Agaton Sax

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Paperback cover of "Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves", published by Target Books in 1973, with a characteristic illustration by Quentin Blake.

Agaton Sax is the hero of a series of Swedish-language comedic detective novels written for children by Swedish author Nils-Olof Franzén and illustrated by Åke Lewerth. The English editions were illustrated by Quentin Blake.

The British series was immensely popular, and as a result was the "most re-issued detective/mystery series in the history of Nordic children’s literature in British translation for the period 1950–2000."[1]

The novels are an ironic pastiche of the detective genre: for example Agaton Sax's colleague, the hapless Inspector Lispington of Scotland Yard, is clearly modeled on Inspector Lestrade of Sherlock Holmes fame. Like Holmes, Sax smokes pipes (in his case Meerschaums); he has one for every day of the week, which he smokes when thinking. Franzén was also inspired by another children's books detective in Sweden, Ture Sventon by Åke Holmberg[citation needed].

As with many foreign language novels translated into English, the style and idiosyncrasies of the translations were quite important to the popularity and success of the English editions. Unusually, Franzén did most of the English translations himself, working with a supplemental translator, Pamela Royds, on stylistic choices.[2]

The books

Swedish title Published English title Published
Agaton Sax klipper till 1955 Agaton Sax and the Big Rig (extended) 1976
Agaton Sax och den ljudlösa sprängämnesligan 1956 Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders 1974
Agaton Sax och vita möss-mysteriet 1957 Agaton Sax and the Haunted House 1975
Agaton Sax och de slipade diamanttjuvarna 1959 Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves 1965
Agaton Sax och det gamla pipskägget 1961 Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery 1969
Agaton Sax och Byköpings gästabud 1963 Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles 1971
Agaton Sax och bröderna Max 1965 Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers (a.k.a. Bank Robbers) 1970
Agaton Sax och den bortkomne mr Lispington 1966 Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes 1972
Agaton Sax och de okontanta miljardärerna 1967 Not published in the UK
Agaton Sax och den svällande rotmos-affären 1970 Agaton Sax and the London Computer Plot 1973
Agaton Sax och den mörklagda ljusmaskinen 1978 Agaton Sax and Lispington's Grandfather Clock 1978

Characters

Agaton Sax

The protagonist in the series, Agaton Sax is described as a pleasant, round Swede with a mustache. As well as running his detective agency, he also runs the Bykoping Post - First with the News - The Smallest Paper - but the Best.

Sax's dachshund Tikkie and Aunt Matilda help him track down criminals such as Octopus Scott and Julius Mosca. He is a master of underwater ju-jitsu and of several obscure languages. He is an early adopter of the computer for crime-solving purposes, though Aunt Matilda dismisses it as his "confuser". He has no known love interests and a pronounced dislike of garlic. Sax is also reminiscent of Hercule Poirot with his round body, hat and moustache.

Chief Inspector Joshua Lispington

Inspector Lispington often emerges in Sax's crime-fighting as a hapless, and clumsy hinderance. While well-intentioned, and always Sax's friend, Lispington seems out of his depth, often mishandling dangerous situations.

Aunt Matilda

Aunt Matilda cares for Agaton, providing him food and company in her old age. Matilda is often underestimated, and can be quite an adversary – usually armed only with basic household objects. Her umbrella is her favorite weapon of choice.

Tickie

Agaton Sax's dachshund occasionally joins Agaton in crime-fighting. Well trained, Tickie is normally quite helpful.

Clever Dick

Agaton Sax's futuristic computer, which he built himself to assist in crime solving. Aunt Matilda refers to it as a 'confuser'.

Sergeant Antonsson

Acting head of the Bykoping Police, he frequently assists Sax and Lispington in their investigations.

Adaptations

Several of the novels were read for television for the BBC's series Jackanory, starting with Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers in 1972, with Kenneth Williams as the storyteller inter-cut with the illustrations by Quentin Blake.

In 1972, a four episode animated television series was produced based on the book Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers.

A 77-minute animated film Agaton Sax och Byköpings gästabud was made in Swedish in 1976, with a plot loosely based on Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles. The English-language version again featured Kenneth Williams voicing all the characters.

In connection with the film, a three episode television series was aired on Swedish television, with the episodes based on Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders, Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery and Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes, respectively.

References

  1. ^ Berry, Charlotte (2016-12-20). "Keeping "the Spirit of the Text": A Publishing and Translation History Case Study of Nils-Olof Franzén's Detective Series Agaton Sax". Barnboken. 39 (0). ISSN 2000-4389. 
  2. ^ Berry, Charlotte (2016-12-20). "Keeping "the Spirit of the Text": A Publishing and Translation History Case Study of Nils-Olof Franzén's Detective Series Agaton Sax". Barnboken. 39 (0). ISSN 2000-4389. 

External links

  • IMDb about Agaton Sax and the Bykoebing Village Festival
  • New York Times about Agaton Sax and the Bykoebing Village Festival
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