The mystery

I have been reading crime novels since forever. I was barely a teenager when I started a relationship with Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle that I suspect will be lifelong. I discovered reading quite late, and after a brief fascination with the Hardy boys I sought refuge in the classic mysteries. As an adult I read a lot of the modern crime from Norway, Britain, Sweden and Denmark.

I’m still reading the old classics (they are my first love after all), but I got tired of the contemporary stuff a few years ago. Everyone is trying to cash in on the most popular genre, and although the sniffy cultural elite don’t really see crime as genuine literature, some of the so-called serious authors have even tried to write a crime novel. There’s still a lot of junk because crime is sort of like the video rental shops or pizzerias that popped up on every street corner in Norway in the 1980’s. Suddenly everyone wanted to cash in on the new market, and of course most of them quickly went out of business. I recently started reading and watching crime again. I want to see if I can write something about ethics and evil later, and I want to use examples from crime novels.

I discovered something new and refreshing, a British series called Hinterland. This short series is about a London police detective that moves to Wales. This is literally hinterland to most people in England. When I studied in college years ago, in Northern Norway actually, I finished my four year teacher degree with two semesters of English. A woman from London spent the spring semester as an instructor at my college. I’m not sure exactly what she was doing except teaching most of the British studies that semester. I think she was also working on a thesis as a part of her degree at a university in Belfast. There are two things I remember about her now 16 years later, she liked mint jelly and did not like Wales. If I recall it correctly she said that there’s nothing but sheep in Wales, or that only sheep could be happy there (I bet she appreciated wool and meat, though). It was apparent that she recommended London, but not Wales.

There are many beautiful coastal towns in Wales. This is Tenby.
There are many beautiful coastal towns in Wales. This is Tenby. Photo: Aeronian via Wikimedia Commons

I look at the map and still don’t understand why. I remember the campaign in 1992 when Norway had a referendum about whether or not to join the EU. The yes-campaign invited politicians from EU-countries to come here and tell us what a good idea it would be to join. I remember a British man who was interviewed on TV. He said something about how Norwegians didn’t like anyone. We only wanted to stick our heads in the sand be left alone. We were apparently very different and un-European. I guess they were irritated when we voted no for the second time in 20 years.

Northern Norway starts a little south of the arctic circle. The population in this hlaf of the country is less than half a million.
Northern Norway starts a little south of the arctic circle. The population in this half of the country is less than half a million.

I don’t know that we are so different because we do have something similar to the British rivalry between different regions, except that in Britain it’s a rivalry between different countries. The majority of the Norwegian population lives in the southern part of the country, which isn’t surprising when you look at the map. The three most northern counties make out half the country (if you measure from south to north), and most of it is north of the arctic circle. Many in the south see the arctic circle as something exotic. It’s nice to watch a nature documentary or even go there for a short vacation, but to live there? No thanks!

It seems strange that a very central part of Britain is ostracized to such an extent. No matter where you are in Wales you are not far from cities like Birmingham and Bristol, and according to Google Maps it’s only a two hour drive from Cardiff to Oxford. The detective Tom Mathias from Hinterland moved to Aberystwyth in the most western part of Wales, but that’s still less than 200 miles from Oxford. Clearly the problem isn’t the remoteness, and you could find yourself just as lonely or just as troubled living among 8,5 million people in London.

I’ve seen similar attitudes in other series, and to some people you couldn’t find worse places than Blackpool, Leeds, Sheffield, not to mention Scotland. You’d have to be suicidal to even think about going up there. We have some of the same. You frequently see and hear people making fun of people from other regions. There’s a lot of that on TV and it’s not just about people from the northern parts of the country. Everyone is a target. There is something different about the British though, and I believe the Americans have something similar. Maybe it’s because they are both unions? They seem to hate each other and the government certainly can’t be trusted. Yet, you never see more patriotic people. It’s fascinating and unbelievable at the same time.

This has worked for a long time. I have no doubt that many Welsh feel comfortable being a part of a union with England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. At the same time it must be sad seeing that they lose a little more of their Welshness every year. They probably feel the same way in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It’s a melting pot where every people’s uniqueness disappears, when it could have been a salad bowl. I guess that’s the world today. We have been independent in Norway for a very long time, and even though we were under Danish rule for more than 400 years (1380-1814), it didn’t seem to change the culture. It’s a different story today, and all countries seem to turn into the same. I think it will be hard for anyone to define what they really are. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have had their own parliaments since since late 1990’s. It would be nice if people could get more respect for their own culture and language without having to turn it into a violent conflict. They could add different things to the salad bowl or pizza metaphor, but still keep what makes them special.

This could become an interesting debate in the USA as well. During his campaign for the presidential nomination in 2012 Rick Santorum made an interesting comment while visiting Puerto Rico. He said that this territory had to declare English as its primary (official) language if it wanted statehood. This article from the Washington Post shows how vague the law has been in most states, and it’s only in recent years that many of them have considered introducing English as the official language. When Trump says he wants to make America great again there might be different opinions about what it means being an American.


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