Putting the ø back into Jo Nesbø

The high profile afforded the movie Headhunters since its release just under a year ago doesn’t entirely surprise us. Jo Nesbø, the writer whose book forms the basis of the film, seems to have been an accomplished practitioner in at least five different fields to date, with forays into crime fiction, children’s fiction and rock music following his previous lives as a professional footballer with Norwegian league club Molde and as a financial analyst with an MBA.

The Harry Hole detective series surely demonstrates in illustrious fashion that Nesbø is a polymath of real substance, not just a reasonably good jack-of-all-trades with very good self-promotion skills. The Hole books are bona fide thrillers with a political and social dimension not dissimilar to that in Stieg Larsson’s much-feted Millennium trilogy; at the same time, the very indefinite, ongoing status of the Hole series has perhaps given Nesbø leverage to bring low-key subtleties and sensibilities into his descriptions of everyday police life in Oslo.

Nesbø: yet another Nordic Renaissance Person

For his part, Harry Hole seems to us more of an Everyman figure than the roguish, slightly poster-boy rebel Mikael Blomkvist or the utterly idiosyncratic (yet heroic) Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium books. Like Kurt Wallander, you don’t like to think about what the obsessive yet lugubrious yet endearing Hole would be doing with his life were he not a detective; Worldly Scandifriend has an image of him sitting in a public library reading the newspapers and occasionally loudly sharing wisdoms that are too uncomfortable or too unfathomable for those around him.

There’s just one thing about Nesbø’s books that bugs us. Worldly Scandifriend has an English colleague who, like us, appears to have read the Harry Hole books addictively and swallowed them up like big chunks of ice cream. (They are, admittedly, compulsively readable; if you and/or your other half are presiding over an unfed cat, piles of dirty laundry and a small hill of unpaid bills, there’s every chance that one or both of you are reading Harry Hole books and being almost as obsessive as Hole himself.)

We digress. This colleague pronounces both syllables in ‘Hole’ when discussing the books. We hadn’t stopped to think about this previously, so it took us a little by surprise, but from what Norwegian we’ve studied, this seems to us far more authentic and correct than affording this word just the mere nasal monosyllable or pronouncing it like the Swedish for hole (ie hål, pronounced HAWL, sort of). Others have elaborated on the matter and we think they’re on the right track as well.

In other words, people are genuinely interested in the linguistics that underpin Scandinavian language content even after it is translated into the English. With this in mind, we ask one simple question of the English translations (or the front and spine of them, anyway):

Why Jo Nesbo? Why not Jo Nesbø?

Is it really too much of a typesetting nightmare to accommodate one simple accent, one alt 0248?

Surely, if Nesbø is the man’s real name, Nesbø he should be?

Søme cønsistency wøuld be nice øn this pøint

We won’t labour this one in case the man himself is pretty sanguine about this issue. But from a proofreading pedant’s perspective, we’re intrigued.

Can anyone help us out on this øne?

PS On a mea Scandifriend culpa note, we’re aware that not all the Icelandic accents (for starters) may have been painstakingly captured and charted in our previous posts. We’re more than happy to take it on the chin and correct these if anyone spots anything amiss (there or anywhere else). We’ll use our own initiative and check on our own at some point anyway…


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