Croatians are crazy about Norwegian authors. Here’s why

Jo NesboPhoto: FOKUS

Scandinavian crime fiction has been a global success story for years.

It’s no surprise then that the Croatian audience, which is keen on literary trends, is crazy about authors from the region. 

If you ask around Croatia, there is a special bond between this lovely Mediterranean country and Scandinavian writers. 

The statement holds true particularly when it comes to Norwegian authors, who have been strongly represented in the Croatian market for years.

In an attempt to find out more about the impact of Scandinavian authors on Croatia and Croatian audiences, we talked to Vlatka Hercigonja of the Fokus publishing house and Gordana Farkaš Sfeci at Oceanmore publishing.

The Croatian publishing house Fokus has been publishing Scandinavian authors ever since it was found in 2012. 

According to Vlatka Hercigonja, the editor in chief at Fokus, the publisher picked Scandinavian authors that it wanted to present to the public by reading the synopses first, followed by reading the entire manuscripts of their works.

“When it comes to expectations, our goal was to give the author the representation they deserve, as always,” Hercigonja said.

Bringing Scandinavian authors to Croatian audiences

In Croatia, Fokus publishes the Scandinavian literary rockstar that is Jo Nesbø

However, they’re also championing other writers from the Scandinavian region. 

“We also published the increasingly popular Fredrik Backman“, Hercigonja noted.

In Croatia, Backman is perhaps best known for his book “A man called Ove,” which is – along with many other titles by Backman – available in Croatian. 

“We also published three terrific crime stories by L.W. Persson and Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, whose books are extremely popular among young parents “, Hercigonja added. 

All of the writers are represented by the Salomonsson agency from Sweden, with whom Fokus has had a strong partnership for years. 

More authors to come

“That relationship is moving towards friendship, and in 2020, we also began collaborating with the Grand Agency from Stockholm”, Hercigonja noted, emphasizing that Fokus doesn’t plan to stop introducing Scandinavian authors to Croatian audiences.

Earlier in the year, the publisher introduced the Croatian audience to the young adult novel “End” by Mats Strandberg

Fokus will soon publish a novel by Finnish writer Max Seeck.

Novels from one of the best-selling Swedish female writers, Simona Arhnsted, will also be available in Croatian in the near future. 

The Nesbø effect

Still, the Norwegian king of crime fiction, Jo Nesbø is by far the most popular Scandinavian author in Croatia – and Fokus is about to publish his new title soon. 

Nesbø’s success in Croatia can be attributed to several factors.

His fantastic writing (the novel “The Redeemer,” where the hitman that detective Harry Hole chases is a Croatian war veteran, received high critical praise in the country), his charisma, and his relationship with his fans are the keys to Nesbø’s success in Croatia. 

The author also visited Croatia on several occasions to present his books. 

Whether it’s in Zagreb, Split, or Zadar, his charm enabled Nesbø to conquer the hearts of Croatian fans. 

“Fokus organized the promotion of his novel “Macbeth” in Zagreb, Zadar, and Split. 

Swarms of fans attend the promotions. Nesbø made time for his fans and had no problems adjusting to all of our organizational requests”, Hercigonja noted, acknowledging that Nesbø’s fanbase is more akin to a rock star’s than a writer’s. 

The stereotypes

Thomas Enger, whose Henning Juul saga has had four out of five books translated to the Croatian language, is another popular Norwegian author in Croatia. 

It seems that the affection is mutual, as Enger is a big fan of the country – he enjoys spending his summer holidays in the coastal city of Trogir in Dalmatia.
While one can often encounter the trendy generalizations of Scandinavian writers being primarily fantastic crime fiction writers, Hercigonja believes that that is an “outdated theory.” 

“Our Scandinavian authors are masters of all genres. We already mentioned Fredrik Backman, whose popularity is growing each day, and he doesn’t write crime stories. Ehrlin writes about parenting, and he’s gaining in popularity…” Hercigonja concluded.

Crime isn’t the only thing that pays

But we would be amiss not to mention another Norwegian literary giant.

And it was the Oceanmore publishing house that introduced Croatian audiences to one of the most prolific Norwegian writers of today – Karl Ove Knausgård.  
Gordana Farkaš Sfeci, editor in chief at Oceanmore, is fascinated with Knausgård’s hexology “My Struggle,” which already has a cult status among both the audience and critics in Norway. 

Knausgård’s work also raised moral issues about using other people’s lives in literature.  

“I had no doubt that it would be a success, but I was worried about the production and the financing of the project. Also, when we started with the hexology, it was hard to find a Norwegian translator. 

However, I ended up being introduced to translator Anja Majnarić, and I knew that we would be able to complete this demanding literary challenge”, Farkaš said. 

As Farkaš doesn’t read genre literature, she noted that she could not make definitive statements on the differences and similarities between Knausgård and his genre colleagues.

However, she feels that Knausgård and other Norwegian authors are not comparable. 

“After all, Knausgård is the future Nobel prize laureate. Therefore, there is no comparison there,” Farkaš noted with certainty. 

“Top-level literature”

“Scandinavian crime writers put the audience on the wrong trail. They produce good crime stories, but they all create excellent literature, which is thoughtful, deep, and belongs to the very top of global literature,” she noted.
This year, Oceanmore published Knausgård’s “Summer” in Croatian.

They have the thousand-page-long ‘Max-Misxha Tetoffensiven’ by Johan Harstad scheduled for next year. 

Farkaš believes that Harstad is destined to be Norway’s new literary sensation. 

 At the end of the day, the sheer size of the readership also says a lot about the importance of Norwegian authors in Croatia. 

Judging from the ongoing success that Norwegian authors and their works are enjoying in the country, they are likely to remain household staples on Croatian bookshelves for some time to come. 

Source: Norway Today


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