Jo Nesbø, one of Scandinavia’s most successful crime writers, explores revenge and father-son dramas in his new thriller The Son, which tracks his own story of learning his dad fought for Hitler.
Jo Nesbø, the bestselling Norwegian crime author famed for his Detective Harry Hole series, has released his 19th book titled The Son, whose premise of a man who discovers his father was a Nazi was drawn from his own life.
Together with countryman Karin Fossum and Sweden’s Stieg Larsson, Nesbø is one of the biggest writers of Nordic Noir, a genre that has enthralled legions of readers by exploring the darker side of prosperous societies. A former footballer, stockbroker, journalist and rock star, Nesbø, 54, has released 10 titles in the Harry Hole series, his most popular character, which have altogether sold over 23 million copies in 40 languages.
Hollywood has been knocking and wants to adapt his novels. Channing Tatum is already rumoured to be in talks for lead in The Son. Nesbø's new book tells of a young man in prison who listens to the confessions of the inmates and absolves them of their sins. But he escapes from jail when he learns a secret about his disgraced dad during one confession.
“I wanted to build a story around the idea of a vengeful God, and the article of faith on Jesus as the executioner of an all-powerful God who judges (and decides) who lives and dies,” says Nesbø, in a cafe in his western Oslo neighbourhood of Majorstua. “What if we took it seriously and saw a vengeful son who exacts revenge for him and his father?”
The book may have been Nesbø’s way of exploring his own relationship with his father, especially his discovery as a teen that his dad had fought for Hitler on the eastern European front in WWII. Norway was occupied by the Nazis, King Haakon VII and the government was in exile, and at home Vidkun Quisling (whose last name is an English byword for ‘traitor’) had set up a puppet government for the Führer.
“This is something that has certainly a clear parallel to my own discovery that my father fought with the Germans during World War Two, which he told me when I was 15,” Nesbø says. “It is the same age, more or less, when Sonny (the book’s main character) discovers that his father had been a traitor. It could be coincidence. Or it could be that I am unconsciously writing about my own father.”
He remembers the shock he felt at the news. “He was a guy I truly admired and respected. I remember the first picture I got was of my father wearing the German helmet. It was impossible for me to try to picture that. I had grown up in a generation watching war movies in which a German soldier was the representation of evil. My father did not fit the bill,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Nesbø is also working on a new version of Macbeth that may see Shakespeare’s tragedy of power and murder set among cops in 1970s Norway or Scotland.
“Macbeth is a crime story. It is a story of murder and deceit to begin with, and of power and greed,” he says. “I will probably put it in the 1970s. It will not be kings and queens, but the fight over the position of chief of police. It could be in Oslo, it could be in a city anywhere. Or it could be in Glasgow or Edinburgh.”
The project is part of an international publishing initiative to re-tell the Bard’s plays to a new audience. Margaret Atwood will adapt The Tempest. Jeanette Winterson will re-do The Winter’s Tale. Nesbø says he probably won't use Shakespeare’s own words, even though he finds them “so poetic and powerful”.
“It feels almost impossible to use the original dialogue and make your own story,” he says. – Reuters