The Girl Who Played With Fire

This is for those of you with plenty of patience. Stieg Larsson’s second instalment of the millennium trilogy is here at last. I’m sure it would have made more sense to learn another language to read it in, rather than wait. But if you didn’t, then you can now enjoy 569 pages about, mainly, Lisbeth Salander, who is a very intriguing kind of person. I don’t want to be her, but there is something about her…

And by that I don’t mean that she is some sort of sex fantasy figure, as so many reviewers have complained about. I don’t see it. I really don’t. I suspect people are adding their own ideas to what Lisbeth’s like, and then they complain. (Modesty Blaise? Honestly!) And as for all the main characters engaging in sex unbelievably often, I don’t see that either. They seem like perfectly normal Swedes to me. Is it the idea of the suicidal, depressed policeman people can’t let go of?

The end of this book is satisfying enough, as long as you don’t stray and look at what comes in book three, when you realise things are still bad. The plot is far better in The Girl Who Played With Fire, as there is less of the sometimes tedious introductory stuff from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The English translation is pretty good, which is the kind of thing that surprises me, because I don’t always believe books travel well. There is the need to explain some things, which are not in the original, but it’s done fairly unobtrusively. I understand the UK translation is different from the US one (not out yet), although done by the same translator, Reg Keeland. He reckons the American version is better. I just wonder why they have to be different, apart from the pavement/sidewalk issues.

So, purists will have to wait even longer.

12 responses to “The Girl Who Played With Fire

  1. Having decided to support my local branch library I am off there this very minute to order the Larsson which I’ve been waiting for ever since I finished Dragon Tattoo.! Happy New Year to you, Bookwitch.

  2. I agree Book 2 is the best. I do wish the first book had been allowed to keep its Swedish title: Men who hate women.

    As for Modesty Blaise – you can’t compare the two characters, they come from so very different places . But actually, MB is not a “sexual fantasy” either. The writer made a point of that.

  3. If there’s a queue at the library, you can borrow mine, Adèle. In either language.

  4. I am one of the people who wrote in a review that Lisbeth has elements of “male fantasy figure” . One example I gave is that she spends the book stuffing pizzas, yet is said to be “anorexically thin”. Is this normal Swede? Tell me your national secret if so!

    I did enjoy the book as is evident from my review at Euro Crime. But there are definitely elements of male fantasy about her character. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, to the contrary. It isn’t intended as a criticism – again, as I said in my review, it all adds up to an exciting overall read, but gives a slight “comic book” air to some of it.

  5. By the way, you note that there is less of the “tedious introductory stuff” in book 2 – but the first 200 pages is a prologue that has little to do with the rest of the book. (ie the remaining 400 pages). Again, not a criticism. But a fact.

  6. Hopefully the “prologue” will turn out to have a relevance later on.

    I asked the Resident IT Consultant about his view of Lisbeth, and even he seemed to find her something for male fantasy to dwell on. Hmm. I think it’s not the sex of the reader, I suspect it’s the nationality of the reader, what they see in her.

    As you will have noticed, the national secret on how to stuff yourself with junk food and still remain beautifully slim, has passed me by. But so many Swedes are thin, despite eating bad food. With Lisbeth I suspect it’s her autistic traits, which means she eats very little or nothing a lot of the time, which explains her thin body.

  7. My son Jakob stuffs pizza and remains disgustingly thin. In fact, so does my husband. Does this mean I’m prey to female fantasy? (I must be … just think of Corvus!)

  8. I don’t get the “male fantasy” thing about Lisbeth. Not the sort who would have turned me on back in the day, that’s for sure. Who wants to discuss what they did to her physiognomy on the covers?

    The differences in the UK and my original MS of the translation, which was intended to interest a US publisher and give the UK screenwriter a text to work from, are legion. Cuts, additions, explanations, and massive vocabulary alterations that reflected neither my style nor Stieg’s, IMHO. I suppose the books came out all right for the British reader, but they now sound like totally different books to me. The many English phrases Stieg used in the original Swedish books were almost all American. He was extremely well read in both US and UK crime fiction, and I got the impression that he would have preferred being represented in US English. Oh well.

    Hence my new identity: Reg is the British cousin of the great American translator Thomas Keeland, who has been on sabbatical since 1992…

  9. Just a comment on the ´male fantasy´ idea. Stieg Larsson hardly intended that seeing that he compares Blomkvist to Astrid Lindgren´s Kalle Blomkvist-figure (a boy detective) and Lisbeth Salander to Pippi Longstocking. She is a very appealing figure, I think but hardly sexually 😉

  10. I’m really interested to know that the British versions were altered that much. It explains, perhaps, the biggest thing I found irritating about both volumes – that they sounded a bit stilted. (More PD James-esque) than was warranted.

    It’s of course rather hard for me to tell one way or the other – though I didn’t read the books in the original, my first time through wasn’t in English either, so my view of those translations was fairly heavily coloured by how I’d probably have done it differently myself. (Probably doing violent damage to the Swedish in the process, but my brain was ticking “German-English…hey, I wouldn’t say that!”)

    This also serves as a bit of an apology for some rather harsh comments I’ve made about the translation in the past (though I may be overstating my importance to think anyone’s noticed!) I’ve only really started to think about it as a postgrad about to teach (very basic) translation for the first time.

    Other multi-lingual readers out there, for the sake of your sanity may I suggest you don’t read too many versions of the same book? I’ve read Camilleri in the original plus two translations, and it kept me up at night with a headache. Now Larsson’s done the same, and that’s minus the original!

  11. It’s tough being talented, isn’t it? I like saying I prefer the original at all times, but have had to concede on occasion that a translation improves some texts.

  12. My family who know my incompetence at most things practical (I can cook and balance a budget, but I break things and fall over my feet constantly, plus misplace things that are right in front of me) would laugh to hear me call talented, but I’ll take it as a compliment here!

    Not really knowing any Swedish (I possess some truly horrible Norwegian), I can’t comment on the orignals of too much of what I read, but I can definitely say that some translations work much better than others. Kjell Eriksson springs to mind – I’m not really fond him in English at all.

    Very nice to “meet” you, by the way. Oh, and apologies for my late night inability to use brackets properly.

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