Sunday Salon – Why I Love Jo Nesbo

The Sunday Salon.com

On November 19 I went to hear Jo Nesbo speak at the local indie, Politics & Prose. Although there were many seats available, it was packed, with quite a few who stood throughout the presentation.

Beforehand, a Danish reporter asked what I liked about Nesbo – why I thought he was so popular, especially vis-à-vis other Scandinavian authors. Flummoxed by being singled out, I babbled incoherently, and even said something about his looking like a rock star, which had nothing whatsoever to do with why I became addicted to his books. (…but might have been a factor explaining why all the women of a certain age (including me of course) were packing the seats and looking like aged versions of girls reacting to the boy band One Direction.) (And no, fellow bloggers who received my texts of OMG HE IS SO CUTE are not allowed to reveal that fact in the comments!)

Now that I have had a chance to think it over, however, I believe I can give a better answer.

1. I think Nesbo has been blessed with a good translator. I have read other Scandinavian crime fiction in which the dialogue seems stilted and even bizarre. Since these same authors are so popular in Scandinavia, I have to believe it is an artifact of translation.

2. Most other Scandinavian crime fiction writers I have read add two elements to their stories that Nesbo doesn’t: (1) the bleak, cold weather plays a large role; and (2) social and/or political issues are even more salient than the crime.

Nesbo focuses on characterization, and his stories could take place in any setting. Plus, his books are action-packed and often edge-of-your seat thrillers. I love that about him. I prefer to read about social issues and weather in magazines!

3. Last but not least, there is the fantastic protagonist of his long-running crime series (he has authored other, unrelated books as well), and that character is Oslo police detective Harry Hole. (Learn how to pronounce the detective’s name here.) Harry Hole – brilliant and unconventional, is a walking embodiment of existential pain. He has internal demons that beset him constantly (his colleagues think of him as a sullen alcoholic, but there’s more to it than that), and the only distraction he knows is to pursue the external demons who go about in the world and take away the lives of those not ready to give them up. This compulsive, obsessed, hard-boiled, self-destructive loner is irresistibly endearing, and apparently irresistible in other ways too. Harry Hole is someone you want to nurture, beware of, hang out with, benefit from, and be around to find out what he’s going to do next.

But, that’s just my opinion. What do the rest of you think who like Scandinavian crime fiction? Why Nesbo? Or why not?

(The “New York Times” reported “Even the prime minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, is a fan. He once started to recommend Mr. Nesbo’s novel “Redbreast” to the king, until he remembered that the story involved an assassination plot against the Norwegian royal family.”)

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24 Responses to Sunday Salon – Why I Love Jo Nesbo

  1. yay, that’s so exciting that you got the chance to see him 😀 When I saw him in Edinburgh in 2011 I kept wishing you and Sandy were there. You’re right, a good translator can make a world of difference, and Nesbo’s surely plays a role in his success.

  2. Beth F says:

    I just loved him when I saw him at BEA. Wow! And I’m sure you’re right that translation has a lot to do with how his books strike English readers. That last bit about the suggesting Redbreast to the king is too funny.

  3. Sandy says:

    Well I just bow down to your ability to sum this up! I don’t think I could add one more thing to the list. And if you and I were together at a Jo Nesbo sighting, let’s say with Ana in Edinburgh, there would be a scene. You just know it.

  4. You talk about the author events I attend – this one sounds fabulous! I’m wondering why I didn’t get one of those texts about how cute he is!!

  5. The Bat (1st in the series) just arrived in my mailbox, and I can’t wait to begin it. That’s not going to happen until 2013, but I’m SO excited. 🙂

  6. Vasilly says:

    Nesbo is pretty cute! 🙂

  7. aartichapati says:

    What does a blogger have to do to get on your list of people you text message with bookish fan comments? I want in 🙂

    I’ve never read Nesbo before, but I passed his section in the library yesterday, paused, and THEN PICKED UP TERRY PRATCHETT. Ahem.

  8. JoV says:

    I can imagine you babbling Jill. Why did you babble? Why is that this is the one and only chance that you can profess your admiration and love to Jo and you blew it?! (LOL, I’m of course kidding. I would probably do the same). I must read a few more of Jo before I make up my mind about him. But whatever I say wouldn’t make any difference to you! 😀

  9. Ti says:

    His hotness is definitely a factor.

  10. I will take him sans hair, I believe 🙂
    He is a fantastic writer and I loved his work before I saw his photo. Okay..I’m lying.

  11. diane says:

    What a fun event Jill. Nice photos:)

    I think a good translator, makes or breaks the book — at least for me it does.

  12. Barbara says:

    I’ve got a terminal case of the giggles thinking of you babbling and then coming out with how hot he is! You of all people – usually you are so eloquent and then you get weak in the knees. Well, I’ll grant you he is a keeper. 😀 I haven’t read him yet; must correct that.

  13. Amy @ My Friend Amy says:

    lol I was also bemoaning the lack of text messages.

    You are so funny and also you are the best.

  14. Trish says:

    How fun!!! And OMG he IS cute! 😉 I had no idea. The only Scandinavian fiction I’ve read is the first Dragon Tattoo book and I wondered about the translation. I had the toughest time reading it and didn’t want to continue. But I know that you and Unfinished Person really enjoy Nesbo. Do we need to start at the beginning of the series?

  15. Dang it, I’m gonna have to read one. In spite of how I want to immaturely snicker at Harry Hole’s name all the time.

    I’ve recently fallen in love with Camilla Lackberg’s novels – have you read her??

  16. Jenners says:

    Let’s just admit it … he’s a hottie!

  17. Rachel says:

    Whoa, he looks hot in that first picture – I like him way better with hair. Did you know he also writes kids books about farts? I find that bizarre.

  18. Rita K. says:

    Jill,
    Great analysis of why his books are so good! I have almost finished Phantom and like it quite a bit. I had trouble with Snowman. I enjoyed watching your reaction to him at the reading. He isn’t my type, but he spoke very well!
    Rita

  19. bookingmama says:

    I have a feeling that you are so right about the importance of a good translator!

  20. stacybuckeye says:

    I refuse to start this series until I can get my hands on the first one – vene if you tell me I don’t need too.
    It’s also nice to know that some authors inspire groupies at signings 🙂

  21. Lisa says:

    Honestly, they could sell posters of this guy! When you were a teenager, did you have your walls covered with posters of musicians, like I did? How great would it have been to be able to also have posters of favorite authors?

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