Readerz.Net / Stieg Larsson
Karl Stig-Erland "Stieg" Larsson (; Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkɑːɭ ˈstiːɡ ˈæːɭand ˈlɑːʂɔn]; 15 August 1954 – 9 November 2004) was a Swedish journalist and writer. He is best known for writing the Millennium trilogy of crime novels, which were published posthumously and adapted as motion pictures. Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm and worked there with socialist politics and journalism, including as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism.
He was the second best-selling author in the world for 2008, behind Khaled Hosseini. The third novel in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, became the most sold book in the United States in 2010, according to Publishers Weekly. By March 2015, his series had sold 80 million copies worldwide.
Life and work
Stieg Larsson was born on 15 August 1954, as Karl Stig-Erland Larsson, in Skelleftehamn, Västerbottens län, Sweden, where his father and maternal grandfather worked in the Rönnskärsverken smelting plant. Suffering from arsenic poisoning, his father resigned from his job, and the family subsequently moved to Stockholm. But because of their cramped living conditions, they chose to let one-year-old Larsson remain behind. So until the age of nine, Larsson lived with his grandparents in a small wooden house in the countryside, near the village of Bjursele in Norsjö Municipality, Västerbotten County. He attended the village school and used cross-country skis to get to and from school during the long, snowy winters in northern Sweden. He loved the experience of living there.
In the book "There Are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me, Eva Gabrielsson describes this as Larsson's motivation for setting part of his first novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in northern Sweden, which Gabrielsson calls "godforsaken places at the back of beyond."
Larsson was not as fond of the urban environment in the city of Umeå, where he moved to live with his parents after his grandfather, Severin Boström, died of a heart attack at age 50. In 1974, Larsson was drafted into the Swedish Army, under the conscription law, and spent 16 months in compulsory military service, training as a mortarman in an infantry unit in Kalmar.
His mother Vivianne also died early, in 1991, from complications with breast cancer and an aneurysm.
On his 12th birthday, Larsson's parents gave him a typewriter as a birthday gift.
Larsson's first efforts at writing fiction were not in the genre of crime, but rather science fiction. An avid science fiction reader from an early age, he became active in Swedish science fiction fandom around 1971; co-edited, together with Rune Forsgren, his first fanzine, Sfären, in 1972; and attended his first science fiction convention, SF•72, in Stockholm. Through the 1970s, Larsson published around 30 additional fanzine issues; after his move to Stockholm in 1971, he became active in the Scandinavian SF Society, of which he was a board member in 1978 and 1979, and chairman in 1980.
In his first fanzines, 1972–74, he published a handful of early short stories, while submitting others to other semi-professional or amateur magazines. He was co-editor or editor of several science fiction fanzines, including Sfären and FIJAGH!; in 1978–79, he was president of the largest Swedish science-fiction fan club, Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (SFSF). An account of this period in Larsson's life, along with detailed information on his fanzine writing and short stories, is included in the biographical essays written by Larsson's friend John-Henri Holmberg in The Tattooed Girl, by Holmberg with Dan Burstein and Arne De Keijzer, 2011.
In early June 2010, manuscripts for two such stories, as well as fanzines with one or two others, were noted in the Swedish National Library (to which this material had been donated a few years earlier, mainly by the Alvar Appeltofft Memorial Foundation, which works to further science fiction fandom in Sweden). This discovery of what was called "unknown" works by Larsson generated considerable publicity.
Activism and journalism
While working as a photographer, Larsson became engaged in far-left political activism. He became a member of Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers' League), edited the Swedish Trotskyist journal Fjärde internationalen, journal of the Swedish section of the Fourth International. He also wrote regularly for the weekly Internationalen.
Larsson spent parts of 1977 in Eritrea, training a squad of female Eritrean People's Liberation Front guerrillas in the use of mortars. He was forced to abandon that work, having contracted a kidney disease. Upon his return to Sweden, he worked as a graphic designer at the largest Swedish news agency, Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT), between 1977 and 1999.
Larsson's political convictions, as well as his journalistic experiences, led him to found the Swedish Expo Foundation, similar to the British Searchlight Foundation, established to "counteract the growth of the extreme right and the white power-culture in schools and among young people." He also became the editor of the foundation's magazine, Expo, in 1995.
When he was not at his day job, he worked on independent research into right-wing extremism in Sweden. In 1991, his research resulted in his first book, Extremhögern (The Extreme Right). Larsson quickly became instrumental in documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organisations; he was an influential debater and lecturer on the subject, reportedly living for years under death threats from his political enemies. The political party Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) was a major subject of his research.
Larsson's first name was originally Stig, which is the standard spelling. In his early twenties, he changed it to avoid confusion with his friend Stig Larsson, who would go on to become a well-known author well before Stieg did. The pronunciation is the same regardless of spelling.
Larsson died of a heart attack after climbing the stairs to work on 9 November 2004. He was 50. It was reported that his lifestyle largely consisted of cigarettes, processed food and copious amounts of coffee. He is interred at the Högalid Church cemetery in the district of Södermalm in Stockholm.
In May 2008, it was announced that a 1977 will, found soon after Larsson's death, declared his wish to leave his assets to the Umeå branch of the Communist Workers League (now the Socialist Party). As the will was unwitnessed, it was not valid under Swedish law, with the result that all of Larsson's estate, including future royalties from book sales, went to his father and brother. His long-term partner Eva Gabrielsson, who found the will, has no legal right to the inheritance, sparking controversy between her and his father and brother. Reportedly, the couple never married because, under Swedish law, couples entering into marriage were required to make their addresses (at the time) publicly available, so marrying would have created a security risk. Owing to his reporting on extremist groups and the death threats he had received, the couple had sought and been granted masking of their addresses, personal data, and identity numbers from public records, to make it harder for others to trace them; this kind of "identity cover" was integral to Larsson's work as a journalist and would have been difficult to bypass if the two had married or become registered partners.
An article in Vanity Fair magazine discusses Gabrielsson's dispute with Larsson's relatives, which has also been well covered in the Swedish press. She claims the author had little contact with his father and brother, and requests the rights to control his work so it may be presented in the way he would have wanted. Larsson's story was featured on the 10 October 2010 segment of CBS News Sunday Morning.
Larson had originally planned a series of ten books and had completed two and most of a third when he began looking for publishers. At the time of his death in 2004 only three had been completed, and although accepted for publication, none had yet been printed. These were published posthumously as the Millennium series.
The first book in the series was published in Sweden as Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor – literally – Men who hate women (2005). It was titled for the English-language market as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and published in the United Kingdom in February 2008. It was awarded the Glass Key award as the best Nordic crime novel in 2005.
His second novel, Flickan som lekte med elden (2006, The Girl Who Played with Fire), received the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2006 and was published in the United Kingdom in January 2009.
The third novel, Luftslottet som sprängdes ("The Air Castle That was Blown Up"), published in English as The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, was published in the United Kingdom in October 2009 and the United States in May 2010.
Larsson left about three quarters of a fourth novel on a notebook computer, now possessed by his partner, Eva Gabrielsson: synopses or manuscripts of the fifth and sixth in the series, which he intended to comprise an eventual total of ten books, may also exist. Gabrielsson has stated in her book, "There Are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me (2011) that she is capable of finishing the book.
In 2013, Swedish publisher Norstedts contracted David Lagercrantz, a Swedish author and journalist, to continue the Millennium series. Lagercrantz did not have access to the material in Gabrielsson's possession, which remains unpublished. The book was published in August 2015 in connection with the 10-year anniversary of the series, under the Swedish title Det som inte dödar oss (literal English translation: That Which Does Not Kill Us); the English title is The Girl in the Spider's Web. The 5th book in the Millennium series was released in September, 2017. The Swedish title is Mannen som sökte sin skugga (literal English translation: The Man Who Hunted his Shadow) and the English title is The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.
The Swedish film production company Yellow Bird has produced film versions of the Millennium series, co-produced with the Danish film production company Nordisk Film, which were released in Scandinavia in 2009.
Through his written works, as well as in interviews, Larsson acknowledged that a significant number of his literary influences were American and British crime/detective fiction authors. His heroine has some similarities with Carol O'Connell's "Mallory," who first appeared in Mallory's Oracle (1994). In his work Larsson made a habit of inserting the names of some of his favourites within the text, sometimes by making his characters read the works of Larsson's favorite authors. Topping the list were Sara Paretsky, Agatha Christie, Val McDermid, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth George, and Enid Blyton.
One of the strongest influences originates from his own country: Pippi Longstocking, by Sweden's much-loved children's author Astrid Lindgren. Larsson explained that one of his main recurring characters in the Millennium series, Lisbeth Salander, is actually fashioned on a grown-up Pippi Longstocking as he chose to sketch her. There are additional connections to Lindgren's literary work in the Larsson novels; for example, the other main character, Mikael Blomkvist, is frequently referred to mockingly by his detractors as "Kalle Blomkvist", the name of a fictional teenage detective created by Lindgren. The name Salander was actually inspired by the strong female character in the Kalle Blomkvist trilogy by Astrid Lindgren, Kalle's girlfriend Eva-Lotte Lisander.
Larsson has said when he was 15 years old, he witnessed three of his friends gang-raping a young girl, which led to his lifelong abhorrence of violence and abuse against women. His longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson, writes that this incident "marked him for life" in a chapter of her book that describes Larsson as a feminist. The author never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, and this inspired the themes of sexual violence against women in his books. According to Gabrielsson, the Millennium trilogy allowed Larsson to express a worldview he was never able to elucidate as a journalist. She described, in great detail, how the fundamental narratives of his three books were essentially fictionalised portraits of the Sweden few people knew, a place where latent white supremacy found expression in all aspects of contemporary life, and anti-extremists lived in persistent fear of attack. "Everything of this nature described in the Millennium trilogy has happened at one time or another to a Swedish citizen, journalist, politician, public prosecutor, unionist or policeman," she writes. "Nothing was made up."
There are also similarities between Larsson's Lisbeth Salander and Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise. Both are women from disastrous childhoods who somehow survive to become adults with notable skills, including fighting, and who accomplish good by operating somewhat outside the law. One of Larsson's villains, Ronald Niedermann (a.k.a. "blonde hulk"), has much in common with the invulnerable, sociopathic giant named Simon Delicata in the fourth Modesty Blaise book A Taste for Death.
Stieg Larsson was the first author to sell more than one million e-books on Amazon.com.
Stieg Larsson prize
Since 2009 Larsson's family and Norstedts have instituted an annual award of 200,000 Swedish Krona in memory of him. The prize is awarded to a person or organisation working in Stieg Larsson's spirit.
The recipient in 2015 was Chinese author Yang Jisheng for his notable work Tombstone which describes the consequences of The Three Years of Great Chinese Famine.
The Millennium series:
Science fiction fanzines: