Tag Archives: Stieg Larsson

The Tattooed Girl

I don’t see why millions shouldn’t flock to read this book, edited by Dan Burstein. Newspapers all over the world are full of articles speculating about everything and anything to do with Stieg Larsson and his Millennium trilogy. Whether or not the people responsible for those articles know very much about Stieg or Sweden is best left out of this discussion. I have read good ones and I have seen some awful ones. Most of them repeat the same few facts over and over.

Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer and John-Henri Holmberg, The Tattooed Girld

In The Tattooed Girl Dan and his co-authors Arne de Keijzer and John-Henri Holmberg have collected many previously published articles as well as pieces written especially for the book. Between them they cover a lot, if not everything, to do with Stieg Larsson, who is unable to put anyone right about what’s true and what isn’t.

I have speculated a lot about this book while it was being written, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how useful I thought it’d be. But I have to admit I found it good, covering most of what you’d want to know about the books and about Stieg and anything else that might have influenced the story about Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.

Without Stieg’s old friend John-Henri this book would hardly have been worth reading. It would have been merely a catalogue of articles on Sweden and men who hate women, in some form or other. To have someone who knew Stieg for over 30 years write about his life like this makes all the difference.

I’m only slightly younger than Stieg, and I find it reassuring that we appear to have done many similar things when we were young, reading the same books, experiencing similar political issues, and so on. I trust someone who was actually there, rather than a writer who just dug up some facts about a stranger.

There are other contributors to The Tattooed Girl who perhaps have less reason to be there. I don’t feel it’s relevant to read about Lars Kepler in this book. Authors like Karin Alfredsson on the other hand have every reason to be a part of this.

Between them the many Larsson specialists paint a portrait of Sweden and the period during which Stieg wrote his books. They can’t explain everything, but they come close.

The Tattooed Girl might be an unauthorised guide, but it should take care of what fans want to know.

What (some) men (might) think of women

I’ve been in two minds about whether this blog post should come before tomorrow’s, or after it. It’s also been on my mind for some time, and whereas there was never any doubt about writing it, I have to tread carefully.

While I’m only going to say what’s already in the public domain, that’s not to say people won’t be annoyed. I was intrigued to find that Stieg Larsson’s brother Joakim has set up a website to tell his side of the story. Having long been rather anti-Joakim, I was impressed by what he had to say. He sounds so very reasonable.

But then, of course, that’s how you sway opinion in whatever direction you want it to go. At roundabout the same time Stieg’s friend Annika Bryn was saying how she sometimes talked on the phone with Joakim. Another positive fact. So, I didn’t know what to think. But the fact remains that I heard with my own ears what Larssons senior and junior said in that television programme from a few years ago. You can’t unsay stuff like that, even through the most level headed website.

And then there was the book by Dan Burstein in which Annika was going to write about her friendship with Stieg. Joakim was positive to this. He told her so himself. He was looking forward to reading it. I don’t have all the ins and outs of this, but late in the proceedings Mr Burstein wanted Annika to include her emails from Stieg.

She asked Joakim’s permission. (Now I, personally, wouldn’t have asked, on the grounds that I’d feel those emails were ‘mine’.) When the reply finally came it was a resounding ‘no’.

Again, I don’t know or understand the details, but for some reason it was decided that Annika would no longer contribute to the book about Stieg. Maybe they were only ever after those few emails, and not her version of the friendship.

My own mercenary reaction when hearing this news was to check she at least got paid for all her work. She was paid. And then she gave all the money to charity.

Sara Paretsky’s view of whether or not Annika should contribute in the first place, was that we need more females writing about Stieg. I agree. I doubt that after this I will be sent a copy of the Burstein book to review, but I’d like to see how the balance of the sexes looks.

I gather that Dan Burstein found my earlier blog post, so no doubt he will find this one as well. I may have got facts wrong, but what you can’t alter is that there will be one fewer female contributing.

And I wonder what selfless Joakim will do with the emails he owns the rights to?

Incentive to read

You might end up with square eyes from watching too much television, or whatever it was they tried to say to scare us off the box. Although in my distant – very distant –  childhood there was sufficiently little on television to make the eyes all that square, to be honest.

But I’ve only recently realised that there is one very strong incentive to learn to read in countries where English is not the main language, and which are small enough that hardly any dubbing of films or television takes place. And that is the dreaded box.

Not starting school until seven (six now) made for some uncomfortable years when there was far too much need for reading skills, but not having them. Just about the only things that do get dubbed are programmes and films for the very young, and presumably only because their audiences can’t read. Not because foreign languages are an abomination.

Hence Disney is dubbed and it took me years to accept the American voice of Baloo when I’d only ever heard Beppe Wolgers.

Unfortunately you can’t really force little British or American children to early reading in the same way, as most of their entertainment comes in English. But it’d be worth considering if there is anything at all which is so desirable and cool that children would strive to learn a new skill in order to consume more.

For speakers of small languages there is also the influence of music, and these days all of the internet. If you want to, you will work hard at overcoming problems with reading and with that foreign language, too.

It took me years as an immigrant to grasp that the natives didn’t like subtitles. To me they’d always been second nature. If needed, they were there.

Johanna Sällström and Krister Henriksson

So the new Nordic noir crime wave on television is proving useful for more than entertainment and making some people very rich. While watching the Swedish Wallander Daughter kept getting annoyed at herself for not being able to ignore the subtitles, and that’s always been the case. You see them and read despite not needing them. Although I have very nearly got to the stage where I can avoid the lower part of the screen.

Lisbeth Salander

With me being the impatient sort, we have the full set of Stieg Larsson DVDs, and having to switch on the hard-of-hearing Swedish subtitles for the Resident IT Consultant to aid him in this foreign jungle. (He does have an O-level in Swedish, but that doesn’t get you far.) That means the rest of us have more subtitles to try and ignore.

Casualties 1

I also happen to own a DVD, some peculiar Polish version of an (obscure-ish) American film, which comes with subtitles in four Nordic languages. And when I say that I mean that you can’t switch them off. You can choose which language you want to be annoyed by, but it has to be there. All I can say to the translator is that that was no vinegar the woman sprayed over the baddie’s face. We eat vinegar. This was far worse, considering what his face looked like afterwards.


Back to Daughter and her subtitles. They work for her, too, seeing as how she can only watch the Danish crime series Rejseholdet by reading the Swedish subtitles. How she does it I don’t know, but you wouldn’t watch over thirty episodes if you didn’t get (most of) it.

Sarah Lund's jumper - black

And now it’s the equally Danish Forbrydelsen which has the whole country, or so it seems, by the seat of their pants every Saturday. Soon people will watch foreign programmes without noticing they are doing it.

But at least we don’t have dubbing forced on us the way the Germans do. There is no way I’d watch NCIS with those silly dubbed voices. With regard to Baloo you know that Disney cared and made sure the voice chosen was a good one.

Those which sold

‘But do they sell?’ asked the Retired Children’s Librarian in a puzzled sort of way while we chatted on the phone recently. I had thought she’d be interested to hear about Annika Bryn’s contribution to the proposed book about Stieg Larsson. She’s always had an interest in crime, and her heart ought to swell with pride over the Swedish trilogy doing so well across the world.

At first I got confused, thinking she wondered about the sales-worthyness of books about famous people. The penny dropped when I realised she didn’t feel that Stieg’s achievement had been all that great. I assured her he had done quite well in sales. ‘Have you read them?’ was her next question, clearly having forgotten we’d been over this ground before.

This conversation took place when I was virtually sitting there holding the fresh 2010 Nielsen sales figures in my hand, where Stieg’s book was number one. And number two. And number three. But you can only manage that much convincing on the phone so I gave up.

I don’t begrudge anyone on that list their success. (Oh, all right, one or two of them.) I just wish you could find more quality on there. Or is that of necessity an oxymoron?

After the successful crime writer, I only checked the list for children’s books. Stephenie Meyer, naturally. Then The Gruffalo, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I Shall Wear Midnight (yay!), Gruffalo’s Child, more Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson (film tie-in), Thomas the Tank Engine, Magic Ballerina, more Wimpy Kid, and the Beano Annual.

No doubt I’ve missed one  or two.

Surprised to find no Jacqueline Wilson or Francesca Simon.

It’ll be a while before the above books become motorways around the country. I was interested to see Hilary’s (McKay) comment yesterday that she doesn’t mind her own books being turned into roads. Maybe it’s good that we don’t all lose our heads and take in more strays?

Stieg’s friends

Just over a week ago I mentioned that I was in agreement with Sara Paretsky about ‘something’. I’m now able to tell you that it was regarding a book about Stieg Larsson, which will soon hit a bookshop near you. Or perhaps an online one. It is being ‘assembled’ by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, in cooperation with Stieg’s friend John-Henri Holmberg.

They have, sensibly, asked a number of people close to Stieg to write about their own friendships with him, and one such friend is Annika Bryn, crime writer from Stockholm. She was uncertain about joining in the venture, so asked for advice before writing her piece. Sara Paretsky very wisely pointed out it’s important to have female voices in this book, and we both agreed Annika should write her bit.

Here is the link to Annika’s blog, where she describes her feelings about deciding, and as you can see from my translation, Stieg’s partner Eva Gabrielsson doesn’t like the idea of the book, but his brother was keen for Annika to do it.

‘The fourth thing was to decide whether I wanted to write an essay for a future book about Stieg, and if so, to negotiate with the people behind it.

I was uncertain until the last minute, declined once, and asked three wise women for advice – one professor, an American crime writer, and Bookwitch. All three supported me throughout. Thank you! I also tried to speak to Eva Gabrielsson, but couldn’t get hold of her, to let her know I was taking part in the book, and spoke to Joakim Larsson, who thought it would make interesting reading. And for anyone new to this blog who happens to wonder, I’m obviously of the opinion that Eva should inherit her husband Stieg, which Joakim is aware of.

I know Eva is not keen on this book being published at all, but unsure why. Her own book is published in French this month.

The Tattooed Girl

It’s successful writing partners Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, in cooperation with John-Henri Holmberg, an old friend of Stieg’s, who are publishing this book about Stieg, with the help of a lot of other people. It will be out in Germany, England and the US in May, June and July. And it’s for this that I’ve been writing my bit.’

Dan Burstein has previously written a similar book about another Dan B, so I’m guessing he works out who is big and whose name will sell. Annika won’t make a lot of money out of this, but ultimately I feel it’s more important for readers to learn about another side to Stieg, than to count the dollars. Not that it’s my money, or my essay, or my dead friend.

But I’d be interested to see a copy of the book.

Guaranteed Norwegian

Nordic Noir on BBC4 on Monday was a lesson in many things, but pronunciation was not one of them. The Resident IT Consultant (who fell asleep towards the end) fondly imagined that the Danish Mariella Frostrup would cope well with the Nordic names. Not even the Norwegian-born Mariella could do anything but sound British, though at least she did so in that sexy voice people go potty over.

The programme didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, so was one of those I sometimes moan about, which assumes the customer is new to the topic, and there is no need to take it further. Quite fun to tick the number of people who took part who I’d met. Poor souls.

The wise participants, like actor Krister Henriksson (Wallander) and author Maj Sjöwall, were interviewed in Swedish. It must be tempting to say yes to requests to do an interview in English. When you can. But it’s worth remembering you ‘can’ less than you think. Krister and Maj came across as intelligent, rounded people because there was nothing to stop them from saying exactly what they wanted to say.

Val McDermid

Val McDermid, likewise, sounded good, Scottish accent and all. She knows her stuff when it comes to Nordic crime. And OK, Jo Nesbø speaks good English. But it’s not as good as his Norwegian, I’d guess. It was he who mentioned some form of music (Norwegian metal?) and CDs in Latin America labelled as being ‘Guaranteed Norwegian’.

Karin Fossum sounded somewhat less bloodthirsty in English, so it might have been a blessing she didn’t speak Norwegian after all. After hearing Karin in Bristol I remember having a good look at her books, and coming to the conclusion I wasn’t up to reading them.

They rather skirted past Arnaldur Indridason and Iceland. Some nice scenery. Though speaking of scenery, I wonder whether much of any of it was of what they talked about. Ystad is always Ystad, of course. Even when it’s Yshtad.

That wasn’t the only disappointment. I can see that a non-native speaker may choose to put the stress on the first syllable only. Or the second syllable. You’re allowed to get it wrong (though I have said before that most people would try to get a French name correct, and you can always ask around if you are presenting for the BBC). But how come the stress-on-the-first-syllable words invariably got stressed on the second and vice versa? Wallander and Sahlander rhyme. Stress-on-second-syllable names. Mankell is a stress-on-first-syllable name.

Henning Mankell

With Wallander the programme went a little tabloid over the suicide of an actress. Sad but irrelevant. And Stieg Larsson was fat. Really? Maybe Stieg lived off junk food and smoked himself to death, but I wouldn’t call him fat.

His friend John-Henri Holmberg would have come across much better in Swedish. He was obviously in a position to say a lot about his friend, but could have said more. I dare say he’s saving it for the book about Stieg he’s writing with a few others.

In fact, this whole programme confirmed why we often think foreigners are idiots. They are not. And it’s time British television interviewed more people in their own language. In this case we had a bunch of interviewees who make a good living off their mother tongues. I’d have liked more considered facts, spoken by people who were comfortable with what they were saying.

But other than that, I enjoyed my hour on Nordic Noir. It confirmed why I don’t read more of it, though.

Where are the wild dogs when you need them?

I don’t suppose Adèle Geras expected her email alert to have quite this effect on me. But that’s the blogging world for you. I was out all Sunday so did not, in fact, see the Observer article where Ed Docx – ‘literary author’ – tears Stieg Larsson and Dan Brown to pieces. And the crime fiction genre and genres in general. Thank god for real literature. What would we do without it?

Ed Docx 2

A brief meeting with the good Ed means I seem to know that he has a literature background, which will be why he knows so much. He lectures quite strongly, and wrongly, in this Observer piece. Just as he did at the bookshop event I went to, where he thought nothing of telling the assembled readers, most of whom were at least twice his age, how to read a book. He wasn’t trying to be funny, either.

On Normblog Mr Geras had this to say about the article. Such a relief to find some well put-together sentences such as ‘Oh dear, Yeats! If only he’d roamed free of those poetic forms’, even if Norm doesn’t share my fondness for crime.

Stieg Larsson would surely turn in his grave if he knew he was being bracketed with Mr Brown of Da Vinci fame. There is a lot of difference between the two, and I think Ed would have been better to concentrate on complaining about only one of them.

Over on Crime Always Pays there is also a debate going on, with John Connolly sticking up for Ed. Which I will forgive him for. This time. And I agree with the comment about Lee Child, but then I would.

I was going to find a way to link to what I wrote about Ed a couple of years ago, but technical difficulties are getting in my way. Besides, when there are quotes like this one from the Observer comments section to enjoy, who needs old witch material? ‘The important thing is that anyone who claims to be a writer and writes copy like Docx’s should have their bowels torn out by wild dogs.’

(And you can never have two many drinks. As long as they balance.)