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Margie Orford

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Anders Breivik’s Crime Is Both Stupendous and Banal

Scandinavian crime fiction stormed the world when the Swedish writer, Stieg Larsson, unleashed the anorexic and tattooed revenge-hacker, Lisbeth Salandar, and the chain-smoking left-leaning journalist Blomqvist. Jo Nesbo, Larsson’s Norwegian partner in crime fiction, describes similarly bizarre murders that, to a South African, could seem comical at times in relation to the regulated tolerance of the liberal, feminist social democracies of Scandinavia.

But the warning was there, crime fiction when done well, can be both sharply and prescient of the gathering social storms that cause the smooth surface waters of a society to eddy into violence. Larsson’s books, like many of the Scandinavian wave of crime writers, carry in them the spectre of the far right, something dark, furtive and violent prowling on the edges of these novels and on the lunatic fringes of society.

That was until last Friday when a truck packed with a fertiliser bomb detonated in central Oslo. The gun-jump of the western media was startling. The attack was immediately, and without reference to any facts, assumed to have been perpetrated by Muslim jihadists, that familiar and comprehensible enemy without. This was to be Norway’s 9/11. But then the reports started coming in of a man shooting scores of beautiful children attending an island summer camp. The axis of comfort and assumption convulsed when the realisation spread that the meticulously ordered killer was a muscular, blonde Norwegian man.

Difference, challenge, defiance, discussion – all the things that result from the melting-pot cultures that result from immigration, travel, migrant labour, globalisation, the unassailable facts of the world we all inhabit, threaten the narcissistic individual when they change (for better and for worse) previously homogenous societies. The narcissism of Breivik, the perpetrator, is chilling. Hidden away in his manifesto– a weird jumble of medieval Christianity, machismo, violence, and xenophobia – is a fetish with his appearance, his bodybuilding, his visits to the solarium in the period prior to the attacks, his sense of superiority to others. But anything that is different, that is ‘other’, is perceived as a threat because it disturbs a rigid and fanatically held sense of self. This psychotic and fragile vanity, his explosive narcissism, seems to parallel his politics of racial purity and exclusion.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 29th, 2011 @15:56 #

    Intelligent response to the unintelligible -- kudos to Margie for this response to the tragic slaughter in Norway.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Margie</a>
    July 29th, 2011 @17:21 #

    Mass murderers are astounding. I was looking at the pictures of all those beautiful children who were shot in the back. heartbreaking. same age and idealism as my lovely daughters and their friends. How much hate in one man? Such a powerful emotion it is.


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