Stieg Larsson was a political journalist and graphics specialist for 20 years at a Swedish news agency. He also actively belonged to an organization called Expo, dedicated to fighting fascism and racism in Sweden and Europe. It’s said that he and his partner Eva Gabrielsson lived under constant threat from right-wing/neo-fascist violence. Larsson died of a heart-attack in 2004, a few months before the Swedish release of the first of three novels dedicated to the unusual character Lisbeth Salander.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
Viking Canada, 2008
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Lisbeth Salander is a 24-year-old bisexual, super-intelligent, violent, social and moral deviant who is a ward of the court. She also happens to be one of the top three computer hackers in Sweden. It’s through this capacity, employed by an investigative and research company, that Lisbeth meets Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist, a recently disgraced investigative reporter (in the financial industry) who’s involved in two very interesting projects.
Blomkvist is seeking revenge on an industrialist named Wennerström, and, in exchange for much needed dirt on the man, he has also agreed to investigate the disappearance of one Harriet Vanger forty years ago.
Vanger vanished from a secluded island compound owned by her powerful family. A body was never found, there are no witnesses and no evidence of a crime exists: the problem appears to be identical to the “locked-room murder mystery” that crime-fiction buffs love. And the only thing Harriet’s uncle, Henrik Vanger, will say with any conviction is that he fears she was murdered by someone in his own family.
Together, Blomkvist and Salander sift through the history of an extremely dysfunctional family until they stumble upon something so terrible it could destroy everyone involved.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo reads like two stories in one: the struggle of Kalle Blomkvist to put his shattered life back together, and the character study of Lisbeth Salander. Both of these stories are hung on the mystery represented by Harriet Vanger. Yet, none of this is true, and the author spells it out quite clearly…
Stieg Larsson was adamantly opposed to violence against women. This is what the book is about. The novel is full of such violence and explores, quite controversially, the role of the victim. Second, each part of the book begins with a statistic regarding violence against women in Sweden. Third, the original title of the book was Men Who Hate Women. Fourth, and this is my own opinion, Larsson also uses the book to highlight the casual regard many Europeans have for sex. He doesn’t make a noticeable statement about this; one must question each sexual encounter in the book to arrive at the conclusion that the author is trying to point something out. What that something might be, I’ll leave for you to decide.
I just hope you don’t think, like one critic of the book, that the sex scenes are gratuitous. Nothing in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is gratuitous: this is well-written fiction with very strong messages. I suspect some rather abrupt transitions and questionable grammatical choices are the fault of the translator, not the author. And even though the narrator is too often noticeable in the story, the novel is an international best seller for a reason: the messages contained within the covers of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo resonate with the reader.
Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009
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