The Foreign in International Crime Writing

Carolina Miranda, Barbara Pezzotti, Jean Anderson (eds), The Foreign in International Crime Writing: Transcultural Representations, Continuum, June 2012

Foreigner_in_InternationalThe Foreign in International Crime Writing sheds light on the fascinating issues generated by the study of transcultural crime writing.  There is a lot of recent evidence that this is emerging as one of the liveliest and most widely debated topics in contemporary crime fiction criticism.  As the editors argue, crime fiction by its very nature “lends itself to exposing, denouncing, addressing, and constructing Otherness,” and, with heightened multiculturalism, “the genre is able to negotiate issues of belonging, difference, hybridity and national and regional identities.”  This is a rich and significant theme to explore, and this is a collection that makes a very valuable contribution to its understanding.

The real strength of this collection is the unusual range of ‘transcultural aspects’ covered.  It is impressive to see a group of essays that takes in Anglo-Indian, Spanish, Italian and Argentinian crime writing, Pacific Island thrillers, Australian film and television, French and Cuban noir, Turkish communities in Germany, Chinese characters in Cuba, Shanghai mysteries and a Maori detective.  The topics discussed include the subversion of detective fiction codes, stereotyping, essentialisation, contrasting cultural identities, Cold War conceptions of ‘home’ and ‘abroad’, gobalization, indigenous versus non-indigenous writers, Fascist views of ‘foreignness’ and other wartime representations.  This is, in its sheer diversity, a stimulating and important selection of essays.

The editors provide a thoughtful, detailed overview of the collection, giving close attention to unifying ideas and arguments:  they give readers a strong sense of how the essays can be read in relation to one another, drawing connections amongst the contributions that very effectively illuminate this complex topic and create coherence in the collection as a whole.

The structure of the collection serves to locate overarching topics that create a strong framework for the essays, bringing to the fore the themes articulated in their introduction. The essays are grouped under three main headings: ‘Inside Out or Outside In,’ examining point of view and the crucial question of whether a text is written by an insider or an outsider;  ‘Private Eyes, Hybrid Eyes,’ on the creation of ‘hybrid detectives’ whose role ‘acknowledges cultural multiplicity’; and ‘When Evil Walks Abroad – Towards a Politics of Otherness,’  which considers the political motivations behind the fictional constructions of adversaries and enemies. The categories employed have the advantage of combining key generic traits (for example, the representation of detectives and transgressors) with central thematic concerns, such as the exploration of prejudice, the politically-motivated construction of difference, and the characterization of minority groups in post-colonial societies and of dominant groups within multicultural societies.

The collection of essays is available from Amazon:

“The foreigner is a familiar character in popular crime fiction, from the foreign detective whose outsider status provides a unique perspective on a familiar or exotic location to the xenophobic portrayal of the criminal other. Exploring popular crime fiction from across the world. The Foreign in International Crime Writing examines these popular works as transcultural contact zones in which writers can tackle such issues as national identity, immigration, globalization and diaspora communities. Offering readings of 20th and 21st century crime writing from Norway, the UK, India, China, Europe and Australasia, the essays in this book open up new directions for scholarship on crime writing and transnational literatures.”

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