I had read only one book by this author, a French translation of his second novel, Ont blod, entitled Qui sème le sang. I remember it was a pretty “bloody” story with a lot of violence and pain. Europa Blues seems to promise a lot of the same given the pretty violent and bloody start, with a drug-crazed man wandering into the Skansen Zoo in Stockholm and into the wolverine pen where he is eaten by the animals.
Like many Swedish thrillers , the policemen and detectives that investigate the crimes that take place in the story are not super-heroes but human beings with their frailties. Henning Mankell’s Wallander is depressive and Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole has a serious drinking problem. Arne Dahl`s Jan-Olov Hultin has an incontinence problem and needs to wear incontinence pads. This is a far cry from the heroes of Robert Ludlum novels who neither need to eat, nor sleep, nor go the bathroom…
But while the issue mentioned above may sound trivial or even funny, this novel brings a more deeper reflection to the notion of human weakness and the lengths that people will go to in order to protect themselves, as in to literally save their own lives but also to preserve their sense of self and human dignity. So this very Scandinavian thriller delves into the faith of the Jews in Nazi concentration camps, the reinvention of certain former Nazi officers and doctors, and the survival strategies of Eastern European prostitutes.
Europa Blues is not a new novel; the Swedish original was published in 2001. It is now being published in English for the UK market by Harvill Secker, three and a half years after the French translation was published by Seuil in France. It has also been the basis for a TV series in Sweden. Clips and trailers can be found on YouTube.
The translation is by Alice Menzies, a new voice in the translation of Scandinavian languages to English, who completed a Master’s degree in Translation of Scandinavian languages at the University College London, following and MA in Scandinavia Studies and European history at the University of Edinburgh. This is her second Arne Dahl translation, after To the Top of the Mountain.
Overall, a very enjoyable read, and one that makes me want to go read more books by Arne Dahl.
Dahl, Arne. Europa Blues. Harvill Secker, London, 2015.