As the famous myth of Cain and Abel reminds us, crime is at the heart of all human societies and civilisations. Some think that recent marketisation and globalisation trends have increased inequalities which give rise to higher crime rates. Others are more optimistic and emphasise today’s wider spectrum of opportunities. Whatever the view on this, two indisputable trends are emerging in the 21st century:
- much criminality happens at a global level;
- attraction to crime as a genre in entertainment is exponential, and reflects this contemporary international dimension.
Crime is more global because life and communication are more global of course. Countries collaborate beyond borders on a wide range of criminal issues, whether they transgress human rights or international law. The fact that most international organisations and conventions established to fight criminality on a global scale have appeared in the last twenty years is relevant of this development: from the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (2000), the European Crime Prevention Network (2001), the first permanent International Criminal Court (2002), the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2003)… to the planned European Public Prosecutor's Office organised attempts to tackle criminality within an international context are expanding.
As for crime entertainment, it is global in more than one way: it aims at a wide range of audiences and adapts admirably to foreign settings, thus giving exotic twists to the universal theme of violence. In 2013 the French thriller The Returned (Les Revenants) beat its rivals The Killing (Forbrydelsen), Borgen and Spiral (Engrenages) in audience ratings. It attracted more than 1.5 million viewers for its debut and was the highest-rated subtitled drama in at least 10 years. There are of course popular crime series produced in English and translated into other languages, but they are created in a range of languages and open a window on to cultural diversity.
In this context, this JoSTrans issue, guest-edited by Karen Seago, Jonathan Evans and Begoña Rodriguez, is a brave attempt to offer a wide perspective on crime in translation in the 21st century, as the following introduction makes clear. They do so through a range of articles but also lively interviews held by Karen Seago with crime fiction authors and translators. So, on this occasion, JoSTrans takes off its specialised cloak to flirt with literature, but is it a crime?