Scandi Eye Candy: Nordic cinema and literature comes to Leeds


Founded only last year, Nordisk Books was set up with the goal of widening the scope of Scandinavian fiction available in translation in the UK. With two novels already published—not a small-town murder in sight—and rights acquired for two more, the London based publisher is headed for Leeds at the end of this month to host an evening of Nordic culture at Hyde Park Book Club.

Nordisk Books’s director, Duncan J. Lewis, was inspired to create the press by a combination of reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s (author of My Struggle) story of the origins of his own publishing house and its goal to release previously untranslated works in Norwegian, as well as an observation that, whilst there was a substantial representation of Nordic fiction in UK bookshops, it would fade almost to nil if one took away the crime thrillers (and the Knausgård books).

The first work to be released by Nordisk Books was the nineteen-thirties modernist masterpiece Havoc by the Danish author, poet, and critic Tom Kristensen. This has been followed by a quirky collection of flash fiction and drawings by the Norwegian Kim Hiorthøy—the intriguingly titled You Can’t Betray Your Best Friend and Learn to Sing at the Same Time. Lewis and Hiorthøy (alongside York-based Swedish translator Alice Olsson) will be in discussion at the Hyde Park Book Club on May 31st. The talk will be followed by an exclusive, private screening of Hiorthøy’s debut film as director, The Rules for Everything. The film, partly in English and partly in (subtitled, thankfully) Norwegian was released to critical acclaim in Norway early this year but there are no current plans for distribution in the UK—so this is a rare chance to see it on the big(ish) screen.

The Rules for Everything tells the story of a young girl and her mother in Oslo, following the sudden death of the father in the family. Hiorthøy has said that the film was inspired by self-help books, commenting that it seemed to him these create more stress than relief and that he imagines one must need to keep buying new self-help books to sort out the dysfunctionalities created by the previous ones.

Nordisk Books’ next title up is Love/War, a verse-like bitter deconstruction of the Swedish Ebba Witt-Brattström’s divorce from her now ex-husband, former Secretary of the Swedish Academy (i.e. the guy that hands out the Nobel Prize for literature) Horace Engdahl. Slated for publication in November this year, the book has already been made into both a play and an opera in its home country, where the nature of the protagonists (Witt-Brattström was one of the founders of the world famous Swedish Feminist Party and is director of Scandinavian studies at Helsinki University) has made it something of a highbrow soap opera.

Following this will be Gine Cornelia Pedersen’s Zero (currently still a working title). Pedersen may well become a household name in the UK when the TV show in which she has recently starred, Young and Promising, hits Channel 4 this August. The novel, originally published in 2013, was described in the Norwegian press as a “blast crater of a novel… like listening to a punk rock single” and “like an out of control firework”.

The ‘Nordisk Raid’ event at the Hyde Park Book Club kicks off at 6pm on May 31st and will be rounded off by a DJ set of Scandi-pop anthems old and new from Nordic Playlist and Ja Ja Ja veteran Francine Gorman. And, of course, there will be a selection of craft beers from the region as well as discounted copies of Nordisk Books’ titles for sale.

Nordisk Raid @ Hyde Park Book Club, 27-29 Headingley Lane, Leeds, LS6 1BL, Wednesday May 31st, 6pm- 11pm. Tickets £5 on the door or available below (and include a beer or glass of wine). Find the Facebook event here and buy your tickets here


Filed under: Written & Spoken Word