How crime fiction went global, embracing themes from decolonisation to climate change

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This article mentions Eka Kurniawan
Written by Alistair Rolls Jesper Gulddal Stewart King
Originally published in Conversation, The.
Aug 31, 2022


Once seen as the purview of British and American writers, crime fiction is very much a global phenomenon. Fictional investigators such as Lisbeth Salander, Kurt Wallander and Jules Maigret are now perhaps as well known as Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Crime fiction today is written, published, sold and read on all continents. In many countries, it ranks among the most popular forms of literature. It might not be an exaggeration to claim that crime fiction is the most global of literary genres. For English-language readers, however, the world of crime fiction was, until recently, limited to a few authors writing in other languages, like Franco-Belgian Georges Simenon and Swedish partners in crime Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Other writers were of course translated, but they found it hard to enter a marketplace already crowded with British and American crime fiction. This blending of different literary traditions sometimes happens in a smooth and almost seamless way. Indonesian Eka Kurniawan is a good example. When growing up in a Javanese village, Kurniawan was exposed both to local legends and Western popular fiction. At university, he was equally interested in postcolonial Indonesian writers and the classics of Western modernism. As a result, his crime novel Man Tiger (2004) mixes local and Western influences.

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