Balkan Noir ― the Newest Literary Trend?

Alibi at the Frankfurt Book Fair

To promote the BalkaNoir anthology, published by Kataniotis Editions in June, the Hellenic Foundation for Culture organized a panel about Balkan Noir at this year’s biggest book fair in the world.

The speakers were Vassilis Danellis and Yannis Ragos, Greek writers and editors of the anthology, Bogdan Hrib, Romanian writer and publisher (Editura Tritonic), Ivan Sršen, Croatian writer and publisher (Sandorf) and the humble little me.
The story of Balkan Noir began seven years ago when Bogdan and Yannis discussed Nordic Noir over a beer in Zürichu and they were wondering if any Balkan variant of the genre existed.
When we created the Alibi in 2015, I didn’t have a clue there was such a thing as Balkan Noir (or BalkaNoir, as the Greek editors called it) until Vassilis upon the recommendation from a certain literary translator invited me to contribute a story for the anthology he was working on.
His goal was to invite three writers from each Balkan country (just a piece of Slovenia actually lies on the Balkans but belongs there because of our former bigger homeland), and the book was supposed to get published with a publisher from Turkey, who later changed his mind. He and Yannis decided to find another (Greek) publisher, Kastaniotis Editions.
Back then I invited him to attend the Alibi’s second edition.
A year later I visited a little bookshop in Pula where I stumbled upon another interesting anthology. Zagreb Noir, a book from the legendary Noir Series by the Akashic Books consisting of more than 80 books, was edited by Ivan Sršen.
Then the TV series Shadows over Balkans created by Dragan Bjelogrlić came to our screens – noir which is based on some historical facts between WWI and WWII.
Even later I found out about Series Balkans, a non-profit cultural association that promotes writers, screenwriters and directors in the region and organizes festivals. And just a while ago I met Cal Smyth on Social Media. He’s an author who blends Jo Nesbø and Mankell to create a perfect slice of Balkan Noir – the quote taken from his novel The Balkan Route. Cal is a Welsh guy who’s lived and worked in Belgrade. He’s working on a traveling festival concept which should happen every year in a different place and promote regional writers. It’s going to be called – you’ve guessed it – Balkan Noir.
During the discussion in Frankfurt, we confirmed the existence of the genre and many initiatives to connect creators. Ivan established that crime and noir fiction are an important part of social literature, and Yannis, BalkaNoir co-editor was excited about the desire of writers to experiment and breaking genre boundaries, where we explicitly differ from Nordic or American noir, which is founded upon a certain formula.
Balkan Noir is the thing, and Alibi is becoming an important part of the movement.

BalkaNoir panel at the Greek booth at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

BalkaNoir panel at the Greek booth at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

Renato Bratkovič, Bogdan Hrib, Ivan Sršen, Yannis Ragos and Vassilis Danellis

Renato Bratkovič, Bogdan Hrib, Ivan Sršen, Yannis Ragos and Vassilis Danellis

Vassilis Danellis, Yannis Ragos and Renato Bratkovič

Vassilis Danellis, Yannis Ragos and Renato Bratkovič

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