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The Pioneer: Maj Sjöwall

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Just after Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö fell in love in the mid-sixties, they collaborated on a new way to air their far-left politics. Their ten Martin Beck mysteries, including The Laughing Policeman,originated the genre of the Swedish police procedural. Sjöwall, 75, looks back on what she has wrought.

You wrote procedurals explicitly to critique capitalism?
People read more mysteries than they do political pamphlets. Everybody wrote at the time that Sweden was so idyllic, but it was of course not true. Everything started to get more inhuman and capitalistic. But youdon’t change society by writing books. Maybe you could change individuals’ thinking.

Yet surely you made some money. You’ve sold roughly 10 million copies.
Our contracts are 50 years old.I live in a one-room apartment in Stockholm.

What do you think of the work of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell?
I read Larsson’s first book, which is mostly badly written, and I got fed up. The Wallander books are boring. I think this is because of the computer. It’s too easy to write.

Do you like any of the current crop of writers?
I like Jo Nesbø and Håkan Nesser. There are so many good books in the world. I don’t want to spend time reading bad crime novels.


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