I admit it: I do like Harry…

09 +00002013-05-24T16:08:40+00:0031 2012 § 6 Comments

The Leopard
What is it that grabs in a Jo Nesbo? Harry Hole has been very carefully conceived. Part of the strong tradition of flawed heroes, Harry has a Dirty Harry quality which was bound to impress me as soon as I read my first Nesbo. What is it that makes him both insufferable and dead sexy at the same time? He has the capacity to love, to remember, to feel, to empathise, to anticipate, but sacrifices his relationships on the altar of his determination to track down and defeat serial killers; he is scarcely attractive, but lithe and angular, case-hardened, rough – an alcoholic, a loner and an oddball; yet he has integrity, understanding, commitment. He is every thinking girl’s dream bit of rough. And he’s a wizard with the ’cuffs! Nesbo knows that a character who stands up for the morality of honest policing and opposes deceit and hypocrisy in the force has the captivating appeal of Robin Hood, a renegade against the corruption of power. He comes to us with a carefully-wrought family background which makes him essentially human, for he cannot escape his sense of kinship duty; he has inner anger and a wealth of inconsolable regrets; his past haunts him. He is doomed and slowly abusing his body to death.
I could wax lyrical about Nesbo’s plots, but, as regular readers here know, I’m not so struck on the meticulous detail of killer method. Nevertheless, it is Harry I come back to, mesmerised by the depth and range of authorial characterisation that makes him credible and, for fiction, a brilliant creation.
You pronounce Hole ‘Hoola’, by the way; a Norwegian friend told me. But ‘hole’ seems somehow appropriate; he always seems to be in one!
I can’t help myself: when I read Nesbo, I’m a Rakel or a Kaja; nothing like immersion in a good novel… and willing suspension of disbelief!

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§ 6 Responses to I admit it: I do like Harry…

  • vallypee says:

    This sounds good, Christina. Are you by any chance an Ian Rankin fan? From your description, Hole sounds a bit like Rebus, only maybe a little more attractive. If it’s not too graphic, I might like them. Interestingly, and I’m changing the subject a bit here, I read some Henning Mankell books a couple of years ago, but I read them in Dutch and really enjoyed the Kurt Wallander mysteries. Then later, I tried reading one in English, and didn’t like Inspector Wallander half as much. I wonder how much translations can change our perceptions of and attitudes to these characters.

    • Well, Henning Mankell for me is way out in front of the other two (sorry!) for the quality of writing and overall achievement. Nesbo for me is a light read, if compelling, and I’m not sure that you would care for the graphic murder techniques. But your point about translation is a very interesting one; such are the nuances of idiom that it is a good translator indeed who can convey the original closely; I’m in awe of those who can. 🙂

  • carol hedges says:

    I’m a Wallande fan too, as is BH. I also like Idraason (think that’s how you spell him). Not tried Nesbo – though I have one in my tbr pile. May move it up a bit now.

  • vallypee says:

    I am also in awe of good book translators, Christina. I do a bit of translating, but only in a minor way – just brochure material for marketing and also for our harbour here – and that’s hard enough. To do a translation that keeps the integrity of the original but that doesn’t read like a translation is really difficult. It takes me ages to decide on the right way to express what is meant in real English. I cannot imagine how difficult that must be with a book. What interests me is that Henning Mankell wrote his books in Swedish, but they have been translated into several languages. I wonder if Wallender is then just slightly different in each of them? I should read some more of them now. Henning Mankell is himself an interesting character. He was quite an anti-apartheid activist in his day and spent a lot of time in southern Africa. I have another of his books, also in Dutch, about a Swedish man who adopts an african boy and takes him to Sweden. It is a sad book and does not portray Swedish society in a very kind light.

    • A very interesting point. I’m now awed by your ability to detect the subtle differences. What is lost in translation? What nuances added? This is scary stuff! You clearly do think that Wallander is different in English and my assumption is that you’re absolutely correct: there will be several versions of him in various languages!
      I very much like your comment overall, as I expect others will. Thank you very much indeed.

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