Everything profound these days seems to have the word “noir” added to it. All that noir means is “black” in French. In fact, this stylish phrase would sound very politically incorrect, if we used the Spanish version of the word. Somehow a “film negro” festival just doesn’t cut the mustard. And for all you Anglophiles, film black is better, but not as catchy, as the French version. And as a sideline, if you go to a restaurant in Paris and ask for a cafe noir, you’ll receive a cup of coffee without any sugar or cream. Go figure.
Classic Era of Film Noir
According to Wikipedia, the term “film noir” was first used by the French film critic, Nino Frank, in 1946 to describe a set of intriguing murder mystery movies made in black and white. Moreover, the heyday of Hollywood’s “film noir” lasted from the early 1940’s to the late 50s, including such movies as “The Big Sleep”, “D.O.A.”, “The Big Heat”, “The Set-up”, “Gun Crazy” and “The Night and the City”. Most of these movies were low budget, black and white affairs, which lead to similar bigger budget dark films, such as the “Maltese Falcon”, “Key Largo” or a host of Alfred Hitchcock productions.
Film Noir Today
Film Noir never died, it just transformed itself into the modern equivalent of Crime Fiction, which can still be found in film as well as TV and literature. Modern stories, such as “Pulp Fiction”, “Body Heat”, “Miami Vice”, “L.A. Confidential” and Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Series”, all owe at least a little bit to 40s and 50s Hollywood. This ever-popular may even be seeing a resurgence today – perhaps even a golden age, where superb film productions and literary efforts can be found in many quarters.
Reg Keeland, who goes by the pen name of Steven T. Murray, has a blog that is entitled “Stieg Larsson’s English Translator“. Larsson is pretty big right now, especially with the American release of the Hollywood version of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” scheduled for the near future. However, only a small bit of Larsson’s fame has been directed towards the busy translator, who is also capable of translating German, Danish and Norwegian into English. Still, Steven Murray manages to keep busy with his translation work and his blog is always a good source of information on Scandinavian writers, who are doing book tours in America.
Lately, a different type of story appeared on Murray’s blog. It was a link to a website publication of a Swedish Organization called Solidarity and an article detailing Larsson’s past and his political activities around the world. The writer, Hakan Blomqvist, was a good friend of Stieg Larsson and knew the writer well. The article makes for an interesting exploration of Larsson’s background.
Just before Christmas Stieg Larsson received yet another posthumous award. This time the participating body was the national newspaper, USA Today, and the title of the honor was “Author of the Year”. For Larsson, who died unexpectantly in 2004, appreciation for his Millennium Trilogy is still at high tide, especially here in the US, where the American version of “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is due to be released in December of this year. With sales at 14 million in the US and 50 million worldwide, the Larsson phenomena still has some life to it.
Deirdre Donahue, who did the write-up for USA Today, describes Lisbeth Salander, the main character of the saga, as ” the digital age’s first true heroine”. In literary jargon, Lisbeth is a true anti-hero. With her cat-like actions, true status as a social outcast and computer savvy, Lisbeth’s actions have captured the hearts and minds of readers and moviegoers the world over. This fascination will likely continue at least until the end of 2011, when “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” hits American movie theaters. The fact that the subtitled Swedish version has already made the rounds of American art-film houses should do little to dampen the popularity of the upcoming release.
Steven T. Murray is not a household name, but he is the English to Swedish translator for Stieg Larsson, a title that comes with just a little bit of clout. According to his blog, which is titled Stieg Larsson’s English Translator, Steven is capable of translating from Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and German to English. Now that’s an impressive list of languages. I always tune into his blog every now and then to see what is going on in the literary world of northern Europe.
Recently, I found a particularly interesting item posted by Steven, telling of a recent vampire novel that he had just put into English from Swedish. Now, I’m about the last person world to get interested in a vampire reading. I think I once read 50 pages of Anne Rice’s “Interview With a Vampire” and have yet to watch any vampire movies, unless you consider The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be one of that genre.
However, Murray’s most recent blog caught my attention so here’s the gist of it. Steven has just finished the translation from Swedish to English of a novel called “Nephilim”, by Asa Schwarz. The storyline is kind of humorous and very entertaining all at the same time. According to Steven, the plot goes like this: “these fallen angels, one of whom stowed away on Noah’s Ark when God was trying to wipe them out with the Flood, then interbred with humans and created a new race that has survived to the present day.” I hope that’s not enough words to count as plagiarism, but you had read the whole post at this link.
And while you’re at it here are a couple of more pictures of Sweden, courtesy of Wikipedia.
P.S. The book is due to be published in Australia and the UK in 2011 by Sibling Press.