Thursday, December 01, 2005

Film director sparks debate over origins of 'Harry Potter'

The latest movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is quite good, and people should see it. But it is no longer for children, and I didn't see as many 7-year-olds in the cinema as I did during the first one:

Film director sparks debate over origins of 'Harry Potter'

A Norwegian film director has sparked a debate in Norway over whether JK Rowling really is the enormously successful author who launched the Harry Potter craze, or whether she's just a good actress fronted by multinational commercial interests. Film director Nina Grünfeld simply thinks the rags-to-riches story of JK Rowling is too good to be true. Writing in a commentary in Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten's cultural pages this week, she questioned whether it's really possible for Rowling to have been the sole creative force behind what's become an international book and movie empire. Grünfeld recounted the stories told about Rowling, where it's claimed the aspiring author was a poor, single mother with a hungry child to feed, who got the idea for Harry Potter while she sat on a delayed train between Manchester and London. With no money for paper or an office, Rowling reportedly started scribbling out the story of Harry Potter on paper napkins picked up in Edinburgh's cafés. Grünfeld called it a "fantastic" story, that "gives hope" not least to single mothers around the world as well as mothers with unrealized dreams and strong purchasing power.

"But can a person be so productive and commercially successful in a media industry where nothing is left to coincidence?" wondered Grünfeld. "Is it possible that a person can write six thick books that are translated into 55 languages and sell more than 250 million copies in less than 10 years? Is it probable that the stories then get filmed and commercially exploited to the degree seen here, without any well-thought-out strategy or highly professional players behind them?" And then came Grünfeld's provocative question: "Is it possible that JK Rowling exists?" Her own answer: "Well, who do they think they're kidding? Not me!" Grünfeld then went on to float what she willingly concedes may be a conspiracy theory, that the books instead have been produced by hack writers like those at the syndicate that produced the "Nancy Drew" mystery series for young readers. The author printed on all the books, "Carolyn Keene," never really existed, Grünfeld notes, adding that she thinks Rowling is a product of "a gigantic concern with the names Bloomsbury Publishing plc and Warner Bros" in the concern's ranks. "I may be both paranoid and conspiratorial, but I can't shake the thought that JK Rowling is a pseudonym along the same lines as Carolyn Keene," wrote Grünfeld, the 36-year-old daughter of a prominent psychiatrist who's been decorated by King Harald. Grünfeld recently completed a highly acclaimed documentary on her father's life as a juvenile Jewish refugee from Slovakia who was sent to Norway in the 1930s, and knows all too well the challenges artists face in securing financing for projects. "I think the secret behind JK Rowling is guarded more strongly than the entrance to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory," Grünfeld wrote. The truth, she believes, won't emerge until "the market for Harry Potter is saturated, until the actress behind JK Rowling gets tired of her role and not until the real authors behind the pseudonym feel an enormous need for recognition."

Nonsense, reply Norwegian publishers and translators. Torstein Bugge Høverstad, who has translated the "Harry Potter" books into Norwegian, says the books offer evidence that just one author is behind them. He notes how it took three years to get the fourth book finished, and he sees consistent weaknesses in Rowling's writing that no group of hack writers would leave behind. Tom Dahl of publishing firm Damm, which releases the books in Norway, says he doesn't take Grünfeld's theory seriously. "This is pure speculation," Dahl told Aftenposten on Thursday. "It's fun to fantasize about such theories, but this one is entirely without facts. We're parking (Grünfeld's theory) here and now." Øyvind Hagen, head of the first publishing house who had the rights to "Harry Potter" in Norway, Bazar Forlag, laughed at Grünfeld's commentary in Aftenposten. "I met the author (Rowling) a few years ago, and she was decidedly genuine and human, in addition to being a charming and quite special person," Hagan said. "There are actually some people who are very talented and productive."


At December 01, 2005 4:36 PM, Blogger Evan said...

This is nuts. Is Nina Grünfeld well-known in Norway?

At December 01, 2005 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Rowling wrote the books. I think she had an enormous amount help after the first book was published from like-minded people who wanted to push her viewpoint into worldwide acceptance. To say they were successful is an understatement.

At December 01, 2005 5:13 PM, Blogger eLarson said...

"I may be both paranoid and conspiratorial..."--Nina Grünfeld

Possibly also jealous and cynical beyond reason.

At December 02, 2005 3:04 AM, Blogger Dan Kauffman said...

I would say Grünfeld may have some talent for fiction, she is just not very good at it and is jealous of someone else who has been so sucessful. ;-)

Probably a Socialist in Political Philosophy and therefore unable to comperehend Capitalism, individual initiative and any endevour not run by committee.

At December 02, 2005 5:41 AM, Blogger Mother Effingby said...

Socialist societies never seem to produce good writers. Communist societies do, but as scathing humour..i.e. Viktor Voinovich's it, and you will see what I mean. Socialism produces envy at the successful, and envy produces jealousy, and jealousy begets excuses and hatred of the successful, and hatred of the successful begets laws against the successful and vilification of them, and finally, out of sheer desperation, it all culminates in death...That is why America is a more optimistic society. We look at the successful and instead of envy and backbiting and vilification, we say, how can I do that too?

At December 02, 2005 9:39 AM, Blogger Esther said...

she might have been 'poor and unknown' but she was also university educated at the time.


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