Related to: 'Kjell Westö'

MacLehose Press

The Faculty of Dreams

Sara Stridsberg
Authors:
Sara Stridsberg
Quercus

When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back

Naja Marie Aidt
Authors:
Naja Marie Aidt

"I raise my glass to my eldest son. His pregnant wife and daughter are sleeping above us. Outside, the March evening is cold and clear. 'To life!' I say as the glasses clink with a delicate and pleasing sound. My mother says something to the dog. Then the phone rings. We don't answer it. Who could be calling so late on a Saturday evening?" In March 2015, Naja Marie Aidt's 25-year-old son, Carl, died in a tragic accident. When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back is about losing a child. It is about formulating a vocabulary to express the deepest kind of pain. And it's about finding a way to write about a reality invaded by grief, lessened by loss. Faced with the sudden emptiness of language, Naja finds solace in the anguish of Joan Didion, Nick Cave, C.S. Lewis, Mallarmé, Plato and other writers who have suffered the deadening impact of loss. Their torment suffuses with her own as Naja wrestles with words and contests their capacity to speak for the depths of her sorrow. This palimpsest of mourning enables Naja to turn over the pathetic, precious transience of existence and articulates her greatest fear: to forget. The insistent compulsion to reconstruct the harrowing aftermath of Carl's death keeps him painfully present, while fragmented memories, journal entries and poetry inch her closer to piecing Carl's life together. Intensely moving and quietly devastating, this is what is it to be a family, what it is to love and lose, and what it is to treasure life in spite of death's indomitable resolve.(P)2019 Quercus Editions Limited

MacLehose Press

White Shadow

Roy Jacobsen
Authors:
Roy Jacobsen
MacLehose Press

The Oblique Place

Caterina Pascual Söderbaum
Authors:
Caterina Pascual Söderbaum

"Caterina Pascual Söderbaum has left a major European literary work of art as her legacy" STEVE SEM-SANDBERG, author of Emperor of LiesThe Oblique Place is a captivating journey of the imagination, a prize-winning novel that probes the ruinous legacies of Fascist Europe in the twentieth century.The discovery of photographs in an album ­- of her Spanish grandfather who joined Hitler's Wehrmacht and her father in the uniform of Franco's army- leads Caterina Pascual Söderbaum to explore her family's links to some of the most abhorrent passages of twentieth-century history. Her mother turns out to be related to Kristina Söderbaum, a celebrated Swedish film star of the Third Reich, adored by Goebbels.She travels with husband and child to the shores of the idyllic Attersee in Austria, where the officers of the extermination camps spent their holidays. The journey continues from Schloss Hartheim, where the staff of the Nazi euthanasia programme forgot, with the help of alcohol and sex, the horrors that took place there, to the Villa Saint-Jean, where malnourished children from France's internment camps were sent to recover. This imaginative rediscovery of her own family's disturbing history is fused with vividly captured episodes from other lives and times, and the threads of evil that she lays bare are described in language so beautiful, so subtle and painterly, that her odyssey is at once shattering and mesmerising.Translated from the Swedish by Frank Perry

MacLehose Press

Fish Have No Feet

Jón Kalman Stefánsson
Authors:
Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017Keflavik: a town that may be the darkest place in Iceland, surrounded by black lava fields, hemmed in by a sea that may not be fished, and site of the U.S. military base, whose influences shaped Icelandic culture from the '50s to the dawning of the new millennium. Ari - a writer and publisher - lands back in Keflavik from Copenhagen. His father is dying, and he is flooded by memories of his youth in the '70s and '80s, listening to Pink Floyd and the Beatles, raiding American supply lorries and discovering girls. And one girl he could never forget. Layered through Ari's story is that of his grandparents in a village on the eastern coast, a world away from modern Keflavik. For his grandfather Oddur, life at sea was a destiny; for Margrét its elemental power brings only loneliness and fear. Both the story of a singular family and an epic that sparkles with love, pain and lifelong desire - with all of human life - Fish have no Feet is a novel of profound beauty and wisdom by a major international writer.By the author of the acclaimed trilogy, Heaven and Hell, The Sorrow of Angels and The Heart of Man.

MacLehose Press

About the Size of the Universe

Jón Kalman Stefánsson
Authors:
Jón Kalman Stefánsson
MacLehose Press

The Gravity of Love

Sara Stridsberg
Authors:
Sara Stridsberg

"I'll put my head in the oven so you know where I am," he whispers, kissing her neck.Jim - charming, captivating, much loved by his women friends - has attempted suicide several times. Over his period of incarceration at the Beckomberga hospital for the mentally unstable, he voices his determination to succeed. Some day soon, he tells his daughter - as he has earlier told his mother and his wife - he will swallow sixty tablets, help them down with a bottle of whisky, and swim impossibly far out into the Atlantic.Will he, really? This question plagues Jim's daughter, the narrator of this powerful novel, who is as addicted to the hospital as her father is to alcohol. Through her subtle observations we understand the emotional needs of diehard alcoholics, the rationally uxoricidal, and other seemingly normal inhabitants of a psychiatric unit in the process of shutting down, depriving them of the only place they have known as home.A Magic Mountain for our times, for readers of Eimear McBride and Alexander Masters.

MacLehose Press

Fall of Man in Wilmslow

David Lagercrantz
Authors:
David Lagercrantz

A powerful tale of honour, prejudice and the twentieth century's most maltreated hero, by the acclaimed author of THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB.June 8, 1954. Alan Turing, the visionary mathematician, is found dead at his home in sleepy Wilmslow, dispatched by a poisoned apple. Taking the case, Detective Constable Leonard Corell quickly learns Turing is a convicted homosexual. Confident it's a suicide, he is nonetheless confounded by official secrecy over Turing's war record. What is more, Turing's sexuality appears to be causing alarm among the intelligence services - could he have been blackmailed by Soviet spies? Stumbling across evidence of Turing's genius, and sensing an escape from a narrow life, Corell soon becomes captivated by Turing's brilliant and revolutionary work, and begins to dig deeper. But in the febrile atmosphere of the Cold War, loose cannons cannot be tolerated. As his innocent curiosity takes him far out of his depth, Corell realises he has much to learn about the dangers of forbidden knowledge.

MacLehose Press

The Wednesday Club

Kjell Westö
Authors:
Kjell Westö

1938. Hitler's expansionist policies are arousing both anger and admiration, not least in Helsinki's Wednesday Club. The members of this relaxed gentleman's club are old friends of lawyer Claes Thune. But this year it is apparent that the political unrest in Europe is having an effect on the cohesion of the group.Thune has recently divorced and is at something of a loss, running his law practice with no great enthusiasm. Luckily he has the assistance of an efficient new secretary, Matilda Wiik. But behind her polished exterior Mrs Wiik is tormented by memories of the Finnish Civil War, when she experienced horrors she has been trying to forget ever since. And one evening, with the Wednesday Club gathered in Thune's office, she hears a voice she hoped she would never hear again.She is suddenly plunged back into the past. But this time she is no longer a helpless victim . . .

MacLehose Press

Zola and the Victorians

Eileen Horne
Authors:
Eileen Horne

London, 1888: Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of Whitechapel; national strikes and social unrest threaten the status quo; a grave economic crisis is spreading across the Atlantic . . . Yet Her Majesty's government is preoccupied with "a mere book" - or rather, a series of books: new translations of the Rougon-Macquart saga by French literary giant Émile Zola.In his time, Zola made his British contemporaries look positively pastoral; much of his work is considered shocking and transgressive even now. But it was his English publisher who bore the brunt of the Victorians' moral outrage at Zola's "realistic" depictions of striking miners, society courtesans and priapic, feuding farmers.Seventy years before Lady Chatterley's Lover broke the back of British censorship, Henry Vizetelly's commitment to publishing Zola, and to the nascent principle of free speech, not only landed him in the dock and thereafter in prison, but brought to ruin to the publishing house he had founded. Meanwhile, Zola was going from strength to strength, establishing his reputation as a literary legend and falling in love with a woman half his age.This lively, humorous and ultimately tragic tale is an exploration of the consequences of translation and censorship which remains relevant today for readers, publishers and authors everywhere.

MacLehose Press

The Sorrow of Angels

Jón Kalman Stefánsson
Authors:
Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Quercus

Until Thy Wrath Be Past

Åsa Larsson
Authors:
Åsa Larsson

The novels that inspired Rebecka Martinsson: Arctic Murders - the major TV series "Rebecka Martinsson: the new Scandi-noir heroine to rival Saga Noren and Sarah Lund" iNews "In a television world now awash in female coppers, there aren't many as interesting and human as Rebecka" Wall Street JournalIn the first thaw of spring the body of a young woman surfaces in the River Torne in the far north of Sweden. Rebecka Martinsson is working as a prosecutor in nearby Kiruna, her sleep troubled by visions of a shadowy, accusing figure. Could the body belong to the girl in her dream? Joining forces with Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson will need all her courage to face a killer who will kill again to keep the past buried under half a century of silent ice and snow.

MacLehose Press

Accabadora

Michela Murgia
Authors:
Michela Murgia

When Maria, the fourth child of a widow, is adopted by the old and childless Bonaria Urrai, her life is instantly transformed - she finally has the love and affection she craves. But her new 'soul mother' is keeping something hidden from her, a secret life that is intimately bound-up with Sardinia's ancient traditions and customs.

MacLehose Press

The Human Part

Kari Hotakainen
Authors:
Kari Hotakainen

MacLehose Press

Breathless

Anne Swärd
Authors:
Anne Swärd
MacLehose Press

Heaven and Hell

Jón Kalman Stefánsson
Authors:
Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Naja Marie Aidt

Originally from Greenland, Naja Marie Aidt is a Danish poet and author with nearly 30 works - mostly poetry - in various genres to her name. She is also a playwright and screenwriter and has published children's books and translated fiction and poetry from Swedish and Norwegian. She has received numerous honors, including the Danish Critics Choice Award, The Danish Art Foundation's Award for Lifelong Service, and the Nordic nations' most prestigious literary prize, the Nordic Council's Literature Prize, in 2008 for Baboon. Her work has been translated into ten languages. Her work has also been anthologized in the Best European Fiction series and has appeared in leading American and International journals and magazines. Baboon was published in the States by Two Lines Press in 2014. Denise Newman won the PEN Translation Prize for her translation of Baboon in 2015. Naja Marie Aidt's first novel Rock, Paper, Scissors was published in August 2015 by Open Letter Books. She lives in Brooklyn.

Q&A with Andreas Norman

If there was a film of Into A Raging Blaze, who do you think would play the main characters of Bente Jensen, the Secret Service Head, and Carina Dymek, the civil servant on the run? Well, the Swedish original of Into A Raging Blaze (En rasande eld), is actually being adapted for bigscreen right now by a major Swedish film company. They are right now starting to cast it! But then of course, Bente and Carina will be played by Swedish actors. In a British remake I would love to see a character actress like Jodie Foster or Imelda Staunton play Bente, who could take on that utterly unsentimental, tough-minded, no-nonsense type of woman. Carina – I think Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emily Blunt or Sarah Solemani would be perfect for the role. Brainy actresses with a lot of energy. You worked in the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for ten years in Counter-terrorism and Security. Can you tell us anything about the kinds of projects you worked on, and what it was like? They were mainly projects launched to prevent further terrorism – in other words, the recruitment and radicalisation of individuals and groups in countries around the world. I can't tell you much more, it is all very classified information; other than that we worked in partnership with other countries on this, and their police forces, intelligence agencies as well as various local non-governmental organisations. Our main slogan was: counter-terrorism without the respect for human rights is counter-productive. That was a one-liner I came up with, actually, in order to easily convey the Swedish view on these matters. And I still believe that it is absolutely valid. If you violate people's basic rights, you will end up with more politically motivated violence, and that is unfortunately what is happening today in, for example, Pakistan and many other places around the world today. How much is the diplomatic service as portrayed in the novel based on your experience of that world? The descriptions of the Ministry’s interior and other places are absolutely authentic; you could use the book for a guided tour around the Swedish MFA and the Government offices! If you ever visit the pub Pickwick’s on the corner of Fredsgatan and Drottninggatan in Stockholm, where all the civil servants hang out after work, look out for the elk head hanging on the inner wall. You'll find that place, and all other locations in the book exactly as I describe them. It was great fun to portray my workplace and the people in it. There are such a wealth of stories and characters in the diplomatic and intelligence community, that for most of the time remain untold, unseen, due to the secrecy that surrounds the trade. At the same time, there’s a lot that is universal which every person who spends their days in an office can easily relate to: the struggle for having an office with a nice view, the byzantine procedure for requisitioning an ergonomic chair, the career angst, all that. You left the Ministry to become a full time writer. What do your former colleagues think of the novel? Were you worried about revealing any government secrets? They think it’s great! I was surprised and happy to get so many positive reactions from colleagues in the MFA. Dozens of ambassadors and desk officers from all over the world have emailed me to congratulate me on what they felt was both a very entertaining and wholly accurate panorama of the rather absurd everyday life in the foreign service. I think many felt that, for once, their profession and work life had been portrayed in an authentic way. I wasn't worried for a second that I would reveal any secrets. I'm so used to handling classified information, you know, and the people in the ministry knows that. But just to be sure, I actually read my first draft as if I were looking for intelligence, classified procedures, etc. In some cases I obscured one or two details to make sure that Into A Raging Blaze would be useless – as intelligence, I mean. Your novel has a plot point whereby British agencies and GCHQ use cyber-spying to access private communications in European countries, even from governments. Was this based on fact when you wrote it, and if so, how did you come across the information? Sure, this is common practice. Just look at what Snowden revealed: NSA tapping the mobile phones of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. My book basically outlines GCHQ’s mass surveillance programme code-named Tempora. I was not aware of the code name at the time I wrote the book, but knew something like this existed. That was in 2009. It was also in this period that NSA got enormously enhanced capacities to collect and store data, and later, to mine them. They were building big new facilities in Utah for data storage. As part of my job in the Foreign Ministry, I had the opportunity to learn how the signals intelligence agencies were organised, their methods, their technology. It was top secret back then; now you can find all about it on Google in an instant. Since you wrote the novel and it was published in Sweden, the world woke up to the same reality when Julian Assange published Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. What was the reaction to your book when this happened? A lot of readers were surprised by how close to reality my book actually was. Everyone who read it reacted with, ‘Wow, did you know about all this?’ Especially since the depth of the partnerships between NSA, GCHQ and the Swedish signals intelligence agency FRA was revealed later that year. Then even political op ed's in the main Swedish papers started using my book as a starting point for discussing the surveillance scandal, which thrilled me. The Swedish agency took a lot of criticism for being mixed up in the mass surveillance revealed by Snowden, and my story pointed towards precisely this partnership. It´s called Five Eyes, by the way. Al Gore has now come out in support of Snowden. What do you think of Snowden’s and Assange’s actions, and the reaction to them? I completely agree with Al Gore's statement. Snowden has done everyone a great service. Leaking classified information is always damaging someone, and sure, if it’s being revealed to the public, there is a risk of jeopardizing national security or hampering operations that can save lives. But when state agencies like the NSA or GCHQ operate massive systems that violate the basic civil rights of millions of innocent people, and do so without any democratic control, you end up with a state within the state; an omnipotent machine working outside the boundaries of democratic society, and that is very dangerous. That cannot be tolerated in an open, democratic, rule of law-based society. Assange created the platform for leaks, and Snowden provided the content. How uncomfortable it ever may be for state agencies and corporate executives, I think society will always need whistle-blowers like them. That the intelligence community reacts with horror is no surprise. Disappointing, but not a surprise at all, is the way the Obama administration is pursuing whistle-blowers like Snowden and Manning, in spite of their rethoric about openness. What is most worrying is the complacency of the public. But I think this is due to the fact that we, the ordinary internet users, have no alternative to the internet. Even though our digital lives are being monitored we have no real way to protest, since you can't really say, ‘Hey, I'll stop using the internet and go buy some other product!’ In a way, it shows the limits of consumer power. What is needed are sound state policies that put citizen rights first. The leaked documents in your novel are plans for a Europe-wide intelligence service that would not only cross borders, but skirt national and international law in the name of counter-terrorism. Are there any signs that this is a real possibility, and what would you consider are the major risks of such an operation? The idea came to me when I learned about the US drone warfare in Pakistan. There you have exactly this situation. The US Air Force fly thousands of drone missions for the CIA over Pakistan every year. They fly wherever they want, target whomever they want, regardless of Pakistani law, and probably also in violation of international law. What if drone missions were carried out over UK soil, with the silent approval of the British government and the EU? That is the question I hope my book raises. Even more chilling is that the US administration also targets its own citizens, putting not only foreigners but Americans on so-called 'kill lists'. This practice not only violates basic rights of individuals, but weakens the judicial system, and corrodes the trust we put in our governments. It's a disturbing development. Your fictional ‘European Intelligence Service’ had a clause allowing American services to launch attacks within European borders if they could justify a potential threat. Your novel shows convincing ‘threats’ can easily be created from little evidence. Do you think that US intelligence services pushes the boundaries of acceptable strategy, and how much are European services in thrall to them? Yes, well, you know, intelligence services are masters of fabrication and betrayal. To fabricate ‘threats’ to support wars and other foreign policy adventures are textbook tactics. Just think of the introduction to the Iraqi war, and the massive fabrication of ‘threats’ back then. Or the last and current US administration's circumvention of international law, in order to justify huge counter-terrorism operations. Today, the Obama administration have moved more towards extrajudicial assinations, drones and special forces operations, and the CIA, together with parts of the US military, like the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have turned into smooth war machines. What if it would lie in the interests of the US to launch the same counter-terrorism operations they carry out in Afghanistan or northern Pakistan in the heart of Europe, and the EU would condone it? That question lies at the core of my book. It's fiction, but at the same close to reality. Because all intelligence services depend more or less on each other. You trade intel, you build alliances. The US service is the most powerful player, simply on the strength of their vast capacities. They can push boundaries to fit their objectives and cooperate with European services when it serves their interests. The Brits have a privileged position in this business, being very close to the US system, whereas the Swedes are just a minor, but useful partner. As I put it in Into A Raging Blaze: the Brits and Americans create the weather of tomorrow, while the Swedes are forced to guess the forecast. In the novel, a young Egyptian-born civil servant in the Swedish Ministry of Justice is suspected of being linked to a terrorist cell. How much do you think immigrated Arabs, North Africans and people of Islamic origin are at risk of being unjustly persecuted? Or is paranoia justified in the face of a terrorist threat? Intelligence services nurture professional paranoia, and rightly so; it’s part of their job description to be suspicious. But in the today’s era of counter-terrorism, with its strong focus on Islamic fundamentalism, whole Muslim minorities run the risk of being regarded as a ‘problem’, or an environment conducive to political violence and terrorism. When a security service try to pin down someone who might pose a terrorist threat, a large number of people are screened, which is standard procedure for all investigations. The problem is, with the mass surveillance currently in use, it is possible to screen literally millions, which means that whole populations of Muslims or immigrants – for example, everyone in the UK with the surename ‘Mohammad’ – could be routinely monitored. This is a depressing reality, and adds to the strong islamophobic tendencies we witness in Europe today. In the UK, John Le Carré’s novels were instrumental in forming the spy compromised group in opposition to the realpolitik practices of ‘big brother’ CIA. In your novel there’s a similar relationship, but between the Swedish and British, relatively. Is this a realistic portrayal? Yes, absolutely! The only difference is, Swedes are nicer because they are weaker and further down the food chain in global politics. If Swedish services had the same spying capacity as the colleagues in Vauxhall, not to mention Langley, they would be meaner, I'm sure. But there are historic reasons as well to why Swedish services are less ruthless than their AngloSaxon counterparts: we have not been forced to fight for our survival in World War II or fight terrorism at home; we have no recent colonial history, no real ambition to dominate the world – other than perhaps through exports of pop music, cars and crime novels. Swedish intelligence services are just small, efficient sub-suppliers in the global security business. It’s funny you mention LeCarré, since his latest novel A Delicate Truth is quite a turnaround where he portrays the British government and the MI6 as the corrupt and morally rotten ones, don't you agree? I hope Mr LeCarré nods in approval of my portrayal of the Swedish-British relationship. The recent European elections saw a surge in extreme right-wing groups gaining votes. Why do you think this is, and how might it affect counter-terrorism and relationships between diplomatic services? Oh, I just get depressed when I think about the recent EU-parliament election . . .The reasons for this can probably be found in the recent economic recession that plagued many European countries since the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008. Europe is being strongly affected by globalization, and financial crises with immediate repercussions in national economies, resulting in redunduncies and harsher everyday lives for a lot of people. This generates fear and hatred. When citizens don't feel that there is a social contract anymore, that there is no state to provide them with basic services, there is always a temptation to join the populist chant. It’s easy to blame immigrants, or a weak minority with no voice, like the Roma. Fascism offers a tempting dream of unity and strength. It’s an enthusiastic ideology, selling easy solutions. Unfortunately, a lot of people are lost in this dream nowadays. To diplomats, the appearance of right-wing extremists in leading positions around Europe complicates bilateral relations. Some relations will become frosty, new alliances will be made. For example, a social liberal democracy like Sweden cannot rely on support from Hungary or Denmark in the EU-council for its view on migration. And so on. For professionals in the intelligence services, an increase of militant right-wing extremists of course means more work, and in the long-term perhaps also a shift towards monitoring right-wing terrorist networks more closely. After the Utöya massacre and the bombing of the Norwegian government offices in 2012, this has certainly been the case with Norwegian and Swedish security services. What are you writing next? I have a book out in autumn, 9,3 på Richterskalan (9,3 on the Richter scale). It's an eyewitness account of my days in Thailand after the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. I was sent to Thailand as a member of some one the first response teams, being a young diplomat who just entered the service. My publisher calls it a harrowing read, I suppose it is. Right now, I'm writing the sequel to Into A Raging Blaze. You'll see more of Bente Jensen, this time in a family crisis with lethal consequences. Surveillance, counter-espionage, deadly lies and deception, all against the backdrop of the recent Crimea crisis. That’s about all I can tell you, the rest is classified!

His ideas and inspirations behind Into A Raging Blaze

Q&A with Andreas Norman

If there was a film of Into A Raging Blaze, who do you think would play the main characters of Bente Jensen, the Secret Service Head, and Carina Dymek, the civil servant on the run? Well, the Swedish original of Into A Raging Blaze (En rasande eld), is actually being adapted for bigscreen right now by a major Swedish film company. They are right now starting to cast it! But then of course, Bente and Carina will be played by Swedish actors. In a British remake I would love to see a character actress like Jodie Foster or Imelda Staunton play Bente, who could take on that utterly unsentimental, tough-minded, no-nonsense type of woman. Carina – I think Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emily Blunt or Sarah Solemani would be perfect for the role. Brainy actresses with a lot of energy. You worked in the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for ten years in Counter-terrorism and Security. Can you tell us anything about the kinds of projects you worked on, and what it was like? They were mainly projects launched to prevent further terrorism – in other words, the recruitment and radicalisation of individuals and groups in countries around the world. I can't tell you much more, it is all very classified information; other than that we worked in partnership with other countries on this, and their police forces, intelligence agencies as well as various local non-governmental organisations. Our main slogan was: counter-terrorism without the respect for human rights is counter-productive. That was a one-liner I came up with, actually, in order to easily convey the Swedish view on these matters. And I still believe that it is absolutely valid. If you violate people's basic rights, you will end up with more politically motivated violence, and that is unfortunately what is happening today in, for example, Pakistan and many other places around the world today. How much is the diplomatic service as portrayed in the novel based on your experience of that world? The descriptions of the Ministry’s interior and other places are absolutely authentic; you could use the book for a guided tour around the Swedish MFA and the Government offices! If you ever visit the pub Pickwick’s on the corner of Fredsgatan and Drottninggatan in Stockholm, where all the civil servants hang out after work, look out for the elk head hanging on the inner wall. You'll find that place, and all other locations in the book exactly as I describe them. It was great fun to portray my workplace and the people in it. There are such a wealth of stories and characters in the diplomatic and intelligence community, that for most of the time remain untold, unseen, due to the secrecy that surrounds the trade. At the same time, there’s a lot that is universal which every person who spends their days in an office can easily relate to: the struggle for having an office with a nice view, the byzantine procedure for requisitioning an ergonomic chair, the career angst, all that. You left the Ministry to become a full time writer. What do your former colleagues think of the novel? Were you worried about revealing any government secrets? They think it’s great! I was surprised and happy to get so many positive reactions from colleagues in the MFA. Dozens of ambassadors and desk officers from all over the world have emailed me to congratulate me on what they felt was both a very entertaining and wholly accurate panorama of the rather absurd everyday life in the foreign service. I think many felt that, for once, their profession and work life had been portrayed in an authentic way. I wasn't worried for a second that I would reveal any secrets. I'm so used to handling classified information, you know, and the people in the ministry knows that. But just to be sure, I actually read my first draft as if I were looking for intelligence, classified procedures, etc. In some cases I obscured one or two details to make sure that Into A Raging Blaze would be useless – as intelligence, I mean. Your novel has a plot point whereby British agencies and GCHQ use cyber-spying to access private communications in European countries, even from governments. Was this based on fact when you wrote it, and if so, how did you come across the information? Sure, this is common practice. Just look at what Snowden revealed: NSA tapping the mobile phones of Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. My book basically outlines GCHQ’s mass surveillance programme code-named Tempora. I was not aware of the code name at the time I wrote the book, but knew something like this existed. That was in 2009. It was also in this period that NSA got enormously enhanced capacities to collect and store data, and later, to mine them. They were building big new facilities in Utah for data storage. As part of my job in the Foreign Ministry, I had the opportunity to learn how the signals intelligence agencies were organised, their methods, their technology. It was top secret back then; now you can find all about it on Google in an instant. Since you wrote the novel and it was published in Sweden, the world woke up to the same reality when Julian Assange published Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. What was the reaction to your book when this happened? A lot of readers were surprised by how close to reality my book actually was. Everyone who read it reacted with, ‘Wow, did you know about all this?’ Especially since the depth of the partnerships between NSA, GCHQ and the Swedish signals intelligence agency FRA was revealed later that year. Then even political op ed's in the main Swedish papers started using my book as a starting point for discussing the surveillance scandal, which thrilled me. The Swedish agency took a lot of criticism for being mixed up in the mass surveillance revealed by Snowden, and my story pointed towards precisely this partnership. It´s called Five Eyes, by the way. Al Gore has now come out in support of Snowden. What do you think of Snowden’s and Assange’s actions, and the reaction to them? I completely agree with Al Gore's statement. Snowden has done everyone a great service. Leaking classified information is always damaging someone, and sure, if it’s being revealed to the public, there is a risk of jeopardizing national security or hampering operations that can save lives. But when state agencies like the NSA or GCHQ operate massive systems that violate the basic civil rights of millions of innocent people, and do so without any democratic control, you end up with a state within the state; an omnipotent machine working outside the boundaries of democratic society, and that is very dangerous. That cannot be tolerated in an open, democratic, rule of law-based society. Assange created the platform for leaks, and Snowden provided the content. How uncomfortable it ever may be for state agencies and corporate executives, I think society will always need whistle-blowers like them. That the intelligence community reacts with horror is no surprise. Disappointing, but not a surprise at all, is the way the Obama administration is pursuing whistle-blowers like Snowden and Manning, in spite of their rethoric about openness. What is most worrying is the complacency of the public. But I think this is due to the fact that we, the ordinary internet users, have no alternative to the internet. Even though our digital lives are being monitored we have no real way to protest, since you can't really say, ‘Hey, I'll stop using the internet and go buy some other product!’ In a way, it shows the limits of consumer power. What is needed are sound state policies that put citizen rights first. The leaked documents in your novel are plans for a Europe-wide intelligence service that would not only cross borders, but skirt national and international law in the name of counter-terrorism. Are there any signs that this is a real possibility, and what would you consider are the major risks of such an operation? The idea came to me when I learned about the US drone warfare in Pakistan. There you have exactly this situation. The US Air Force fly thousands of drone missions for the CIA over Pakistan every year. They fly wherever they want, target whomever they want, regardless of Pakistani law, and probably also in violation of international law. What if drone missions were carried out over UK soil, with the silent approval of the British government and the EU? That is the question I hope my book raises. Even more chilling is that the US administration also targets its own citizens, putting not only foreigners but Americans on so-called 'kill lists'. This practice not only violates basic rights of individuals, but weakens the judicial system, and corrodes the trust we put in our governments. It's a disturbing development. Your fictional ‘European Intelligence Service’ had a clause allowing American services to launch attacks within European borders if they could justify a potential threat. Your novel shows convincing ‘threats’ can easily be created from little evidence. Do you think that US intelligence services pushes the boundaries of acceptable strategy, and how much are European services in thrall to them? Yes, well, you know, intelligence services are masters of fabrication and betrayal. To fabricate ‘threats’ to support wars and other foreign policy adventures are textbook tactics. Just think of the introduction to the Iraqi war, and the massive fabrication of ‘threats’ back then. Or the last and current US administration's circumvention of international law, in order to justify huge counter-terrorism operations. Today, the Obama administration have moved more towards extrajudicial assinations, drones and special forces operations, and the CIA, together with parts of the US military, like the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have turned into smooth war machines. What if it would lie in the interests of the US to launch the same counter-terrorism operations they carry out in Afghanistan or northern Pakistan in the heart of Europe, and the EU would condone it? That question lies at the core of my book. It's fiction, but at the same close to reality. Because all intelligence services depend more or less on each other. You trade intel, you build alliances. The US service is the most powerful player, simply on the strength of their vast capacities. They can push boundaries to fit their objectives and cooperate with European services when it serves their interests. The Brits have a privileged position in this business, being very close to the US system, whereas the Swedes are just a minor, but useful partner. As I put it in Into A Raging Blaze: the Brits and Americans create the weather of tomorrow, while the Swedes are forced to guess the forecast. In the novel, a young Egyptian-born civil servant in the Swedish Ministry of Justice is suspected of being linked to a terrorist cell. How much do you think immigrated Arabs, North Africans and people of Islamic origin are at risk of being unjustly persecuted? Or is paranoia justified in the face of a terrorist threat? Intelligence services nurture professional paranoia, and rightly so; it’s part of their job description to be suspicious. But in the today’s era of counter-terrorism, with its strong focus on Islamic fundamentalism, whole Muslim minorities run the risk of being regarded as a ‘problem’, or an environment conducive to political violence and terrorism. When a security service try to pin down someone who might pose a terrorist threat, a large number of people are screened, which is standard procedure for all investigations. The problem is, with the mass surveillance currently in use, it is possible to screen literally millions, which means that whole populations of Muslims or immigrants – for example, everyone in the UK with the surename ‘Mohammad’ – could be routinely monitored. This is a depressing reality, and adds to the strong islamophobic tendencies we witness in Europe today. In the UK, John Le Carré’s novels were instrumental in forming the spy compromised group in opposition to the realpolitik practices of ‘big brother’ CIA. In your novel there’s a similar relationship, but between the Swedish and British, relatively. Is this a realistic portrayal? Yes, absolutely! The only difference is, Swedes are nicer because they are weaker and further down the food chain in global politics. If Swedish services had the same spying capacity as the colleagues in Vauxhall, not to mention Langley, they would be meaner, I'm sure. But there are historic reasons as well to why Swedish services are less ruthless than their AngloSaxon counterparts: we have not been forced to fight for our survival in World War II or fight terrorism at home; we have no recent colonial history, no real ambition to dominate the world – other than perhaps through exports of pop music, cars and crime novels. Swedish intelligence services are just small, efficient sub-suppliers in the global security business. It’s funny you mention LeCarré, since his latest novel A Delicate Truth is quite a turnaround where he portrays the British government and the MI6 as the corrupt and morally rotten ones, don't you agree? I hope Mr LeCarré nods in approval of my portrayal of the Swedish-British relationship. The recent European elections saw a surge in extreme right-wing groups gaining votes. Why do you think this is, and how might it affect counter-terrorism and relationships between diplomatic services? Oh, I just get depressed when I think about the recent EU-parliament election . . .The reasons for this can probably be found in the recent economic recession that plagued many European countries since the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008. Europe is being strongly affected by globalization, and financial crises with immediate repercussions in national economies, resulting in redunduncies and harsher everyday lives for a lot of people. This generates fear and hatred. When citizens don't feel that there is a social contract anymore, that there is no state to provide them with basic services, there is always a temptation to join the populist chant. It’s easy to blame immigrants, or a weak minority with no voice, like the Roma. Fascism offers a tempting dream of unity and strength. It’s an enthusiastic ideology, selling easy solutions. Unfortunately, a lot of people are lost in this dream nowadays. To diplomats, the appearance of right-wing extremists in leading positions around Europe complicates bilateral relations. Some relations will become frosty, new alliances will be made. For example, a social liberal democracy like Sweden cannot rely on support from Hungary or Denmark in the EU-council for its view on migration. And so on. For professionals in the intelligence services, an increase of militant right-wing extremists of course means more work, and in the long-term perhaps also a shift towards monitoring right-wing terrorist networks more closely. After the Utöya massacre and the bombing of the Norwegian government offices in 2012, this has certainly been the case with Norwegian and Swedish security services. What are you writing next? I have a book out in autumn, 9,3 på Richterskalan (9,3 on the Richter scale). It's an eyewitness account of my days in Thailand after the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. I was sent to Thailand as a member of some one the first response teams, being a young diplomat who just entered the service. My publisher calls it a harrowing read, I suppose it is. Right now, I'm writing the sequel to Into A Raging Blaze. You'll see more of Bente Jensen, this time in a family crisis with lethal consequences. Surveillance, counter-espionage, deadly lies and deception, all against the backdrop of the recent Crimea crisis. That’s about all I can tell you, the rest is classified!

Kari Hotakainen

Kari Hotakainen was born in 1957 in Pori, Finland. His breakthrough came in 1997 when he was nominated for the Finlandia Prize, which he later won in 2002. Hotakainen has also written children's plays, radio dramas, newspaper columns and television scripts. Owen T. Witesman is a translator from the Finnish and Estonian.