Snuten i skymningslandet : svenska polisberättelser i roman och film 1965–2010

Translated title of the contribution: The Cop in the Twilight Land : Swedish Police Narratives in Novels and Films 1965-–2010

Michael Tapper

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The dissertation "The Cop in the Twilight Land: Swedish Police Narratives 1965-2010" considers Swedish culture and ideas in the period 1965-2010 as expressed in detective fiction and film in the tradition of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. It takes the Swedish police narrative tradition to be part and parcel of the European history of ideas and culture; a history that necessarily comprises America, by extension a European colonial power, which in the process of constructing its national identity eradicated its native population. From being a feared and despised the police emerged as a hero and part of the modern social project of the welfare state after World War II. Establishing themselves artistically and commercially in the forefront of the genre, Sjöwall-Wahlöö established a model for using the police novel as an instrument for ideological criticism of the Swedish welfare state under the Social Democratic government. With varying political affiliations this has been carried on by authors such as Olov Svedelid, Leif GW Persson, Jan Guillou, Henning Mankell, Håkan Nesser, Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström, Stieg Larsson and film series such as "Beck", "Wallander" and "Johan Falk". As part of their political agenda these narratives has also played a part in the changing ideas about criminality and crime politics. While some narratives are procedurals focusing on a collective force fighting crime as social problems, others are clearly influenced by the "Dirty Harry" narrative about the lone vigilante cop fighting crime as the evil and psychopathic Other. The Sjöwall-Wahlöö legacy in the shape of the genre’s political and artistic ideal has lasted the forty-five years analysed in this dissertation. Every new author of significance has been compared to them, and, regardless of ideology and literary style, many authors have taken them as the imprimatur for their own works. Theirs is also a legacy of faction; new police novels and films commonly claim a privileged connection with contemporary Swedish society, a claim often granted by the critics.The dissertation concludes by addressing the relationship between the police narrative, right-wing populism, Fascism, and the concept of evil. The narrative of the vigilante cop is in many respects similar to the right-wing populist narrative, with its contempt for the democratic political system and politicians in general; its construction of a hated Other (the deviant, the foreign enemy); its anti-intellectualism, rejecting rationalism and science in favour of common sense and ‘natural law’; and its substitution of nation for class. Umberto Eco’s definition of ur-Fascism, with its dovetailing sexism, irrationalism, elitism, and traditionalism, often of the rural sort, also agrees with the vigilante cop narrative.
Translated title of the contributionThe Cop in the Twilight Land : Swedish Police Narratives in Novels and Films 1965-–2010
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Languages and Literature
  • Hedling, Erik, Supervisor
  • Zander, Ulf, Supervisor
Award date2011 Sept 10
ISBN (Print)978-91-85509-62-1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2011-09-10
Time: 13:00
Place: Hörsalen, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Nestingen, Andrew
Title: Associate Professor
Affiliation: Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, USA


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • Crime fiction
  • police
  • Sweden (literature)
  • Sweden (film)
  • Sjöwall-Wahlöö
  • Per Wahlöö
  • Olov Svedelid
  • Leif GW Persson
  • Jan Guillou
  • Henning Mankell
  • Håkan Nesser
  • Stieg Larsson
  • Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström


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