I picked up in Stockholm the latest Swedish crime sensation, Aldrig Fucka Upp (Aldrig means “Never”; the rest is quite easy for English speakers to work out). The author is a criminal lawyer in Stockholm, Jens Lapidus; it’s set in and around the immigrant criminal underground. It is written. In short sentences: men like them. Fuck. Yeah.
Actually, the language is the most credible part of it. The gangster characters speak a Swedish argot with some turkish or arabic terms, but mostly full of American gangster slang. The word “blatte” (more or less “Nigger”) gets used a lot. Much of this sounds wholly credible to my ears, as does the scene where a woman probation officer is talking to a criminal uninterested in mending his ways.
But the rest is just a mess of stereotypes. The author was recommended me by a very aristocratic Swedish banker who took me to lunch at Brooks’s club to discuss FiU, and who said that it was the only treatment he knew of the immigrant criminal class, though he was thinking of the earlier book Snabba Cash. I still haven’t read that, and nothing in Aldrig Fucka Upp makes me want to: of the three main characters, two are pure recycled cardboard — the Swedish mercenary who has come back from Iraq with PTSD, and the Joseph Wambaugh style cop who is bitter, thuggish, a but crooked, but really hates criminals and will, I can see, team up with the unlikely buddy from the Internal Affairs division. So why should I believe in the blatte gangster?
Obviously, the popularity of these books tells me an immense amount about what Swedes think of their own society and of crime and immigrants. Equally, the fact that no one else has written about the subject (correct me if I’m wrong) is also telling. But I wish I could rely on what was being said, and I can’t.