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Interview with Johan Theorin

 Albertine (Un Polar). With your three novels: L’heure trouble, L’écho des morts, Le sang des pierres, you have joined a select group of the best Scandinavian and European authors of police novels; what has this changed for you and why?

 Johan.  For many years I used to write stories which were read by a hundred people or so. Now I am happy to see my books in shop windows here in Sweden and in some other countries and I get to travel a bit and meet people who have read them, but apart from that very little has changed. I still sit quietly in a small room and write stories most of the time, and enjoy that very much. There is a tendency these days to turn popular authors into celebrities, but if I as a person remain out of sight and only my books became well-known, that is fine enough with me.

 Albertine. The Swedish isle of Öland, places full of history (a lighthouse, a abandoned quarry); an old man who decrypts life, who discovers or works out the truth; moments in which the natural elements (fire, snow, mist) play an important role in the denouement of your stories; the bizarre that sits alongside the rational: Why did you choose these key elements as the basis of your three novels?

 Johan.  I don’t think I had any choice, I just wrote about things which filled my mind. We all have our different obsessions, and I guess I am obsessed with the places and people from my childhood on Öland, and all the strange stories I heard then. I am also obsessed with all kinds of mysteries, past and present, and also the almost mystical links between people and the landscape they live in. Grief plays some part in the novels as well, probably because my parents became ill and died when I was writing them. All of these obsessions and experiences go into my novels.

 Albertine. Silence (or the unspoken) has an important role in your novels, particularly with Gerlof who is able in “l’heure trouble” to keep silent about his theories on the murder of his child for a long time; the same for Joachim in “l’echo des morts”, who does not say anything to his children about the death of their mother, keeps silent until the end, including and at the moment when he shows them her grave. What are your thoughts on this?

 Johan.  Well, Scandinavian people have a reputation for being silent, you know!

But seriously, I think Gerlof is silent about his theories because he actually hasn’t worked them out completely in his head yet. He is a sort of detective in the novels, but unfortunately he is old and thinks very slowly, and he is not always right.

Joachim has another reason for being silent: he can’t bear to tell the children the tragic news. This was a personal experience for me, because a few years ago I had the same problem with telling my daughter that her grandfather had died. As long as you keep silent about a tragedy you can pretend that all is well, but sooner or later the truth always comes out.


Albertine. In all three novels your characters return to the isle of Öland; could you comment on this idea of “return” to the island?

 Johan.  People who return to an island after many years always bring a strong nostalgic feeling with them; they long to come back to a certain time and place which probably don’t exist anymore, and they sometimes have a sharper eye on the landscape compared to people who live there all the time. I always return to Öland myself, since I don’t live there all year round, and I always discover a different island than the one I remember.

 Albertine. Why is such importance given to the private diary (kept by women in the last two novels) in your fiction?

 Johan. A diary is a way to bring back the past. My great-grandmother (my mother’s grandmother) kept a diary for many years when she lived on Öland, and I have read it a lot when I wrote these novels. It is always with a small sense of guilt that you read someone else’s diary, even if they are dead, because small secrets are always revealed. (Sometimes big ones, too.) I also keep a diary, and even if there are no big confessions in there, I wouldn’t want anyone else to read it, ever!

 Albertine. Gerlof, quite central in your first novel “L’heure trouble”, appears as a supporting character in your two other novels, with a tenuous and yet strong relation to the central story. Is it important that he is a very old man, out of strength, between life and death?

 Johan. Yes, since he is very old in all of the novels, he is a link between the old ways of the island (fishing, poverty, superstitions) and the new ways (tourism, rich visitors, modern crime). Gerlof remembers how it used to be, and like all old people he can therefore give some perspective on how things are now. I worked in an old people’s home when I was 16-17 years old, and I was fascinated with the old people there and the stories they had to tell.

 Albertine. Despite the violence that runs through your novels (violence of nature, violence of human beings) you give them a gentle end, as our death might be: could you please comment on this?

 Johan.  Violence is ugly never solves anything, in my opinion, so I always try to end a story peacefully, with some reconciliation for the surviving characters. They deserve some rest in the end, because before that they sometimes have been through emotional and physical hell.


A lovely interview, thank you. I read a great deal of intelligent crime fiction (not slasher/serial killers!) and I think Johan Theorin is one of the best, if not the best, author writing today. I've only read his first two novels so far, but am very much looking forward to the third which is out in English translation soon.

Écrit par : maxine | 18/05/2011

Maxine, félicitations pour votre blog, vraiment très intéressant.
Je suis d'accord avec vous sur Theorin, c'est un grand raconteur d'histoire, on ne peut pas le classer seulement comme auteur de polars.

Écrit par : Jacques | 18/05/2011

Merci pour votre tres jolie mots. (And apologies for my awful French!)

Écrit par : maxine | 18/05/2011

Nice post, I really like this post style.

Écrit par : ntb coupons | 04/09/2011

Pardon mais auriez-vous une version traduite, mon anglais n'est pas si bon. Merci!

Écrit par : thé rouge rooibos | 25/09/2011

J'adore vos article et votre blog, par contre je n'arrive pas à voir les images sur votre site, peut être que c'est mon navigateur qui bug (j'utilise Chrome).
bonne continuation :)

Écrit par : mutuelle des animaux | 22/03/2012


merci de votre appréciation sympa. je viens de tester le blog sur google chrome et tout fonctionne parfaitement. Peut-être une question de paramétrage ?
Le navigateur permet de désactiver ou d'activer les images. peut-être pourriez-vous vérifier si elles sont activées ?

Écrit par : Jacques | 23/03/2012

Hello tout le monde, le blog m'a bien servis je vous en remercie.
Le mien sera bientôt en ligne et j'espère qu'il sera aussi jolie que le votre !


Écrit par : université mutuelle | 14/06/2012

Excellant ce blog, je vais en faire la pub sur mon Google +.


Écrit par : éthylotest | 19/06/2012

Excellant ce blog, je vais en faire la promotion sur mon Facebook.

Jessica pour l'épilation définitive

Écrit par : épilation lyon | 17/07/2012

j'adore ce blog, je l'ai même conseillé à une copine,

Je me suis permise de faire suivre votre site sur Tumblr
Merci encore,


Écrit par : mutuelle cadre | 16/08/2012

merci pour ce grand site !

Écrit par : lea | 22/08/2012

Merci pour votre blog, vraiment pertinent.

Écrit par : Claire | 21/09/2012

Les commentaires sont fermés.