I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the recording of the BBC World Book Club talking about The Redbreast with Jo Nesbø a couple of days ago. It was a great and rare experience being able to share the discussion of a book with none other than its author.
The presenter, Harriett Gilbert, started with the question we all wanted to ask: what is the correct pronunciation of his own and his protagonist’s name? After establishing that the English and Norwegian pronunciations don’t sound anything like each other, it was agreed to use the ‘English’ version, which was a relief!
The discussion started with a very frank recollection of Jo’s youth when his father told him about his own role as a German supporter in the Second World War and his harrowing experiences, which shaped the background of the book, the first in the Harry Hole series which currently runs to eight with the latest The Leopard.
More questions from the audience in the room, as well as on the phone and by email, brought to light an extremely talented and multifarious personality: a former stockbroker, a musician and an undoubtedly talented writer all in one. We also learnt about the origin of the title, the real people behind Harry Hole, and the origin of the 'apple' instrument of torture described in his latest book, The Leopard.
Jo’s thoughts on writing were perhaps the most anticipated of the discussion: we talked about his occasional plot strands left hanging (reflecting real life, where there isn’t closure on everything), about when he started writing, when he realised that the book was becoming a series, and why Scandinavian crime is so popular.
Although Jo doesn’t like to know the personality of the storyteller (for example, he says he doesn’t read his friends’ books) as this ‘stands in the way of the story’, he wasn’t reluctant to tell us more about himself, his experiences of life and of writing The Redbreast: why the Northern European detectives seem to be all gloomy and depressed, what writers influenced him, and the process of working out the plot of the book.
He commented on the possible end of the series but didn’t give away anything to the fans: we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled for the next book!
The programme will be broadcast on Saturday 2 April for BBC World Book Club. Don’t miss it!