A large and enthusiastic audience, of whom several had already found time to read the book, gathered for the launch of our first venture into Faroese crime fiction, Walpurgis Tide by Jógvan Isaksen. The panel was introduced by the book’s editor at Norvik Press, Professor Janet Garton. Our chairman was Nordic crime-fiction aficionado Barry Forshaw, who jovially and expertly held the reins in the discussion between the book’s author and its translator John Keithsson. Jógvan Isaksen is a man of many parts who teaches at Copenhagen university and is the author of numerous books, ranging from academic titles to two successful series of crime novels, which are only now starting to be translated into English. He also finds time to take the helm at the Faroe Islands’ leading publishing house. The discussion and audience questions ranged far and wide on topics including Faroese reliance on its traditional whaling and fishing industries, the challenges of translating dialect, the Faroese tendency to live and work abroad, the stark beauty of the landscape, the broadening out of the islands’ publishing industry from more esoteric fare to include popular fiction, and the central importance of the midday radio news in Faroese cultural life.
The author and translator explained why they had chosen to start with the third of the nine books featuring freelance journalist Hannis Martinsson as the main protagonist and pondered on which other books in the series would have appeal for the new, wider readership. Jógvan Isaksen acknowledged Agatha Christie and other Golden Age British crime writers, and American west coast crime from the likes of Hammett and Chandler, as some of his primary sources of inspiration. Parallels were drawn with Icelandic crime fiction; in both small nations, crime rates are very low and murders extremely rare, making the success of the fictionalised crime genre there all the more intriguing. We were lucky enough to have Victoria Cribb, translator of Arnaldur Indridasson and Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, in the audience.
We would like to thank the Faroese Representation in the UK and the Danish Embassy for hosting the event and making us so welcome.