Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first
volume of the Millennium Trilogy, the novels
that a journalist called Stieg Larsson delivered to a Swedish
only a short time before he died. When Ali Karim rang
to tell me
about it, saying that he read it over two days and it has left an
him, I thought to find out more, not just about the book but also on
novels have become a phenomenon in Scandinavia and are one by
soaring into the bestseller lists in Europe. Larsson,
renowned in Sweden as a
his first novel to Norstedts only
after several of his friends who had read them urged him to do so. He
with three, each one of them a substantial typescript. He died
massive heart attack before the first one was published.
He was a
political journalist and graphics specialist for 20 years at a
news agency and he worked tirelessly, long hours into every night, for
Expo, fighting fascism and racism in Sweden and Europe. He lectured
seminars in Brussels, he
contributed over many years to
the campaigning British magazine Searchlight. He
answered every call
from victims of racism and anti-Semitic harassment and violence. He
schools to help children who were being racially bullied, talked to the
headmistress, talked to classes, told the victims that he was available
time to come back, if need be.
the 1990s he and his partner of many years were targeted by
neo-fascists. They were for a long time forced to live a life of
acute anxiety. Their names were published and their address. Another
similarly targeted, was murdered
-- under the noses of a police surveillance
yet Larsson never stopped making his encyclopaedic knowledge
of the Swedish and
international far right available to everyone who needed to
learn from it.
It is no
wonder that it was an amazement even to his friends that he had had
write novels -- where was his spare time? But Stieg Larsson himself was
phenomenon. He had seriously contemplated writing crime stories in
knew the genre backwards, was in correspondence with some
of its best
authors. He would have rejoiced that The
Girl Who Played With Fire, the second volume of the
awarded the "Glass Key", the prize given to the best crime novel
published in Scandinavia.
fragment of his huge success that the author knew was the deal his
made with Heyne in Germany, for a huge
advance. He was 50. It
gave him, he decided, the opportunity to change his punishing way of
also the chance to put money into Expo.
original title of the first volume of the trilogy was (and in Sweden is) Men Who Hated Women. Larsson fought
discrimination on many fronts
in his life and the
abuse of women he especially loathed. It is at the heart of
of the novels, and it is the inspiration of the heroine of the
magnificent fictional creation, Lisbeth Salander. Salander is the
of a narrative that is brilliant, gripping, and
utterly original. It
is appallingly violent without once, it seems to me, being gratuitous.
is that many more women than men have bought the books. Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is in
her early twenties, delinquent, a ward of court, freelancing for a
is a computer wizard (self-taught), a kick-boxer,
fearless, dysfunctional, bisexual, mortally thin and terrifying if
copies sold in Sweden* (the
paperback of Volume III
is not yet released). 50,000 copies were subscribed of the
of Volume III a month before the
book publication -- a
remarkable symptom of the impatience of Swedish readers of the trilogy.
audiobooks have been sold in total of the
copies sold. The hardback
of Volume III has only just been published
in an initial
print-run of 110,000 copies which sold out in two days. The publisher,
says that only the Bible has sold more copies than Larsson's
books in Denmark.
copies sold so far
of Volume I (h/b and pb) and volume
II (h/b only to date). Volume
III is to be published in November. It was
due to be published
in March '08 and brought forward to November
‘07 due to pressure from
readers and because of the dramatic level of sales of
Swedish edition in Norway.
copies sold so
far of Volume I (h/b and pb) and the h/b of
have been sold of all three books. Actes Sud now selling approx 3,000 and 4,000 copies
of Larsson books every day.
forgetting Sonny Mehta of Knopf in the US, who beat off
five other publishers
for this extraordinary trilogy with a high six figure offer.
* Sweden population 9
million, Denmark 5.5, Norway 4.6.
I have published David Morrell's FIRST BLOOD (which became "Rambo"),
Martin Cruz Smith's GORKY PARK
and his unforgettable Arkady
Renko, Peter Høeg's MISS SMILLA'S FEELING FOR SNOW,
and the Gold
Dagger-winning crime novels of Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indridason and
The sales of the Millennium Trilogy in Sweden far exceed the
of these wonderful storytellers and their central characters and in
has to be due to what is going in the English-speaking world too to
Lisbeth Salander cult. She is one of two central characters in the
other is the journalist Mikael Blomkvist of the magazine
crusading publication that surely has echoes from Larsson's own working
One Swedish publisher told me that he believed that everything in the
the sex trafficking investigations, the murder investigations, the
chicanery had a root in fact. Every Swedish publisher I have met in the
months has been -- and this is as interesting as it is unusual in the
world that is publishing -- unstinting in their praise for the novels.
one of them has read them or listened to the tapes. There is perhaps no
Swedish film production company Yellowbird, will
be producing the film version of the Millennium Trilogy. Shooting will
March 2008 and they hope to finish by December 2008, with the aim of
them ready for release in all Scandinavian countries in the beginning
They will then run on Swedish television by Nov/Dec 2009. The DVD
have multiple language sub-titles (mainly Scandinavian languages and
another featuring English sub-titles).
The main cast features Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander
Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist. There is also interest from different
and the US
for the English production rights, but these have not been sold yet.
Read Ali Karim’s book review