Nordic mysteries: language and crime

It rains a lot in Bergen. When it does, everything is grey. Sometimes when I look out of the window the clouds seem to embrace the mountains before devouring them. It’s a bit spooky because it reminds me of horror movies.

Another type of suspense can be found out in the town when I am trying to interact with the locals. It may come close to horror movies emotion-wise but mostly it’s just a matter of small embarrassing moments. Usually Finnish (which is not a Scandinavian language) is said to be a difficult language to master but I think that any language is hard when you try to express yourself in a nuanced way. For example, here in Norway they have a lot of dialects and my ear is not used to the pronunciation. I listen carefully and try to make most of what I understand.

The mysteries of a new language often reflect the way of thinking. Therefore, to learn a language is to learn something that is connected to you as a person. It gives you endless possibilities to show who you are even though most of the time we are happy with common phrases and routines. My passion has been the written word and books. Whenever I would read I would transfer to another place, another time, and to another way of feeling. In everyday life the world is full of interruptions, misunderstandings and our inability to connect with each other. That’s part of language: things that are not said, words left unspoken, silence.

I think language is more than just written words. Language is music, math, dance and so on. Nevertheless, I have found detective stories a good way of learning a new language. Usually they are easy to follow and you understand the narration and suspense. The world of “Nordic Noirs” is distinguishable. The mood is silent, dark and reduced.

As it often turns out, real life outweighs fiction. In Bergen one mystery continues to baffle people: the case of an unidentified woman, who was found burnt in Isdalen in 1970. The police were able to trace the steps of the mystery woman but could not determine who she was. Turned out that she had used multiple names and stayed at several hotels in Europe and Bergen with eight different passports. When found in the forest, all labels of her clothes had been cut off. To make things even more scary, she was found in an area that is called Death valley (Dødsdalen) with a vivid history related to horror stories.

The mystery was so intriguing that 47 years later the case was opened again. An investigative journalist and her team followed the old leads with the help of new technologies. You can watch the documentary in Norwegian here if you live in Norway or listen to the podcasts by BBC. There is even a Facebook group where eager “detectives” can share their speculations about what really happened in Death Valley on a grim November day in 1970.



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