We all know Sweden gave the world ABBA and affordable furniture – we are grateful (I think…). But, more recently, the country and its neighbours have continued to see success stories across popular culture: from horror films to crime novels and hit singles.
No-one can ignore the phenomenal success (sadly posthumous) of Stieg Larsson’s novels about hacker and private investigator Lisbeth Salander, eponymous heroine of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The ‘Millennium’ trilogy has sold 27 million copies across 40 countries, and has a blockbuster film adaptation to boot. Since Larsson made Swedish crime fiction hot property, the profiles of other writers like Jo Nesbø have also been raised. Already well-known in his native country, his novel The Leopard has triumphed in the UK charts this summer. In all cases, Sweden itself features as a major character in these books: contemporary culture and rugged landscapes – it seems British readers can’t get enough.
Continuing to showcase Scandinavia’s stunning scenery is a film from neighbouring Norway, recent ‘found footage’ horror, The Troll Hunter. Though the title may suggest something more along the lines of Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus… after critical success, it has been subtitled for English audiences. Meanwhile, in 2008, Sweden provided a much appreciated counter-point to the angsty hysteria surrounding all things Twilight, with sophisticated vampire thriller, Let The Right One In.
To return to our favourite lycra-clad quartet, Mamma Mia (the film version with Pierce Brosnan’s singing…) brought ABBA’s music to a new generation, but Sweden’s influence on popular music goes beyond Dancing Queen and Chiquitita… Modern-day exports include Robyn, and Swedish House Mafia, who teamed up with with Tinie Tempah last year to reach no.4 in the charts with ‘Miami to Ibiza’. Less visible, however, are the Swedes working behind the scenes in the music industry, crafting hits for the stars that dominate the Top 40. Producer Max Martin is responsible for Britney’s early hits, and has worked with Usher, Pink and Celine Dion (to name a few). He’s also behind most of Katy Perry’s tracks, five of which from her second album Teenage Dream topped the US Billboard Hot 100 – the only other artist to achieve this feat (5 No.1s from the same album) was Michael Jackson – impressive or disconcerting?
But even if you’re not a Top 40 mega-fan, it’s clear Sweden is a force to be reckoned with in contemporary culture, producing sophisticated artistry, as well as thoroughly mainstream bed side tables. Absolut anyone?