Maj Sjöwall Obituary

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At the end of April, in a year that has sadly heralded a great many obituaries and broken up so many families, Maj Sjöwall, beloved crime fiction writer and translator, left us.

She died after a prolonged illness and is survived by three children and five grandchildren.

A renowned journalist and prolific translator, Sjöwall was perhaps best know as the co-creator of the Martin Beck series, which she wrote alongside her late third husband Per Wahlöö.

The novels were a unique project, a series of 10 which each took the reader a little further into the mind and work of its titular detective.

The novels went on to be an international success, and helped to pave the way for the dramatic popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction, also known as Nordic Noir, worldwide.

Thoroughly researched, the Martin Beck novels told the story of a damaged contemporary Swedish society and the depravity to which it had sunk. The authors made the novels into a unique blend of social commentary and gripping thriller, which would form the basis of the style of crime writing that we know and love today.

Their work influenced many of the greatest Scandinavian crime fiction authors of all time, including the incredible Henning Mankell.

With several children to care for, Sjöwall and Wahlöö always had limited finances, and often struggled to make ends meet. Like many of the best writers in the world, their poverty and struggles led them to create rich, fascinating works of fiction.

Today, the Martin Beck novels are renowned around the world, and have been turned into revered movies and TV shows, and have earned their creators many awards. Sjöwall, like many other creators, had cameos in the acclaimed Swedish TV series based on her books.

After the death of her collaborator and husband in 1975, Sjöwall went on to continue her work as a journalist and translator. She also published several books in collaboration with other acclaimed writers, showcasing her versatility and immense narrative skills.

In these dark times, it is a shame to lose yet another writer and valued member of society. The last Martin Beck novel was published 45 years ago, but to this very day the legacy of those incredible novels lives on. Unfortunately, neither of their creators do, but we should feel blessed that they lived fulfilling lives which gave us these phenomenal books and helped to push an entire genre of writing, Scandinavian crime fiction, onto the global literary stage.

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