Popular novelists from France and Iceland – People’s World


From the cover of “Marseille 73” by Dominique Manotti.

Dominique Manotti, the majority of whose 13 novels have been translated into English, is a Parisian professor of economic history who writes on crime from a historical and global perspective.

To Lorraine Connection, which won top detective fiction awards in France and Britain, begins with a fire in what amounts to a sweatshop in a swamp region of France stripped of its old manufacturing base. He goes on to unmask the machinations behind a corrupt corporate takeover.

The novelist Dominique Manotti at the Interpol’art Festival, October 2013. | G. Garitan / Wikimedia Commons

In the same vein, his penultimate book, Racket, is loosely based on General Electric’s takeover of Alcatel, a company that manufactures equipment for the French nuclear industry and is therefore central to French security.

Donald Trump can complain about the supposed Chinese surveillance of US data via Huawei, but this novel details how, through a devious blackmail operation backed by the US Department of Justice, France was forced to cede part of its sovereignty to an American company in search of world domination.

The black body is an equally remarkable description of how, in the last days of the Nazi occupation of Paris, various elements of the French landlord class and the police, some of whom supported the Occupation, managed to change sides and present themselves as promoting liberation.

The other city of interest for Manotti is Marseille. In Or noir, The Parisian inspector Daquin, during the oil crisis of 1973, investigates the way in which the Corsican mafia works with the oil companies at the oil companies of Shanghai to prevent oil from entering the markets and raising prices.

His current novel, Marseille 73, could not be more topical. Inspector Daquin is investigating how the security services and local French police are at the center of a plot to assassinate Algerian workers and drive them out of France.

The police know and promote a citizen militia that is training to trigger an invasion of Algeria to reconquer the country from France. With daily reports in the United States of police ties to far-right militias, and with a long history of U.S. police involvement in the Ku Klux Klan, the Marseilles assassinations of 1973 seem almost torn from the gutters. today’s headlines.

The book also describes the mindset of “black feet», French Algerian exiles in the south of France and their conviction that Algeria will greet them in their invasion as conquering heroes. A postscript explains how, like the Americans in Iraq or the recent “invasion” of Venezuela, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Manotti undermines the history of France, its colonial and collaborationist past and its current position, as sometimes being the victim of multinationals whose power exceeds and undermines both the state.

It is a truly unique contribution to detective fiction, where individual criminal acts illuminate large-scale economic crime in corporate and state spheres globally.

Public vs. personnel politics in Icelandic Fiction

Iceland is not only a booming tourist center, but also a hotbed of detective fiction, which has added to its tourist appeal. The dean of this fiction is Arnaldur Indriðason, whose Inspector Erlunder investigates current and past crimes, often linked to the country’s past. Indriðason’s first novel Operation Napoleon tackles a thorny issue recurring in his work, that of the country’s autonomy from the United States, which in the past had only seen it as a post of recognition during the Cold War.

Indriðason himself partly attributes the oversized impact of the small country on the detective story to the long winter months when there is nothing to do but stay indoors and write. If everyone in Los Angeles has a script to take with them in the backseat or in the trunk of their car, in Iceland everyone has a novel to take in their snowmobile.

Arnaldur Indriðason, the dean of Icelandic detective fiction. | Posted

Two new Icelandic detective novels, Treason couple Lilja Sigurðardóttir et Gallows Rock by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, illustrate the two poles of contemporary Icelandic detective fiction. (The two are not sisters, but are rather the daughters of two different fathers named Sigurdar.) Both novels have female leads. The former casts a broader net to include government corruption as well, and the latter focuses on violence unleashed as a result of a misogynistic group of professional men.

Lilja is known in crime circles for her dark trilogy Trap, Trap, and Cage, set during the time of the Icelandic banking collapse and the exposure of the country’s artificially inflated economy in 2008. Its characters include a lesbian mother who, in order to support her child, is trapped in trafficking drug, and a customs official who has to report to work instead of being home with his dying wife. In Trap, the two ultimately bond in a way that is beneficial to each other and contributes to their achievement of their individual dreams. At the same time, the novel also illustrates how the system they are trapped in usually makes this achievement impossible and simply keeps its victims in the corner.

In Treason, Lilja’s heroine, Ursula, a global human rights worker still reeling from the atrocities she has seen, is called to the government on her return. She’s working under suspicion that her immediate boss might just be preparing her for a fall and she’s working to reopen a rape investigation that the government has suppressed. She faces stalkers, outraged citizens, and a bodyguard she doesn’t know if she can trust, all while befriending the maid. Lilja ties it all to a past crime committed by the inhabitants of the government, the ultimate revelation of which leaves Ursula in mortal danger.

As usual with Lilja’s novels, there’s a fair amount of both the inner strength of a supposedly fragile heroine and this time around, a much more open criticism of the corruption behind the old boys club that continues to define Icelandic politics.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s novels are much more intimate. Her series with child psychologist Freyja teaming up with police detective Huldar, who has a crush on her, involve murders that challenge the more everyday power of the male establishment, in this case a group of men. who have benefited from the country’s financial boom. Gallows Rock involves a gruesome hanging from a historic stone formation that also features a young boy kidnapped in the victim’s apartment.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, 2015. / Ave Maria Mõistlik (CC)

The focus here is on re-enacting what the young boy knows as Freyja tries to make sense of his almost subconscious associations. The crime, which has traces of a Sherlock Holmes ‘closed room’ puzzle, nonetheless leads investigators to a disaster created as a result of a group of men, each successful in business, using their power to trap and exploit women whom they consider only as prizes. be scalloped on their mantle. A stunning revelation at the end sheds light on the destruction generated as a result of this show of wealth.

Both novels draw attention to the destructive capacity of male government and financial power at both the formal official level and the more informal personal level. Both illuminate and expose the secret shadow world that allows this power to operate.


Dennis Broe


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