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Crime Fiction in Countries Where the Police Is Reviled

findingtimetowrite

Kishwar Desai and Dror Mishani in Lyon, 2015. Kishwar Desai and Dror Mishani in Lyon, 2015.

Crime fiction seems to be most popular in the countries where crime rates are low – perhaps because it is easier to read about terrible things happening when the truth around you is not stranger and more horrible than fiction. But what about those countries where the police is treated with suspicion, where there is no tradition of private detectives and where there is little hope of real justice (as opposed to vengeance)?

There was a panel at Quais du Polar in Lyon about this very subject, with authors from Russia, Costa Rica, Israel and India represented. I bought both of these books in Lyon: Liad Shoham was there in 2014, while Kishwar Desai was there this year.

TelAvivSuspectsLiad Shoham: Tel Aviv Suspects

No conventional crime novel, this is a story of guilt and fears, of mistrust, of crossed wires in communication…

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Karim Miské comes to Belfast – Tues 9 June, 20:30

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Karim Miské won the 2012 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, France’s most prestigious award for Crime Fiction with Arab Jazz, his debut novel. Now released in the UK by Quercus, Arab Jazz, translated by Sam Gordon  has won an English PEN award. Miské will present his book in the Crescents Art Centre on Tuesday, in partnership with No Alibis.

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Here is a presentation of the author by his publisher :

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Y a-t-il un Français…

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Frédéric Dard dit San-Antonio, Y a-t-il un Français dans la boîte à gants ?, Paris, Omnibus, May 2015, ISBN : 9782258116726 .

The two books which have just been published together in the prestigious Omnibus edition are a landmark in the career of France’s most successful crime fiction author. This is where San-Antonio officially meets Frédéric Dard, and where the two faces of the prolific double-author merge. Signed (on their original publication) ‘San-Antonio’, even though the eponymous character of the San-Antonio series does not feature, the books are closer to the dark and despairing atmosphere of the books previously signed ‘Dard’ (the “Romans de la nuit”). Published respectively in 1979 and 1981, one before and one after the election of François Mitterrand, the first socialist President of the 5th Republic, their subject matter is politics. Conspicuously however, they don’t contain any of the huge sense of anticipation which Mitterrand’s election triggered in the social discourse at the time. Rather, they reflect the social unrest and atmosphere of scandals and corruption in the final years of the presidency of Mitterrand’s predecessor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. They tell the story of an ambitious career politician, who hides a terrible secret, the legacy of an unsavoury past, buried in his home. Continue reading

Disposable Thrills

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Nothing ever is permanent, and neither are books of crime fiction. Of course. One could argue that their obsolescence and expiration are programmed from the moment they are published. Or even, in many cases, written.  One thing is to understand notionally  that the lifespan of books of crime fiction is short. Quite another is to see containers for thrillers, in a recycling site  designed for  household waste. The size and amount of containers for discarded books is  intriguing. Apparently, on this evidence, people are at the moment getting  rid of more than twice as many books as clothes.  Did they have twice as many in the first place? Are these books being replaced by other books on vacated shelves?

 Our AHRC  project  Visualising European Crime Fiction, with its historical dimension, might have  a wider societal significance than we measure. Maybe one could read in it, as  a cultural subtext,  an anxiety to recover physical traces of old popular books and series, before they are  wiped off our horizons.

Ruth Rendell (1930-2015) and the meaning of exclusion

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Ruth Rendell, L’Analphabète, Paris, Librairie des Champs-Élysées (Le Masque no 1532, 1978 ) new translation, 1995

Ruth Rendell, who died yesterday, was not only  one of the most distinguished English crime fiction authors, the impeccable writer of more than 60 best selling books  (25 of them featuring Inspector Wexford – often presented as a British Maigret-  and 14  written under the pen-name Barbara Vine).   She was a peer for the Labour Party in the British Parliament. Her attention for the social context and the particular settings of her novels was commanded for modernising British Crime Fiction.

Her 1977 novel A Judgement in Stone (London, Hutchinson) begins with the line :  Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.  This is a cool statement about the Crime genre, saying that it is not just about  to the whodunit.  And a  clear  indication that crime is a product of socio-cultural circumstances. Rendell  was comimtted to represent it that way.  The plot, and the social classes  antagonism it is based on (servant kills masters) is reminiscent of  a well-publicised French Criminal affair: the  savage murder of their employer by two young women, the sisters Christine and Léa Papin, two maids from Le Mans, in 1933. Continue reading

Multimedia Crime Fiction : an international trajectory, 1954-2015

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Les salauds vont en enfer, Play by  Frédéric Dard, Edited,  introduced and annotated by : Hugues Galli, Thierry Gautier & Dominique Jeannerod, EUD, 2015, 238 pp.

Grand Guignol programme 1

Frédéric Dard was France’s most popular Crime Fiction author.  Besides his career as  a novelist, Dard was a prolific playwright, screenwriter and dialogue writer. The recent discovery  and subsequent publication (EUD, 2015) of an original manuscript of the  successful Play Les salauds vont en enfer  allows to retrace the circuits of cultural creation in 1950’s France and the interrelation between various  media and narrative forms.  Created in the Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris in 1954 and directed by Robert Hossein, the play went on to experience  a series of  transpositions. First, in 1955, on screen (also directed by Robert Hossein), then as a novel, when  in  early 1956,  it was novelised as a roman noir by Frédéric Dard, the author of the play.   In 1971, Abdal Iskar adapted it as television film.  A wealth of archives, generously shared by collectors  and the author’s  family  have helped reconstructing  the story of the play’s reincarnations and exportations.  But working  closely on the text of the play  for this first edition (six decades after it had been written) also highlighted the  importance of the international  and intermedia horizons in the creation, as they are both already  there in the author’s inspiration.  Most  of the following pictures, which document the variations  and interpretations from media to media and in different countries, are reproduced in this edition, where they are fully referenced. Continue reading

Translating Crime Fiction between the Wars

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(French Translators for Le Masque Series : click to enlarge)

Studying Crime Fiction Series in their cohesion and complexity, rather than works and authors for their originality, presents a radical departure from the type of literary work traditionally done in academia.  Compared with close reading and textual analysis, this seems a more appropriate way to approach the conditions of production of a material culture, and hence, to better understand Crime Fiction. It takes the  observer away from the ideology sacralising the unique and  celebrating the individual, and promotes  the discovery of the collective and relational nature of what we call literature.  It also requires different tools and poses different research questions.  The shift in  focus helps revealing   a series of phenomena and circumstances, as well as an entire population of agents usually falling under the radar of literary research. Such  is the case of the fascinating, yet totally under-researched subject of translators of crime fiction. Continue reading