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A Very English Murder

Marzo 2010
Perchè i capolavori di Agatha Christie, le avventure di Sherlock Holmes e il mito di Jack the Ripper vengono tutti dall’Inghilterra? Sophie Hannah è un astro nascente della letteratura gialla. E spiega la passione degli inglesi per le storie criminose con un’interessante teoria.

di Mark Worden

File audio:

Sophie Hannah
Sophie Hannah

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

Thanks to Arthur Conan Doyle, the Scotsman who created Sherlock Holmes, and the very English Agatha Christie, who gave us Miss Marples, the British have a great reputation when it comes to crime fiction. And, it seems, they have a colourful image in terms of real-life crime and for this we have to thank characters like Jack the Ripper.
In terms of fictional crime at least, the tradition lives on. The latest example comes in the form of Sophie Hannah, who has published four best-selling thrillers so far: Little Face, Hurting Distance, The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives.
Several of these books have been published in Italian by Garzanti. When Sophie Hannah met with Speak Up we asked her about the English and crime:

Sophie  Hannah (Standard British/mild northern accent):

In terms of committing crime, I’m not sure the English commit more or better crimes than any other nationality. I mean, they may do, but I just don’t know whether they do or they don’t, but I think that because crime and detective fiction is such a staple of English life, I can see why other people think that the English are a very “crimey” sort of lot. English people feel that way about Scandinavians now because there’s so much Scandinavian crime. We all sort of think, “Oh, I wouldn’t want to go to Sweden, you’d probably get murdered!” But I think… I don’t know, the connection between the English and crime is kind of so interesting because the English are perceived by, particularly by Europeans, as being quite formal and “stiff upper lip,” and, you know, having tea with the vicar and terribly polite and so crime in that context seems more shocking, whereas I mean, I’m not so sure about Germans or Austrians, but certainly French, Spanish and Italian people are perceived as being more sort of passionate and more open, so I suppose one would imagine that crimes committed in those countries would be more crimes of passion. I suppose the thing that all the countries have in common is crimes where the motive is profit-related: anyone of any nationality might commit a crime to make more money, but in terms of sort of more personally-motivated crimes, I suppose people associate with the English that sort of very planned, calm, secret kind of, you know, “I’m going to put some poison in his Earl Grey tea”: I think that’s more an English thing.

serial killers

Sophie Hannah then talked about some famous British murderers:

Sophie  Hannah:

Certainly in England there have been sort of crimes that have stuck in people’s imaginations: I mean, Jack the Ripper, the Yorkshire Ripper, more recently, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, Fred and Rosemary West, Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr, the Soham murders. I think there are specific things that make crime stick in people’s mind(s), whether it’s that the victims are all prostitutes, or it’s a couple committing the murders, something that just lifts it above the normal run of things, and yes, there certainly do seem to be a lot of those in England, which is probably quite worrying!
I think maybe because the English are sort of quite repressed and bothered about how things seem. There’s a lot more negative stuff that people try to bury and then it erupts in a lethal way, whereas, maybe in other countries, people are just much more upfront about their feelings, and, if you can be openly angry or annoyed, or disappointed, then you might not feel the need to kill anybody because you can get it out of your system in a more healthy way.

If you want to listen to more of our interview with Sophie Hannah, click here


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Glossary

crime fiction - romanzi gialli.

fictional - di fantasia.

staple - caposaldo, elemento importante.

are a very “crimey” sort of lot - sono gente molto “criminosa”.

you’d probably get murdered - è probabile che ti ammazzano.

perceived - percepiti.

“stiff upper lip” - v. Speak Up explains.

polite - educati.

poison - veleno.

Jack the Ripper... - v. Speak Up explains.

that make crime stick in people’s minds - che fanno sì che i crimini rimangano in mente.

something that just lifts it... things - qualcosa che lo renda diverso dalla normalità.

bothered about how things seem - preoccupati delle apparenze.

there’s a lot more... to bury - (gli inglesi) tendono a reprimere molte più cose negative.

upfront about their feelings - sinceri su ciò che pensano.

angry or annoyed - arrabbiato o infastidito.

in a more healthy way - in modo più sano.