One of the highlights of the Jaipur Literature Festival this year was the presence of two Norwegian authors: Kjell Ola Dahl and Kristin Roskifte. The Royal Norwegian Embassy in India and NORLA Norwegian Literature Abroad had been instrumental in bringing them to the JLF 2023. Dahl, who is a celebrated crime fiction author best known for the ‘Oslo Detectives’ series, came out with the English translation of the fourth book in the series, ‘Little Drummer,’ last year in May. It is translated by Don Bartlett. This series of crime fiction, revolving around the cult character Chief Inspector Gunnarstranda, is translated into a number of languages. The series is published all over Europe, USA and Russia. Dahl is winner of the Brage and Riverton Prizes.
At this year’s Jaipur Litfest, Dahl was in conversation with Kanishka Gupta, alongside Tanuj Solanki and Bulbul Sharma. During the engrossing session, the panelists discussed the motifs and methods of the crime fiction genre, and the perspectives on society and its tensions that it unlocks. Touching about the themes of his books and his writing approach, Dahl explained, “The main interest for me is mystery. When I write about criminal incident I am bound to write about society, contradictions, political issues, etc. The violent action, the killings disturb the peace and so the peace must be reestablished. So, I try to give my analysis of the modern Norwegian society through my writing.”
Speaking about his influences, he added, “Some Swedish crime writers from the 60s and 70s have inspired me such as Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Also, some American classists like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ed McBain. Also, I have been influenced by some Norwegian writers such as Arthur Omre. So, I am inspired by a lot of writers.”
Kristin Roskifte, who is an illustrator as well as a children’s and YA writer, has made eight picture books and also illustrated a number of books for other authors. Her latest book, ‘Alle sammen teller,’ (‘Everybody Counts’) is being translated to more than 30 languages. In 2019, it was awarded the Nordic Council Children and Young people’s Literature Prize. At the JLF 2023, Roskifte was in conversation with Arvind Kalia, alongside Bulbul Sharma and Sonia Mehta. The vibrant session for young readers, the panelists together with Arvind Kalia spoke of why and how they write and the secrets of storytelling. In another session on children’s books, Roskifte was in conversation with Bijal Vachharajani, alongside Katherine Rundell.¬¬¬
Talking about the challenges of writing children’s books, Roskifte explained, “I think that in Scandinavia we are known to write about anything and also dark matters. And I am not worried about telling kids about serious matters like mental health. I think they like openness and it’s important to talk about hard or difficult issues as well. But the same issues in the other countries may be a concern for parents who may not be as open to their kids. In my book if a funeral is taking place it’s not a big problem in Norway. But, in some of the other countries it may be considered a little serious in nature to be a part of the children’s books.” Talking about the authors who have inspired her, she revealed, “Over the years, many different writers have influenced me. As a child I was inspired by and I loved the same stories that most Scandinavian kids read such as those by Astrid Lindgren. But, I was also inspired by totally different kind of things such as the works of Richard Scarry who really did these amazing, really busy scenes of everyday life and also the search and find books.” She further added, “Martin Handford, for example, with his wonderful books. I loved really, really busy books and also I had a thing for counting books. These are some of the books that I remember and I still love them.”