30 de març de 2018

Macbeth by Jo Nesbø - review: King of Scandi noir tackles Shakespeare’s great tragedy

[Evening Standard, 29 march 2018]

Mark Sanderson

Nesbø's Macbeth is a gripping tale of vaulting ambition and proof that “blood will have blood”, says Mark Sanderson


Shakespeare's “something wicked this way comes” (Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1) is the banner under which all crime fiction marches. The actual line does not appear in Jo Nesbø’s re-imagining of the Scottish Play (indeed, few of Will’s words do: “tomorrow and tomorrow” is as much as we get) but there’s no shortage of horrid deeds.
Nesbø transfers the action to a sort-of-Scotland in the 1970s where brothels and casinos have replaced railways and schools. Inspector Macbeth — a sexually abused orphan who learned to throw daggers in a circus — heads the local SWAT team. His squeeze — a red-haired, blue-eyed cougar called Lady — runs the Inverness, an upmarket gambling den. She wants her man to become chief commissioner of police. What the ex-whore wants, she gets.
 There’s a lot more where that came from. Lady Macbeth knows “how tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me” — here, Lady’s already bashed out the brains of the baby that her own father sired on her. Such literalism and exaggeration raises the spectre of parody — and plodding paraphrase: “Is there simply no meaning? Perhaps we’re just detached sentences in an eternal chaotic babble in which everyone talks and no one listens.”
 If Nesbø’s Macbeth is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, it is still, for the most part, a gripping tale of vaulting ambition and proof that “blood will have blood”. 
Politicking policemen and desperate addicts — here the drug of choice is “brew” provided by a dealer known as Hecate — have long since formed his dramatis personae, yet it is the scenes between fathers and sons, such as Banquo and Fleance, that once again strike hardest. And Duff, who met Macbeth in the orphanage, is more like a father to him than a friend.
 Nesbø shows plenty of “strange intelligence” in the way his fair/foul farrago echoes the original. It opens and closes in grand cinematic style following a raindrop’s fall to earth (“It will be rain tonight. Let it come down.” Act 3, Scene 3) but there’s too much sententious talk in between. 
The stage, when the hurly-burly’s done, is strewn with corpses and yet you remain unmoved. What’s missing is tragedy.



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