Together with Sweden's Stieg Larsson and fellow Norwegian
Karin Fossum, Nesboe is one of the biggest stars of the Nordic
Noir genre that has enthralled legions of international readers
by exploring the darker side of these prosperous societies.
A former footballer, stockbroker, journalist and rock star,
Nesboe has sold more than 20 million copies in some 40 countries
worldwide. Hollywood has been knocking at the door and wants to
adapt several of his novels.
His latest book tells of a young man in prison who listens to
the confessions of other inmates and absolves them of their
sins. He escapes from jail when he finds out during a confession
a secret about his disgraced father.
"I wanted to build a story around the idea of an avengeful God
and the article of faith on Jesus as the executioner of an all
powerful God who judges who lives and who dies," he said.
"What if we took it seriously and saw an avengenful son who
exacts revenge for him and his father?" Nesboe, 54, told Reuters
in a cafe in his western Oslo neighborhood of Majorstua.
The book may have been Nesboe's way to explore his own
relationship with his father, especially his discovery as a
teenager that he had fought with the Germans on the eastern
Norway was occupied by Hitler's armies during the Second World
War. King Haakon VII and the government went into exile, while
at home Vidkun Quisling — whose last name is a byword for
traitor in English — set up a Nazi puppet government.
"This is something that has certainly a clear parallel to my own
discovery that my father fought with the Germans during World
War Two, which he told me when I was 15," said Nesboe.
"It is the same age, more or less, when Sonny (the book's main
character) discovers that his father had been a traitor. It
could be coincidence. Or it could be that I am unconsciously
writing about my own father."
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He remembers the shock he felt at the news. "He was a guy I truly
admired and respected. I remember, the first picture I got was of my
father wearing the German helmet. It was impossible for me to try to
"I had grown up in a generation watching war movies in which a
German soldier was the representation of evil. My father did not fit
the bill," he said.
The author is currently working on a new version of Macbeth that may
see Shakespeare's tragedy of power and murder set among cops in
1970s Norway or Scotland.
"Macbeth is a crime story. It is a story of murder and deceit to
begin with, and of power and greed," said Nesboe.
"I will probably put it in the 1970s. It will not be kings and
queens, but the fight over the position of chief of police ... It
could be in Oslo, it could be in a city anywhere. Or it could be in
Glasgow or Edinburgh."
The project is part of an international publishing initiative that
aims to retell the Bard's plays for a modern-day audience. Margaret
Atwood will adapt The Tempest. Jeanette Winterson will retell The
Nesboe said he would probably not use Shakespeare's own words, even
though he finds them "so poetic and powerful".
"It feels almost impossible to use the original dialogue and make
your own story," he said.
(Editing by Tom Heneghan)
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