November 07th, 2010
Stilton author Torsten Pettersson is doing great in Italy with his debut novel L'Alfabetista. The following interview with Torsten Pettersson was done by Irene Pecikar, who writes on Italian book blog

Welcome to the blog “Tutto sui libri” (Everything about Books) and thank you for your availability.

Thank you for your kind interest.

Your debut novel is a cruel and ruthless thriller which has obtained great success in Scandinavia and is now due to be published in other countries: “A – The Alphabetist”, the first part of a trilogy. How did the idea for this enthralling plot originate?

I have always enjoyed well-made plots, whether they occur in a nineteenth-century French “well-made play”, a “Racconto romano” by Moravia or a film like Seven. Some five years ago I was inspired to start constructing plots myself. One of the beginnings was a single situation: what happens if a person finds a newly dug grave in the forest and realizes it has been prepared for a dead human body? He reports it to the police but they do nothing so he has to do something himself. What kind of a person does he need to be in order to have the courage to watch the grave himself, waiting for the killers to bring the body? That was one starting point, adn then this plot was combined with the actions of other people to produce a complex pattern of interfering wills and aspirations. The result, after years of work, was A. L’alfabetista.
It gives me pleasure to develop such plot patterns and then, during the writing, try to be like the detective and the reader and forget that I know what is going to happen. At the same time I find it fascinating to get to know my characters: the mysterious feeling that, although I have created them, they are independent live people whose personalities I gradually uncover.

Yours is a very original point of view, is the narrating voice really that of the killer? How has it been to penetrate and analyse the mind of such a pitiless killer?

Yes, the first narrating voice is indeed that of the killer and it occurs more than once in the novel. This means that the reader is placed in the mind of the killer but without knowing who he or she is! It is an unusual and a scary effect but I believe that the human imagination, both the writer’s and the reader’s, can stretch that far. Perhaps all human minds contain something of other minds, good and bad; in novels we share that secret.
In this book, the imagination stretches in other directions too: one narrating voice is that of the main detective, but two others are those of the killer’s victims, a young woman and an elderly man who narrate their life stories. In this way readers can really enter into their lives and feel the tragedy of those pulsating lives being brutally cut short.
Generally speaking, I feel very close to the readers when I write. I experience a constant dialogue with them, a need to take them through the world of the novel in a way that offers as much as possible of excitement, astonishment and human insight. It is in fact a misunderstanding that the writer’s profession is a lonely one. In a superficial sense, I am alone at my computer, but in my thoughts I communicate with the readers all the time, much as a person writing a letter thinks of its recipient.

An obligatory question for the blog: Who is Torsten Pettersson in everyday life?

My life is to a considerable extent defined by my involvement in literature. I am a professor of literature at Uppsala University in Sweden, the oldest university in Scandinavia. This means that I read and analyse literary works from many countries on my own, to produce research on them, and together with my students, to train them do the same. I also produce literature myself: nine collections of poetry before I was inspired to start writing novels some five years ago.
Thus my life is very much taken up with writing books and planning new books in my head. I am happy when this goes well and less happy when I have difficulty writing. However, I also have a precious hobby: music, and in particular opera. I spend a lot of time listening to CDs and going to the opera. Among other works, the great operas of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, and Puccini, are a constant and important presence in my life. Not many days go by without my listening to them or at least thinking about them.

As a reader and a professor, which book do you carry in your heart and why?

Let me take the liberty of giving an answer that embraces both my great interests, literature and music: Don Carlo by the German eighteenth-century writer Friedrich Schiller – and by Giuseppe Verdi. It is a great classic play of bitterness and lost love, of political oppression and revolt, and it is a very great opera. In terms of music, it has competitors like Rigoletto and La Traviata, but in terms of complex, convincing, and deeply moving human characters and destinies, it has a unique power.

Have you any other literary project in progress? Can you tell us anything in advance?

I continue work on the trilogy of which A – L’alfabetista forms the first part (original title: “Give me your eyes”). The second part called “Hide me in your heart” has just been published in Swedish. Here Police Commissioner Harald Lindmark and his team are confronted with a new disturbing case: when the mother of a nine-year old girl goes to wake her for school, she is not in her bed. I also have another literary project, that of translating Finnish poetry into Swedish to create an anthology which allows Scandinavian readers access to a rich tradition of which they are now unaware.

Thank you very much for your time; I send you my best regards. Do you want to add anything else?

Merely to offer many thanks for your questions which have encouraged me to reflect on aspects of the things that I care about.

October 28th, 2010
Torsten Pettersson’s first novel The Eye Catcher has been published in Italian as A. L’alfabetista by Newton Compton, 2010. The book quickly entered the best seller list and has got some great reviews:

“The plot is superb. A perfectly constructed thriller, one piece of a mosaic next to the other, with dense seams and a subtle and surprising logic. [The book] holds you enthralled, in constant expectation of the next blow, the following inspiration.” TTL / La Stampa

“[L’Alfabetista] has quickly entered the Italian list of bestsellers. It is a first novel written by a university professor in Uppsala already enrolled in the company of masters of the thriller arriving from the cold. More fierce than Henning Mankell, this is the first book in a trilogy and it bodes well.” Io donna

“...refined style and chocking and unexpected solution...” Il tempo

August 31st, 2010
Torsten Pettersson's debut crime novel Ge mig dina ögon will be published this Autumn in Italy under the name L'Alfabetista. The Italian title is inspired by the plot of the novel. The woman has been strangled, her eyes have been gouged out of the sockets, and the murdered has carved the letter A on her abdomen. The detective chief inspector has barely got started with the investigation, when yet another murder victim is discovered in the village this time with letter on the murdered body as well.

I like the Nordic atmosphere on the cover. No wonder Scandinavian attributes have lately become pretty popular on the crime fiction scene.

June 22nd, 2010
By Tiina Kristoffersson

Torsten Pettersson's debut crime novel Ge mig dina ögon (Donne-moi tes yeux in French) is going to published in France these days. The translation is done by Carine Bruy.

Ge mig dina ögon is a story that at first sight starts as an ordinary thriller, but quickly evolves into an extraordinary philosophical study of the human mind.

January 31st, 2010
Torsten Pettersson, född 1955, har under mer än halva sin akademiska karriär varit rotad i Sverige. Sedan början av 1990-talet är han professor i litteraturvetenskap i Uppsala. Pettersson har skrivit nio diktsamlingar, en volym noveller och en kriminalroman Ge mig dina ögon.

Av Torsten Pettersson

Jag skriver detta på övertid. I kväll skulle jag egentligen sitta på operan i München men jag har fått lite extra skrivtid.

Visst var jag på väg till München. Vi startade enligt tidtabell och allt gick bra – i en halvtimme. Då började flygplanet skaka. Vi fick en vibrationsmassage för hela kroppen som när man sitter på en brummande bussmotor. ”En ovanlig form av turbulens”, tänkte jag. ”Eller små föroreningar i bränslet.” Och mycket riktigt: efter några minuter gick det över.

Men det berodde bara på att den ena av planets motorer hade stängts av. Det var den som hade börjat vibrera oroväckande, av skäl som piloten medgav att han inte kunde förklara. Redan innan något meddelades såg jag på molnen att vi började gira till vänster. Sedan fick vi höra att vi måste återvända.

Alla tog det förvånansvärt lugnt och personalen var programmatiskt avslappnad och på gott humör. ”Vi flyger med bara en motor, men det är en ovanligt bra motor”, sade den leende pursern till mig. ”Det går alldeles utmärkt att flyga med en motor”, försäkrade piloten i högtalarna, men pursern tillstod att det var detta som förorsakade planets underliga ryckningar i sidled. De var inte starka men onormala och ständigt återkommande.

Min tanke: detta är en farlig halvtimme! Vägen tillbaka. Pekar inte vår färdriktning underligt mycket nedåt redan nu? Det är inte omöjligt att vi… att det inte går bra.

Inför landningen fick vi höra att vi skulle mötas av brandkåren och annat alarmpådrag. Bara så vi visste. Det är rutin.

Att vi… Det är inte omöjligt.

Landningen gick normalt och vi kom tillbaka in i terminalen genom samma gate nr 10 som vi hade startat från. Där lästes våra namn upp för ombokning i två grupper. Tillsammans med de andra skyndade jag till servicecentret men valde att bokas om till ett flyg först följande dag. Alltså har jag extra tid att sitta hemma och skriva detta.

Det är väl så som vi alla lever: på övertid. Därför att den där stora istappen landade tre meter bakom oss; och bilen som kom så plötsligt från höger hann bromsa; och någon annan var en på tio som får cancer av det som vi alla äter och andas.

Så jag åkte inte till München i dag. För att jag efter landningen var lite skakad, mer än jag hade föreställt mig då jag ibland tänkte på möjliga tillbud i luften.

Men mest för att förseningen gick över en kritisk gräns. Jag skulle ändå ha missat min kväll på operan.

June 15th, 2009
Av Tiina Kristoffersson (Stilton Finland)

Det blåser och regnar i Esbo till den milda grad att man inte skulle bli förvånad om man såg gubben Noak glida förbi med sin ark utanför fönstret. Mitt i detta oväder har jag bestämt mig för att stänga mig in i sommarstugan och läsa igenom litteraturprofessor Torsten Petterssons manuskript till hans nya spänningsroman som går under arbetsnamnet Göm mig i ditt hjärta. Jag började smygläsa igår kväll. Det är inte bara vädret som gör att man får rysningar. Boken börjar med att ett barn på nio år försvinner. Som mor till en tioåring tappar man lätt nattsömnen. Ändå kan man inte sluta läsa.

I väntan på att ni också ska få ta del av den nya romanen tycker jag att ni ska skaffa er Torsten Petterssons fantastiskt skrämmande (och intelligent!) deckare Ge mig dina ögon, vars rättigheter just sålts till Frankrike. Perfekt sommarläsning för ruskigt väder.