Fabula Festival: Nordic Noir

Fabula Festival: Nordic Noir

Event: Fabula Festival

Location: Redbridge Central Library

Report by Malcolm Burgess

Bleak and brooding with violence, corruption and terrible darkness never far beneath the surface, the Nordic Noir genre has struck a chord with millions of us. From books, TV series and festivals, to sweaters – the phenomenon goes from strength to strength.

Recently one of the hottest new names in Nordic Noir, Sander Jakobsen – the pseudonym for Danish writing duo, Dagmar Winther and Kenneth Degnbol – headlined Redbridge’s Fabula Festival to talk about their clever thriller, The Preacher with Amanda Hopkinson, Professor of Translation at London’s City University. Both authors spoke perfect English with Dagmar having translated the novel herself.

Amanda Hopkinson set the bar high, seeing the best of today’s crime writing as doing what the nineteenth century realist novel did so well: focusing on issues that are some of our deepest concerns. As the discussion continued with our two writers we saw how this was played out in The Preacher and why, at the end of the day, it is so deeply affecting.

Philosophical issues

The authors at the event

Kenneth Degnbol and Dagmar Winther at the event

The novel (no spoiler) has a terrible murder and is set in a small Danish village not unlike the one where Dagmar and Kenneth live, and is told from different viewpoints. The story is also deepened by the various philosophical issues that touch the lives of us all.

Is it the case that we only begin to know someone once they are dead? How often in our lives are we cast in roles we didn’t expect or even want? How often do we end up playing parts in our own lives? Is there ever such a thing as a really bad person? These were just some of the fascinating avenues explored by interviewer, authors and audience.

How they wrote as a pair was also discussed. Dagmar described the process as being like creating a Christmas tree: Kenneth comes up with the tree’s structure, while she provides the lights and other decorations – those details that really make a story work.

Sander Jakobsen’s next novel looks to be a continuation of The Preacher which the audience – many of whom had clearly read and enjoyed the book – were genuinely excited about.

Two wonderful young writers then, an expert interviewer, and a hugely responsive audience made it an afternoon to remember – a lesson to other festival organisers on how to get the very most out of an event.

By Malcolm Burgess


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