Jo Nesbø, at the Centro Andaluz de las Letras (CAL), an arts centre run by the regional ministry of culture. Migue Fernández
'King of crime' author Jo Nesbø: 'I decided to come to Malaga for the winter to climb and to write'
In the frame

'King of crime' author Jo Nesbø: 'I decided to come to Malaga for the winter to climb and to write'

Unafraid of being out of ideas, what worries him is being out of time to tell them. The master of the crime novel returns with The Night House

Regina Sotorrío


Friday, 1 March 2024, 15:58


–I understand you know Malaga well?

–Yes, I've had an apartment in Malaga since last year. I only stay a few months during the winter. I basically came to climb. I'm going to climb in El Chorro, but also many other places around Malaga.

–Why Malaga?

–Because I like it. I visited the city and fell in love with it. I met some climbers here and decided to stay. Until last year I would go every winter to southeast Asia to climb and write. So I decided it would be better to come to Malaga during the winter to climb and write here.

–So some of your next novels will be born here?

–With a bit of luck, yes.

–You climb, you're an ex-football player, you have a rock band and you write. Your life would also lend itself to a novel.

–No. I think that my life would be a very bad novel, a very boring novel. For any story to work, it's necessary to have a huge conflict. All great stories deal with great losses. That is what we look for in stories: suffering and loss. And I'm afraid that there's very little of that in my life.

–Maybe it wouldn't be a horror novel, but perhaps one of adventure?

–Yes, that's true. But if you ask Brazilians about the most significant moment in the history of football, they'll all say it was in 1950 when they lost against Uruguay in the final. The great tragedy; that is what awakens emotions. My story would deal with adventures that would have value to me. And I wouldn't write it. I started to do it because they asked me to, after managing, at the age of 60, to complete my project and reach climb grade 8a. They wanted me to write about how I spent three years working with this goal in mind, taking the same route time and time again. And I started, but I realised it was boring. You're focused on a goal, you make an effort and finally you reach it. There are no twists in this story. So no, I will limit myself to writing about beautiful losers like Harry Hole (the detective and main character in his famous crime series).

–In The Night House the reader is taken into the story through the eyes of a teenager, the marginalised and problematic one of the class. I'm curious to know what your adolescence was like. Did you mostly spend time with the weirdos or the popular kids?

–I think that I was more of an observer. But for some reason, I attracted bullies and the most eccentric characters in my school. I didn't have many friends, only a few, and they were like these strange characters and bullies. I remember when a classmate asked me one day "you're a good guy, how can it be that you have such terrible friends?" And I don't know. I answered that when you got to know them, they weren't so bad. And yes, they were. But they were also interesting. I find outsiders interesting. And Richard is probably the type of friend I had at school. There are many stories told from the perspective of the victim who takes revenge on his aggressor, yet this is a story from the point of view of the bully. But there is something deeper. He is a bully because he doesn't feel appreciated, because he feels like a loser.

–In your novels you portray the darkest side of people. Do you have any hope left in the human condition?

–Yes, definitely. There's more good than bad. But we all have the potential for bad inside of us. If I have a mission as a writer it is to force you to see from the point of view of the person you don't want to be, or who you wouldn't normally support. I think the reason is that I grew up with a father who fought with the Germans during the Second World War, being in the West, being a traitor. He wanted to fight with the Germans against the Russians because he was more scared of Stalin occupying Norway than of Hitler. When he told me what he did during the war, I was 15 and it was a shock for me. But it was also the start of a conversation that would last a lifetime, about good and bad, and about why you do what you do, why you make the decisions you make. And this is reflected in my books. I try to put you in the place of those you don't want to be.

Ever since he was a child

–In The Night House you reveal your childhood fears, but what scares you today?

–Going crazy, losing my sanity. That's my biggest fear. It's not something I feel can happen for the time being, but this would be my biggest fear. I've been afraid ever since I was a child. Even today I watch films with my girlfriend and she laughs at me. The other day she took a photo of me because we were watching the last season of True Detective and I was covering my eyes. It's always been like that.

–And you're not afraid of having nothing left to say?

–I don't think that will happen. What I fear the most is that time comes to an end, that I won't have enough time to write the stories I want to tell. Being realistic, this will happen. I'm worried about losing the ability to tell the stories I want to tell, but I don't see myself running out of ideas.

–Are you tired of the label 'king of crime'?

–No, I love it.

–It's a lot of pressure?

–Well, I don't think much about that. When I'm writing, the story is all that exists. There aren't readers, there aren't publishers, or agents, or media. It's only the story and me. It's always been like that. I write about things that interest me, I try to write a story that I'd like to read. And when I've done it, I don't care if my book attracts few or many readers. I prefer to have a few readers for whom my stories mean a lot, than many readers who think that my stories are good.

–In the novel, Mrs Zimmer recommends Richard and his friend to "practise boxing and read poetry". Do you subscribe to this advice?

–Is that a quote from the novel? (I show it to him on the page and he reads it). It's frightening that I don't remember writing that, but yes it's good advice. And it's also good advice to forget quotes from your own book; then you can use them again later on without feeling bad.

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