15 August 1954|
|Died||9 November 2004
|Genres||Crime fiction, Thriller|
|Notable work(s)||The "Millennium" Trilogy|
Karl Stig-Erland "Stieg" Larsson (/ /; Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkaɭ ˈstiːɡ ˈæɭand ˈlaʂɔn]; 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. Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm and worked there in the field of journalism and as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism.
He was the second best-selling author in the world for 2008, behind Khaled Hosseini. Sales for the series had reached 73 million copies worldwide by the end of 2012, and the books continue to sell well today.By December 2011, his "Millennium series" had sold 65 million copies; its last part, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, became the most sold book in the United States in 2010 according to Publishers Weekly.
Life and work
Stig Larsson was born in Skelleftehamn near the northern Swedish city of Skellefteå, 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, due to their cramped living conditions there, they chose to let their one-year-old son remain behind with his grandparents. He lived with his grandparents until the age of nine near the village of Bjursele in Norsjö Municipality, Västerbotten County.
In the book "There Are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me (Seven Stories Press, June 2011), 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 lived with his grandparents in a small wooden house in the country, which he loved. He attended the village school and used cross-country skis to get to and from school during the long, snowy winters in northern Sweden. However, he 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. His mother Vivianne also died early, in 1991, from complications with breast cancer and an aneurysm.
On his twelfth birthday, Larsson was given a typewriter as a birthday gift by his parents. 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 1977 he became active in the Scandinavian SF Society where 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 caused considerable publicity.
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.
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 of right-wing extremism in Sweden. In 1991, his research resulted in his first book Extremhögern (Extreme Right). Larsson quickly became instrumental in documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organizations; 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.
Death and aftermath
Larsson died on 9 November 2004 in Stockholm at the age of 50 of a heart attack after climbing seven flights of stairs to his office because the lift was not working. There were rumours that his death was in some way induced, because of death threats received as editor of Expo, but these have been denied by Eva Gedin, his Swedish publisher. Stieg Larsson 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 two never married because, under Swedish law, couples entering into marriage are required to make their addresses (at the time) publicly available; marrying would have been 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 his 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 10 October 2010 segment of CBS News Sunday Morning. In this segment Larsson's family claims the fourth and as yet unpublished book is actually the fifth book.
Soon after Larsson's death, the manuscripts of three completed, but unpublished, novels – written as a series – were discovered. He had written them for his own pleasure after returning home from his job in the evening, and had made no attempt to get them published until shortly before his death. The first was published in Sweden in 2005 as Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor – literally – Men who hate women. 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 (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 in the Millennium series, 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 contain 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 finishing the book is a task that she is capable of doing.
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 in 1994. In his work he made a habit of inserting the names of some of his favourites within the text, sometimes by making his characters read the works of his own 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 her 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.
When Larsson 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, with a great deal of specificity, how the fundamental narratives of his three books were essentially fictionalized 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. "blond hulk"), has much in common with the invulnerable, sociopathic giant named Simon Delicata in the fourth Modesty Blaise book A Taste for Death.
- 2006 – Glass Key award, Män som hatar kvinnor
- 2006 – Best Swedish Crime Novel Award, Flickan som lekte med elden
- 2008 – Glass Key award, Luftslottet som sprängdes
- 2008 – ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for International Author of the Year, UK, for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- 2008 – Exclusive Books Boeke Prize, South Africa, for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- 2009 – Galaxy British Book Awards, Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year, UK, for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- 2009 – Anthony Award, Best First Novel, for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- 2009 – General Council of the Judiciary, Spain, for his contribution to the fight against domestic violence.
- 2010 – USA Today's Author of the Year
- Stieg Larsson, Anna-Lena Lodenius: Extremhögern, Stockholm, 1991
- Stieg Larsson, Mikael Ekman: Sverigedemokraterna: den nationella rörelsen, Stockholm, 2001
- Stieg Larsson, Cecilia Englund: Debatten om hedersmord: feminism eller rasism, Stockholm, 2004
- Richard Slätt, Maria Blomquist, Stieg Larsson, David Lagerlöf m.fl.: Sverigedemokraterna från insidan, 2004
The Millennium series:
- Män som hatar kvinnor ("Men Who Hate Women"), 2005. English translation by Reg Keeland under the title The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, January 2008. US release 16 September 2008.
- Flickan som lekte med elden ("The Girl Who Played with Fire"), 2006. English translation by Reg Keeland under the title The Girl Who Played with Fire, January 2009. US release 28 July 2009.
- Luftslottet som sprängdes ("The Grandiose Fantasy that was Blown up"), 2007. English translation by Reg Keeland under the title The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, October 2009 (UK release). US release date May 2010.
Science fiction fanzines:
- Sfären (with Rune Forsgren), 4 issues, 1972–1973
- FIJAGH! (with Rune Forsgren), 9 issues, 1974–1977
- Långfredagsnatt, 5 issues, annual 1973–1976, final issue 1983
- Memorafiac, 2 issues, circa 1978
- Fanac (with Eva Gabrielsson), 7 issues (numbered 97–103; earlier and later by other editors), 1979–1980
- The Magic Fan (with Eva Gabrielsson), 2 issues, 1980
- Svartvitt med Expo, 1999–2002
- Expo, 2002–2004
- The Local, 'Millennium' books keep making millions, 9 Nov 2012.
- Hassan, Genevieve (25 December 2011). "Hollywood takes on Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". BBC News. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- "Bestselling fiction authors in the world for 2008". AbeBooks. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
- "Inspector Norse: Why are Nordic detective novels so successful?". The Economist. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
- Maryles, Daisy (3 September 2011). "The Winning Game: 2010 Hardovers, Facts, Figures". Publishers Weekly.
- Petersson, Jenny. "Berättelsen om Stieg Larsson" [The story about Stieg Larsson] (in Swedish). norran.se. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- Gabrielsson, Eva,; Colombani, Marie-Françoise; Coverdale, Linda (2011). "There Are Things I Want You to Know" about Stieg Larsson and Me. New York: Seven Stories.
- Itzkoff, Dave (8 June 2010). "Unpublished Manuscripts by Stieg Larsson Are Found". The New York Times.
- Forsman, Hans. "Stig Larsson: Han ändrade själv stavningen" [Stieg Larsson: He changed the spelling himself] (in Swedish). folkbladet.nu. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- "Steig Larsson". booksfactory.com, Books Of The World.
- "Biography – Background – Stieg Larsson, the man behind Lisbeth Salander". Stieglarsson.com. 9 November 2004. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- Khaleeli, Homa (16 October 2010). "Stieg Larson 'spent year training Eritrean guerrillas'". The Guardian (London).
- "About Expo". Expo.se. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- "Profile: Stieg Larsson: Even his early death became a big thriller". The Sunday Times. 27 September 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2010.(subscription required)
- Forshaw, Barry (23 August 2008). "Crime writer taken too soon". The Times (London).(subscription required)
- "Stieg Larssons testamente hittat" (in Swedish). SvD.se. 28 May 2008.
- Cantwell, Oisin (28 May 2008). "Ville ge arvet till lokalparti" (in Swedish). Aftonbladet.
- SupportEva.com website. Supports Eva Gabrielsson's position.
- Cohen, Nick (13 September 2009). "Read Stieg Larsson, the bestselling socialist militant". The Observer.
- "The Battle Over Stieg Larsson’s Estate Intensifies". Vanity Fair. 5 January 2010.
- "The Mystery of Stieg Larsson". CBS News. 8 October 2010. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- McGrath, Charles (23 May 2010). "The Afterlife of Stieg Larsson". The New York Times Magazine.
- "A Word From Stieg Larsson's Partner and Would-Be Collaborator". New York Times. 17 February 2011.
- Lindgrendetails, Astrid (28 July 2009). "Stieg Larsson – infloox ––– NOT VETTED –––". Infloox.com. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- Lindgren, Astrid (29 July 2009). "Pippi Longstocking → Stieg Larsson". infloox. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- Literature.com answer on the nickname. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- Baski, Kurdo. "How a brutal rape and a lifelong burden of guilt fuelled Girl with the Dragon Tattoo writer Stieg Larsson". Daily Mail (London).
- James, Susan (5 August 2010). "Stieg Larsson Silent as Real-Life Lisbeth Raped". ABS News. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Carr, David (8 July 2011). "Remembering Stieg Larsson". New York Times Book Review.
- Blackburn, David (6 May 2010). "The end of Modesty Blaise". Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Behe, Rege (15 April 2010). "Nordic invasion: Movies, books, music and more". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- McDonald, Neil. "Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy". Quadrant Online. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Redvall, Eva (1 February 2008). "Millennium trilogy sold to thirty countries". Sydsvenskan. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Allen, Katie (6 October 2008). "Rankin and P D James pick up ITV3 awards". theBookseller.com. Retrieved 6 October 2008.
- "Galaxy British Book Awards site". Galaxybritishbookawards.com. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- "2009 Galaxy British Book Awards. Winners. Shortlists. 1991 to present". Literaryawards.co.uk. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- "Bouchercon World Mystery Convention : Anthony Awards and History". Bouchercon.info. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- "The Anthony Awards". Bookreporter.com. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
- Hibbert, Katharine (30 September 2009). "A terrible injustice mars the publication of Stieg Larsson's final book | Books | Arts". The First Post. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Donahue, Deirdre (23 December 2010). "Author of the year: Stieg Larsson's legacy lives on". USA Today. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
- "Stieg Larsson becomes first author to sell 1m ebooks on Amazon". The Guardian. 28 July 2010.
- Joan Acocella (10 January 2011). "Man of Mystery: Why do people love Stieg Larsson’s novels?". The New Yorker.
- The Stieg Larsson phenomenon arts review by David Walsh
- Barry Forshaw, The Man Who Left Too Soon: the Biography of Stieg Larsson, John Blake Publishing, 2010.
- Finlo Rohrer (28 January 2010). "In search of Stieg Larsson". BBC News Magazine.
- Expo's memorial page for Stieg Larsson (English)/(Swedish)
- In praise of... Stieg Larsson, The Guardian, Culture Editorial, 3 October 2009
- Thriller with a radical message, Socialist Worker, 15 April 2010
- Dan Burstein, Arne De Keijzer, and John-Henri Holmberg, The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of Our Time, St. Martin's Griffin, 2011.
- www.larssontrilogy.com from Quercus, publishers of Stieg Larsson
- The official Millennium site of Nordstedt Publishing
- Stieg Larsson at the Internet Movie Database
- Stieg Larsson at the Swedish Film Database
- A look at the life and work of author Stieg Larsson
- The Millennium Tour – Stockholm City Museum