Two Brits Visit Toronto And Get In An Argument

Outdoor Advertising in Toronto
Outdoor Advertising in Toronto

This weekend was the last in a planned series of public discourse, called the Munk Debates. An initiative of the Aurea Foundation, the Munk Debates occur twice a year and are featured on CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting company. Having the past Prime Minister of Great Britain, participate in this event, probably heightened  exposure for the occasion. For as it turned out, the debate was widely covered by the press, both in the US and Great Britain. (I think live viewing was restricted to Canada)

According to a poll of attendees, Hitchens won the exchange with his premise that religion is a destructive force in the world. Tony Blair, who has converted to Catholicism since leaving public office, took an opposing view that religion can be a powerful force for good.

The public appearance of Hitchens was noteworthy as he is currently undergoing chemotherapy at present for cancer of the esophagus. Presently the noted man of letters has a bit of a ghostly appearance due to his frequent medical treatments. Reportedly, Mr. Hitchens had cut back on his chemo, so as to be mentally awake for the debate. My only wish, is that it’s a shame the two could have taken opposite sides on the most recent Iraq War that still lingers on, even to this day.

Toronto Skyline at Dusk
Toronto Skyline at Dusk
Downtown Toronto
Downtown Toronto

Christopher Hitchens Sounds Off On Swedish Crime Fiction

Swedish Movie Poster
Swedish Movie Poster for Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Here is the Swedish movie poster for The Girl With The Golden Tattoo, which has already been released to Scandinavian audiences at the cinema and also on DVD (Swedish only). Meanwhile back here in the states, Hollywood has purchased rights for the story, but has yet to reach the casting stage for the film.  The movie comes from a novel written by the recently-deceased (2004) Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, who is currently taking the literary world of crime fiction by storm with his recent release of a crime trilogy, of which this book is the first. Also available in English (or soon to be) are The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Does Anybody see a trend here.

Recently, Stieg Larsson made headlines by picking top awards at the U.S mystery convention, Boucheron. In fact Scandinavian Crime Fiction has become the talk of the literary world, most evident that noted author and TV commentator, Christopher Hitchens, who has sounded off on the late Mr. Larsson with a recent article in Vanity Fair. Christopher does an excellent job of delving into the dark side of Swedish life and the emergence or rather the continual presence of extreme right and pro Nazi forces in modern day Sweden. Anyone, who thinks this Nordic country is a poster advertisement for idyllic Socialist life should definitely read Mr. Hitchens article and maybe even one of Mr. Larsson’s lengthy novels as well.

Dont’ forget that in the mid-eighties Sweden lost a prime minister to assassination, a crime which still has not been solved. During this era, Stieg Larsson was a reporter who wrote about Sweden’s undercurrent of drug dealings, criminals and right wing extremists, who survived and sometimes thrived in the industrial Scandinavian nation. Some readers attribute Larsson’s death at age 50 to evil forces, especially since it occurred on November 9th, the date of Hitler’s Kristallnacht, but many more suggest his death was the result of extreme overwork, chain smoking and poor nutrition. Whatever the cause of demise, the trilogy of books is causing quite a stir, not to mention that each written piece will generate a movie, both in Sweden and the U.S.

Picture of the swedisn author
Picture of the swedisn author

One important note is that Stieg had plans for at least ten full-length novels, but in reality did not get past the first three. Still, considering the length of each piece, this is quite an accomplishment in itself and I’m sure that his readers will immensely enjoy the published effort.

In recent years, Scandinavia (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland) have seen a bountiful cultural resurgence not only in literature, but also in contemporary and traditional music. Perhaps, it is the recent economic surge that has come to these northern countries or maybe it is the awakening of  old flames and aspirations. But no matter what the reason for the cultural expression,  the authors and musicians of this small corner of the world do not seem to be finished with their current creative mood.