Wednesday 29 April 2020

Maj Sjowall

Författaren Maj Sjöwall död - DN.SE

I was sorry to hear of the death earlier today of Maj Sjowall, at the age of 84. I've been a fan of her work for decades, and it was a pleasure to meet her in person at a CrimeFest gala dinner almost exactly five years ago. She graciously autographed a menu card for me. A treasured signature, I can tell you.

When Adrian Muller and I put together an anthology to celebrate the 10th anniversary of CrimeFest, we were very keen to include a story by Maj. She'd written just a handful of stories that might fit, and in the end we were delighted that she agreed to contribute "Long Time, No See" to Ten Year Stretch. She also agreed that the new English translation could be made by my daughter Catherine, who is based in Stockholm.

Maj's name is, of course, forever associated with that of Per Wahloo (1926-1975). Their ten-book series about Martin Beck blazed the trail for Scandi-noir long before the days of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. The novels are police stories, and were designed to make a point about society from a Marxist perspective. But because the political stuff was carefully handled, the literary results were much more compelling than most fiction written from a strong political standpoint.

The books remain highly readable, but after Wahloo's early death, Maj didn't write crime novels of her own. She preferred to work as a translator, and left the Communist party; in later years she was content to describe herself as a "socialist". Wahloo had written several interesting books of his own before their relationship and collaboration began, and I'm not entirely clear how their writing partnership worked. But their joint productions were far more significant than anything either of them wrote on their own. I'm sad that's she gone, but her achievements will live on. And I'm glad I got the chance to say hello to her. 

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