Reviewed by Anna Tebelius in SBR 2013:1
Illustrated by Ragnar Persson
Today, when Scandinavian crime fiction is all the rage, I wonder what fans of Nordic noir would make of the avantgarde poet Pär Thörn and the artist Ragnar Persson’s strange addition to the genre. It contains familiar ingredients: a murder, disaffected youths and a seemingly sinister sub-culture. The setting is the Swedish ‘black metal’ music scene, with its overtones of neo-Nazism and Germanic neo-paganism. Some crime writers have already explored these rather juicy themes.
However, what Thörn and Persson offer the reader is not just another page-turner. Their slim publication documents the murder of the singer and guitarist Robert Risberg, member of the black metal band Satanic Red Storm. The murderer is Stefan Persson, the singer of a rival Aryan black metal band, Asmodeus SA. The crime is presented in a series of extracts from interrogation protocols, interviews with band members and other black metal groups, excerpts from magazines, descriptions of the murder weapon and of various police procedures, lyrics, letters written by Persson from prison and descriptive snapshots of the crime scene.
The second part of the book also contains drawings, posters and paraphernalia, all created around the explicit imagery of the black-metal culture. There is even a photo of the blood-dripping murder weapon. Such is the attention to detail in describing this particular sub-culture and so factual do the documents seem that a feeling of unease might arise within the reader. Is this a description not of a fictive murder but rather of a true crime? Are these documents in fact authentic, brought together by the authors?
Thörn and Persson parody our fascination with crime and play with the conception of what is real by creating a sort of reality fiction. Together with verifiable elements and explanatory footnotes, they invent a constructed reality based on imitation. Its fragmented structure unsettles the reader and reflects on what is art, through both its own form and its content. I imagine it is the only ‘crime fiction’ that ends by quoting Walter Benjamin’s essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936) ‘… [Mankind’s] self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure...’ REALITY TRANSCRIBED is perhaps such an experiment. It is an interesting and provocative read as well as a literary experiment that in its fiction veers close to reality and its obsessions.