Book of Essays on Nordic Crime Fiction Discusses How Noir the Nordics Really Are

Books by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir on a shelf.

Bloomsbury has recently published the book Noir in the North, a collection of scholarly essays on Nordic crime fiction. Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir, professor of comparative literature at the University of Iceland, is one of its two editors and recently told Lestin radio show that one of the biggest issues tackled in the book is the question of how noir Nordic crime fiction really is.

For the past few decades, some of the world’s most famous crime writers have come from the Nordic countries. Recently, Scandinavian tv series have continued developing this tradition and aesthetic, telling tales of crimes and the dark sides of the nordic welfare system, shows like Broen, Forbrydelsen, Wallander, Trapped, and Brot. Scholars show the genre increased interest. The book’s origin is a conference that took place in the University of Iceland in collaboration with the University of Newcastle and the Iceland Noir crime fiction festival. Among the topics discussed at the conference was the name of the genre. Icelanders talk of the Nordic crime novel, but abroad, it’s knowns as Scandinoir or Nordic noir.

“That’s what we’re wondering about in the book, why the noir? Is it just because Nordic Noir has a ring to it and stuck? Or does it have deeper roots? That’s one of the main topics in the book,” Gunnþórunn told Lestin. “Is Noir a helpful term to understand this genre, or is it a superficial marketing term? Björn Norðfjörð’s essay mentions that there’s very little connection between the American noir we are familiar with and the Nordic crime novel. Others take a broader understanding of noir and reason that some elements of Nordic noir are similar to Hollywood noir. Such as how tv series such as Broen and Forbrydelsen portray cities – focusing on their darkness and frayed edges.

What most notably separates Nordic crime fiction from the rest of the world is the societal angle, that crime fiction can be a mirror to society. Another thing is the North’s image in the minds of the public. “It’s the mystical north and its darkness. We also have a subgenre of the Nordic crime novel that’s set in very remote places and deal with terrible weather and darkness and so on. Shows like Trapped work with the cliches of the north – the isolation, and the edges and boundaries. The market, as well as people’s imaginations, have welcomed these shows.”

Gunnþórunn also says that you can note that the cliches of the North and the world’s interest in them affect the Nordics’ production nations of their tv shows. “Some have suggested that Danish tv is using this much more markedly to sell their series internationally and that they have started to see their tv productions, which were originally only intended for the local market and the nordic one, as an international product. This international interest makes it a little self-exoticising.”

The popularity for the past few decades has been immense, but it looks like the international market of the Nordic noir is slowing down a bit. “The tv shows are slowing down. They still exist, but Broen is over and Forbrydelsen as well.” But then someone makes a new series, changing the landscape again. We’ve also seen non-nordic series taking on the aesthetics and topics, such as the Uk’s the Fall and The River. Other countries are developing their noir as well, Scotland’s tartan noir, iris noir and so on.”

Icelandic Show “The Minister” to Be Streamed Internationally

Rights to Icelandic show The Minister, starring Ólafur Darri Ólafsson of Trapped fame, have been acquired by streaming platforms and television broadcasters across Europe, North America, and Australia, Variety reports. The show, which premiered in Iceland on September 20, has been nominated for the Venice TV Awards and is in the running for the Prix Europa.

The Minister (Ráðherrann in Icelandic) is an eight-part series that follows populist Prime Minister Benedikt Ríkarðsson (Ólafur Darri) as his mental illness grows and his colleagues try to keep it a secret from the nation. The show featured a cameo by Ben Stiller, who appeared in a video to express his opposition to whaling in Iceland.

Icelandic media outlet DV interviewed Iceland’s ministers about the show. “I found Ólafur Darri so sincere and convincing – that he could clearly go into politics!” stated Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir.

Council of Europe Reviews Iceland’s Draft Constitutional Bills

Alþingi Icelandic parliament

On Iceland’s request, the Council of Europe’s constitutional experts, the Venice Commission, published an opinion on four draft constitutional bills regarding the protection of the environment, natural resources, referendums, and on the President of Iceland, the government, functions of the executive and other institutional matters. A cross-party Parliamentary committee is currently working toward updating Iceland’s constitution in sections, to the dismay of activists who are urging the government to adopt the so-called “crowdsourced constitution” Icelandic voters approved in 2012.

Some Clarification of Provisions Recommended

On the draft bill concerning the President and functions of the executive, the Commission noted that the bill does not significantly modify in principle the parliamentary system, but important amendments are proposed concerning the President’s term-limitation, presidential powers, and the presidential immunity. While the Venice Commission found that the amendments were generally positive and in line with the international standards, some of the provisions might cause uncertainty in their interpretation and application. The expert body recommended that constitutional provision should provide rules as to the investigations, indictments, and judicial proceedings in cases of alleged misconduct in office by ministers.

Read More: Where is Iceland’s Updated Constitution?

Concerning the draft amendments on referendums, the Venice Commission welcomed the clear intention to enhance citizens’ opportunities to influence legislation and more generally the decision-making on issues of key interest for the public. Nevertheless, the Advisory body recommended some changes, including in regards to provisions concerning referendums triggered by a veto of the President.

Enforcement Mechanisms Should Be Outlined

“The draft bills on natural resources and on the environmental protection were welcomed as they aim to constitutionally entrench the use and protection of natural resources, as well as the protection of the environment,” a press release from the Council of Europe reads. “The amendments are generally positive and in line with the applicable standards. The Commission recommended that the meaning of a number of notions used in the draft provisions be clarified and the enforcement mechanisms, including the judicial control of the rights and obligations provided in the draft provisions, be explicitly provided in the text of the Constitution.”

In 2013, the Venice Commission published an opinion on the “crowdsourced” new constitution of Iceland.

European Film Awards in Reykjavík Postponed to 2022

The European Film Awards will take place in Reykjavík in 2022, not this December as originally planned, due to COVID-19. A press release from the Icelandic government announced the decision to postpone the event. A digital ceremony will, however, be streamed live from Berlin on December 12, 2020.

“We were looking forward to welcoming our foreign guests this year and showing them everything we have to offer,” stated Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson. “But this is the best option in the current situation in light of the pandemic.” Minister of Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir stated that the festival program will be “glorious and diverse,” “it will just not be this year.” She called the festival “a very exciting opportunity for Icelandic film culture and the film industry in this country,” adding that “we will make good use of it.”

The festival will be held in Harpa Concert Hall with the collaboration of national broadcaster RÚV.

Nearly 60% of Icelanders Want a New Constitution

Near six out of ten Icelanders consider it important to get a new constitution during the current term, more than double the number that considers it unimportant. Those who consider the issue very important increased by 8% since last year. The data is from a recent survey conducted by MMR.

Constitutional reform has been on Iceland’s agenda for years. Following the banking collapse, the country “crowdsourced” a new constitution which was handed over to Parliament. A national referendum followed, where a majority voted for the document to be used as a foundation for constitutional reform. Yet it was never adopted. Eight years later, a movement in support of that constitution is growing.

Support Doubles Among Young People

In 2019, 24% of those aged 18-29 thought getting a new constitution was very important. This year that figure almost doubled, to 46%. A popular Icelandic TikTok account aimed at educating young people on the issue has presumably had an effect among this age group.

Support for the new constitution also grew in other age groups, from 29% to 35% among those 30-49 years old and from 34% to 37% among those between 50 and 67. Women (67%) were more likely than men (51%) to say that it was important for Icelanders to get a new constitution by the end of this term, though support increased among both genders as compared to last year.

Read More: Where is Iceland’s Updated Constitution?

The survey was conducted between September 10 and 23 and had 2,043 respondents 18 years of age or older.

Constitution Graffiti Repainted After Removal by Authorities

Earlier this week, graffiti in downtown Reykjavík reading “Where is the new constitution?” was removed by government authorities. The graffiti has since been repainted on a different surface at the same location (see image above). The removal may have had the opposite effect of that intended – as there has been an uptick in signatures on a petition urging Iceland’s government to adopt the crowdsourced constitution Icelanders voted on in 2012. While signatures numbered around 28,500 before the graffiti was removed on Monday, they now number over 35,000.

An illustration of the incident by cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson, seen below, has been making the rounds on social media.