>Håkan Nesser & Humour

>Jane, blogging in Danish from Birmingham, wrote an interesting comment on my Nesser review the other day:

I love Nesser, but have only been able to lay my hands on the first two van Veteeren novels -I really enjoyed them! I cannot believe that anyone could miss the humor in Nessers books. It is very understated, but nevertheless always present (in my opinion, there might be almost too much understated humor in the Barbarotti novels, but that is another story).

A good question for international readers: does the type of humor used by Nesser only make Scandinavian people laugh or chuckle?

I also think that this is a good question. So good that I wanted to post about it today – and hopefully some of you will take the time to think about it, and write a comment.

About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
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19 Responses to >Håkan Nesser & Humour

  1. Donna says:

    >I love Nesser’s use of humour, and it definitely makes me chuckle. And I’m definitely not Scandinavian :o) He was very funny to listen to at Crimefest and gave a very entertaining speech at the Gala Dinner. It was that sort of dry humour that if you’re not listening carefully enough you can sometimes miss.

  2. >The man is just funny and I am not Scandinavian either although my maternal grandparents came from a Baltic state. I love his dark subtle humour which I mentioned in my recent review of The Return. He was very amusing as well as thought provoking at Crime Fest.

  3. Dorte H says:

    >Donna, I also thought that many of my blogging friends would appreciate Nesser´s humour, but some ´professional´ reviewers expect gloom and doom from Scandinavia – and that is apparently what they find, no matter whom they read. Norman, I knew you would also appreciate this side of him 😀

  4. R. T. says:

    >Well, it must be me, or it might be my most recent Nesser experience (WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK in the English translation), but I’m afraid I missed what some claim is abundant humor in Nesser’s books. I do not want to add to the stereotypes of Scandinavian mystery writers by making a wholesale claim that humor cannot be found, but–for me, as an American reader, who actually has little patience for humor in murder mysteries–humor was MIA in WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK, an excellent book that I reviewed at the BOOKED FOR MURDER blogsite.

  5. >I haven’t read Woman with Birthmark yet but I found a lot of humour in the first three books.

  6. maxine says:

    >I’ve read three of his books and laugh out loud at them (which I don’t do very often unless the author is Donna Moore). He’s captured this irascible, impatient sense of humour very well – and of course the political incorrectness makes it all the funnier. The book where he gets cross because he has cancer and can’t get out of hospital to investigate — well I never thought I could laugh at that topic but I found myself grinning away. I do think you are correct, Dorte, in that Scandinavian fiction is often characterised as dark and indeed often is dark, but there is also plenty of humour to be found (eg in the Ake Edwardsen I am reading just now). I am sure you can take any nationality and find the full range. These cliches are not very helpful, I find.

  7. Dorte H says:

    >R.T, good to hear from you. I think it depends on how one defines humour. Nesser´s is often very subtle, and it is certainly not his plots or crimes I laugh at. I take his excellent crime fiction very seriously but still find the interaction and dialogue among his crime team entertaining and often humorous.

  8. Dorte H says:

    >Maxine, I really must find that one about Van Veeteren´s cancer again. I am absolutely certain I have read all of them, but I really don´t remember that one. A really good example, by the way. And I am sure what you say about finding the full range within any nationality is exactly what Jane meant. I really think this ´Scandinavian crime fiction´ cliché is a bit of a bore. I don´t often laugh out loud, but I certainly did the other day when I read Susanne Staun (who is unfortunately only translated into German so far).

  9. >Dorte, the book Maxine is referring to is The Return when Van Veeteren treats his lower intestine cancer with a diet of bratwurst and dark beer.

  10. Jane says:

    >Wow, I am very proud of asking the question that evoked such an interesting discussion :-)I really like the comment about the “full range of humour”, because that is so true. I sometimes try to figure out whether or not there is a difference in “sense of humour” between me and my American friends. In general, they tend to find subtle or understated humour unfunny and go for the “big laughs” but there are many, many exceptions! And I certainly know plenty of Danish people who do not share my sense of what is funny at all 🙂

  11. Dorte H says:

    >Norman, thank you. I will look for the Danish or Swedish version. Jane, I thought you´d enjoy joining in – and your question was too good to die away unnoticed. My own humour is rather dry, but many of my colleagues and some of my students understand it. I am particularly fond of British humour, by the way, meaning their puns and other ways of playing with the language.

  12. maxine says:

    >Thank you, Norman, and apologies for my poor memory in forgetting the title of the book. In fact I have just bought The Minds Eye on the incorrect assumption that it is Woman with a Birthmark – so I have ven put my money where my bad memory is, so to speak! (As I have already read The Minds Eye).

  13. Elizabeth says:

    >I think it takes time to grasp humor from other languages, but knowing something is supposed to be funny helps me understand it.In my comments you mentioned that you didn’t know what a tchotchkie is. It is a slang-type word meaning little decorative items that serve no real purpose. Hope that helps!

  14. >Sorry about that Maxine the UK covers are similar so I had to look twice when I bought Woman with a Birthmark at Crime Fest. I am still suffering from shock at the price [no pun intended]Blackwells price £16.99Amazon £9.34

  15. Dorte H says:

    >Elizabeth, I think you are quite right. When we stayed in Norway some years ago, we understood the language very well, but not always their humour. And thank you for expanding my vocabulary. It was such a fascinating word that I just had to know :DNorman and Maxine; I wish my version of Woman with a Birthmark was English – then Maxine and I could have swopped.

  16. maxine says:

    >Ha, Norman, know what you mean re price. I passed on Connelly’s The Scarecrow at CrimeFest (£18.99) and sure enough it is £9.49 at Sussex Stationers (and £12.99 at WHS).Dorte – that would indeed have been nice! I am sure I will get W with a B eventually, via the EuroCrime reviewers’ queue, so never mind. I have about 20 or 30 Crimefest acquisitions to get through in the meantime! (But in my defence, I did donate the same number to various co-delegates and the “swaps” table.)

  17. Dorte H says:

    >Maxine, no need to defend yourself here – we are some who enjoy your left-overs very much indeed, and if you could have read my Danish version I would have sent it off at once 😀

  18. Care says:

    >IT’s just too bad that I don’t know any Nesser to join in on this – but it’s an interesting topic. I love subtle sarcastic humor and now want to find what you all are taking about. I just tbr’d Mind’s Eye; I’ll let you know when I read it. 🙂

  19. Dorte H says:

    >Care, what a good idea to join in 🙂 I really like Nesser, and I´m looking forward to hearing what you think. Most of my British friends have enjoyed him even though they have read him out of order.

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