Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Death,detective fiction and the meaning of life

"Death was darkness, there was not light to be found there. Death was attics and cellars, it smelled raw, of mice and soil, and loneliness."
Henning Mankell, Kennedy's Brain - translated by Laurie Thompson.

I spend large parts of my life (and rather too much of my income) searching out, buying and reading detective fiction - known as "polars" in French or "Krimis" in German. Losing myself in a book was one of the few ways I could switch off from the pressures, pleasures and stresses of parish ministry. Because crime novels are not serious reading it also gives me a gentle guilty thrill to be reading something rather frivolous.
A German colleague once told me that he thought clergy enjoyed detective fiction because of the relatively straightforward resolution of ethical issues, and the classic combat between good and evil. Which just goes to show it really is pure escapism from parish and church politics, real life tends to not find such easy resolution. But reading it is great therapy.
Of course once about 10 years ago I did begin to try writing a bit of clergy detective fiction myself. This too was pure therapy. A difficult member of my eldership occurred as a corpse on page one. The sleuth was a female cleric called, rather predictably perhaps, Gloria, but I never did get beyond page three I think.
So I have to admit that the gentle idle pleasures of reading not entirely serious literature sometimes gives added meaning to my life. And of course some of the better crime novels have serious, campaigning themes to them as well - Kennedy's Brain is one.
Perhaps one day I'll be driven to write again and Gloria will rise from the ashes of my rather lurid clerical imagination.


Lac19 said...

I too love detective/crime fiction, especially in its hard-boiled version. Have you read Jim Thompson?

Jane said...

Thanks Lac 19 - no I haven't read Jim Thompson - as far as I kew he used to be the bishop of bath and wells and then died - fomrer bishop of Stepney
Tell me more about the crime-writing thompson

But have oyu read Roma Termini which is all about death in the Ecu centre?

Tom said...

Here's the plot of Roma Termini:

Renato Bernhard and his girlfriend Maria Carmen are lying in the garden of a house above Lake Lugano. Suddenly they find they are not alone. A stranger is standing in front of them. Monsignor Domingo Guzman y Federico Oliveira, second secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who is there on behalf of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Renato, a former Roman Catholic priest and Reformed pastor, is known to both Rome and Geneva. His promising theological careeer came to grief twenty years ago because of a Roman count, in whose daughter the young cleric had fallen in love. He allowed himself to be taken on as a missionary on a boat on the Amazon without realising the hot goods that were on board ... Now he is has been chosen for a delciate mission. He has to help a a charismatic but politically inexperienced archbishop of the Church enforce order in a South American country torn apart by drug cartels and a liberation front. And this with the explicit blessing of the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

About the Author

Ulrich Knellwolf, born 1942, grew up in Zurich and Olten. He studied Protestant theology. Until 1996 he worked as pastor at the Predigerkirche in Zurich, and since then for the Foundation Diakoniewerk Neumunster in Zollikon. He has received many awards for his novels and short stories.

Lac19 said...

About Jim Thompson a good starting point is Wikipedia.
I have read several of his novels and he's very good. I haven't read (yet) his masterpiece: The Killer Inside Me. It gives me something to look forward to when I go to work.

Haven't read Roma Termini. There was another novel whose plot included the WCC, I think the title is The Word. But the account of it in Wikipedia doesn't even mention the WCC.

A working hypothesis for a research project: the decline of the WCC in the 'world public opinion' (something that needs careful definition) is contemporary to its disappearance from the popular fiction literature (also: definition needed).

Of course, the research should not only prove this but explain why. I leave you the idea; I'm in a generous mood this morning.