapse, when there is an abuse of power and a lack of transparency. After the Swedish film versions, Hollywood is doing remakes of the stories, with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the lead roles. Ironically, the horrors experienced by Lisbeth Salander and the cold environments described in the novels have created a new wave of Stockholm tourism. The Millennium Tour, arranged by the City Museum of Stockholm, points out important sites and settings of the novels.
An animal in perceived danger can get dangerous. The same holds true for human beings. What Karin Alvtegen calls “the typically Swedish strive for perfection” is sometimes not enough to solve conflicts that may arise between socially well-adjusted individuals. Alvtegen’s thrillers describe how fear, influxed by external and internal processes, can trigger strange and sometimes dangerous behavior. Alvtegen has received a number of literary awards, including The Glass Key for best Nordic crime novel and the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award for best crime novel of the year. She has also been nominated for two of the most prestigious crime novel awards in the world: The CWA International Dagger and The Edgar Allan Poe Award.
In addition to her television scripts, Karin Alvtegen has so far published six crime novels, the latest one from 2010, "A Probable Story" (En sannolik historia). Photo: Baldur Bragason
Leif GW Persson
There is a distinct Stockholmian accent, and few people have made use of this more than professor of criminology Leif GW Persson. It is little wonder therefore that most of Persson’s novels are set in Stockholm. Considering that Persson’s research extensively explores the measures and methodologies of Swedish police, it is also no surprise that those novels are mainly crime fiction. Persson is one of Sweden’s most established crime writers. There are two main characters in his novels: the hero, Inspector Lars M Johansson, and the anti-hero, Inspector Evert Bäckström. Many of the cases touch upon the 1986 murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in one way or another. Persson exposes the incompetence and level of corruption among some policemen, politicians and civil servants and launches theories of what actually took place when the prime minister was murdered. The series has now presumably come to an end and Persson’s many readers wait with anticipation on what will come next.
Leif GW Persson, criminologist and novelst, first published a novel in 1978. His latest book, "The Dying Detective" (Den döende detektiven), has the same main character as his first, Pig Party (Grisfesten).
Photo: ©Laurent Denimal
Jens Lapidus' novels are set in the fast paced, young and glossy Stockholm. The setting would be superficial in its vain self-consciousness, had it not been for its ties to international drug and crime syndicates. In the Stockholm that Lapidus describes, the reader meets a cruel, cynical and violent world where money and striving to climb the social ladder into the fast lane are central elements. The lead characters operate in the legal greyzone or beyond. Many, but not all, experience judicial as well as — worse — social blows. The settings are vividly described by the author, who works as a criminal defense lawyer in one of Stockholm’s most prestigious firms. To date, two of Lapidus’ Stockholm Noir Trilogy titles have been released — Easy Money (Snabba cash) and Never Fuck Up (Aldrig fucka upp). The novels have been sold to 27 countries. Easy Money has been cinematized, with the remake rights sold to Warner Bros, where Zac Efron has signed for the lead role.
Jens Lapidus reached instant success with Easy Money, the first installment of the Stockholm Noir Trilogy. The third book, "Life Deluxe" (Livet delux), is due in 2011. Photo: Mattias Edwall
One of Sweden’s more prolific crime writers is Arne Dahl, which is a pseudonym for the literature critic Jan Arnald. Dahl has written a series of eleven novels about the A-group, a special unit for international crimes in the Swedish police force. The series has been translated in 20 languages and, like other Swedish crime fiction, it is selling well internationally as well as in Sweden. Arnald has in recent years started publishing books under his real name. His analyses of Swedish society are made from a leftist angle and often strongly critical of a development where private interests are given prominence at the expense of traditional values such as solidarity. Arnald voices the opinion that the crime fiction genre gives opportunities to explore difficult existentialist queries and approach groups of people who would otherwise be excluded from those discussions — and that it should be taken seriously. The first five Dahl novels are being filmatized in 2011. The project engages the same director and script writers as the productions of Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s Inspector Beck series.
Arne Dahl's books are being filmatized, and his latest book "The Whispering Game" (Viskningsleken) is due out in 2011. Photo: Sara Arnald
Under the pseudonym Lars Kepler, the couple Alexander and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril have written cruel thrillers, in which the violence is grim and the undertone nightmarish. In The Hypnotist (Hypnotisören), which was released in 2009, Stockholm is described as cold in every sense. It’s winter and freezing and simultaneously, there is a lack of empathy between people that gives the reader the shivers. The novel was sold to 23 countries even before it was released in Sweden and it has consistently been on the bestseller lists since its release. The second novel, The Paganini Contract (Paganinikontraktet), is equally violent and psychologically uncomfortable, and this novel was even better received by critics. The way the reader increasingly gets to know the novels’ protagonist, Inspector Joona Linna, points to that Coelho Ahndorils/Lars Kepler do not intend to stop at two successful releases.
Alexander and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, writing crime fiction under the pseudonym Lars Kepler. Photo: Anna-Lena Ahlström
Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström
In the novels by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström, readers are taken on a journey where fiction meets reality, with tales of loss, addiction and revenge. The duo demonstrate a strong social awareness and the novels carry political undertones. The main character, Inspector Ewert Grens, has become a well-known hero of modern Swedish literature. Roslund and Hellström’s novels have been translated into over 20 languages and are sold to some 50 countries with film rights sold to Hollywood. The combined experiences of Roslund and Hellström stand out: Hellström has a past as a drug addict with multiple sentences for crimes of violence. After having cleaned up, Hellström worked with rehabilitation of young offenders and drug addicts and co-founded the crime prevention organization, Criminals Return Into Society (KRIS). The duo met when the journalist Anders Roslund was making a documentary on the same.
Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström latest release was Three Seconds (Tre sekunder) from 2009. Photo: Peter Knutsson
Created by the Embassy of Sweden, New Delhi, India, in cooperation with VisitSweden, the Swedish Institute in Paris and other individual authors and publishing houses. Author presentations largely based on texts by Gerard Meudal.
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