Those bloody Scandinavians

People have pointed out that Nordic Noir says a lot about social issues in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland; about the dark reaches of the mind, in detectives and criminals alike; and even something about a world culture that’s so drawn to it (for more on that, see Chapter 5 of our The Tattooed Girl).

But here’s a twist: the Nordic crime-writing boom also says a lot about global economics, according to the respected British weekly news and international affairs magazine the Economist. Despite a slight temptation to yawn we were curious enough to plow ahead and soon found ourselves engaged, both for its insights into the novels as well as the world economy. We found the lessons the newspaper draws worthwhile; we think our readers will as well.


— “Business in the Nordic countries has suffered a series of humiliations in recent years. Nokia is a shadow of its former self. Volvo has been passed from one foreign owner (Ford) to another (the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China), and Saab Automobile has collapsed. Iceland’s banking industry has imploded. But in one business, at least, Scandinavia is sweeping all before it: the production of crime thrillers….”

— “The first lesson is that the next big thing can come from the most unexpected places…The second lesson is that place matters more than ever in a globalized world. The conventional wisdom on globalization is that it produces a flat world in which everybody consumes the same bland products in the same bland settings: a universal airport lounge. But the Nordic crime writers understand that the more interconnected the world is, the more people crave a sense of place—the more distinctive and unusual the better. The third lesson is that innovation is the essence of global success….

— “These principles are as good as any for explaining recent business trends. Some of the great success stories of recent years have come from out-of-the-way places: who would have thought that Brazil would produce one of the world’s most successful aircraft-makers (Embraer) or that New Zealand would give birth to a colossus of underwear (Icebreaker)?….

— “The final lesson is more uncomfortable for the Scandinavians: that success is more fleeting than ever. Their formula is already wearing a little thin: Mr Nesbo’s Harry Hole is more resonant of Sylvester Stallone than Ingmar Bergman. Publishers are scouring the world for the next crime wave: a few summers hence we may all have forgotten about Oslo and Ystad, and be reading about les flics in Paris and Lyon instead.”

Click here for the full column.

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