Saturday, November 20, 2010

Larsson on Larsson

WSJ has excerpts from e-mails Stieg Larsson sent to his editor, published in advance of a new book in which they appear. Larsson emerges from these extracts as thoughtful and self-aware, more so, at least, than some of his detractors have allowed. In the absence on any evidence one way or the other, some readers and critics have seemed oddly invested in the notion that when it came to fiction this 30-year veteran professional writer was a clumsy primitive barreling along heedlessly. Implications drawn from the text can then be dismissed as accidental and inadvertently "revealing."

If Larsson's characters prove to be as durable as I think they will, an investment at some point in a new or revised translation might be worthwhile. There have been complaints from Sweden already that the current (British) translations tidy up Larsson's earthy language tpp much, and add tedious explanations to accounts of political events, presumably deemed to be over the heads of non-Swedish readers.

NB: Our observation that each of the three Millennium volumes falls into a different crime fiction sub-genre (locked room, political thriller, courtroom drama) is nicely echoed in the final graph.

C.I: Tulkinghorn.

Friday, April 30, 9:44 p.m.
Hi, Eva,
You might be interested in a few of my thoughts concerning the books:

In many respects I have gone out of my way to avoid the usual approach adopted in crime novels. I have used some techniques that are normally outlawed—the presentation of Mikael Blomkvist, for instance, is based exclusively on the personal case study made by Lisbeth Salander.

I have tried to create main characters who are drastically different from the types who generally appear in crime novels. Mikael Blomkvist, for instance, doesn't have ulcers, or booze problems or an anxiety complex. He doesn't listen to operas, nor does he have an oddball hobby such as making model airplanes. He doesn't have any real problems, and his main characteristic is that he acts like a stereotypical "slut," as he himself admits. I have also deliberately changed the sex roles: In many ways Blomkvist acts like a typical "bimbo," while Lisbeth Salander has stereotypical "male" characteristics and values.

A rule of thumb has been never to romanticize crime and criminals, nor to stereotype victims of crime. I base my serial murderer in book I on a composite of three authentic cases. Everything described in the book can be found in actual police investigations.

The description of the rape of Lisbeth Salander is based on an incident that actually took place in the Östermalm district of Stockholm three years ago. And so on.

I have tried to avoid making victims of crime anonymous people—so, for instance, I spend a lot of time introducing Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson before the murders take place.

I abhor crime novels in which the main character can behave however he or she pleases, or do things that normal people do not do without those actions having social consequences. If Mikael Blomkvist shoots somebody with a pistol, even in self-defense, he will end up in the dock.

Lisbeth Salander is the exception to this quite simply because she is a sociopath with psychopathic traits, and does not function like ordinary people. She does not have the same concepts of "right" and "wrong" as normal people, but she also has to face up to the consequences of that.

As you have probably realized, I have devoted an awful lot of space to secondary characters who, in several respects, play just as big a role as the main characters. The intention, of course, is to create a realistic universe around Blomkvist/Salander.

In book I Dragan Armansky [head of a security firm] was introduced in considerable detail: Obviously he is going to be a secondary character who keeps cropping up. In book II the group of police officers around Bublanski and Sonja Modig are given prominent roles. And in book III Annika Giannini [Blomkvist's sister] and Erika Berger [editor-in-chief of Millennium magazine, where Blomkvist works, and Blomkvist's occasional lover] are much more prominent than in the earlier books. In book III another person appears who will be a regular member of the gallery of characters in future books. This is wholly intentional on my part. I think that secondary characters can often be much more exciting than the main player.

The only character with whom I have had difficulty is Christer Malm [Millennium's art director]. In my original plot he was going to play more or less the same role as Erika Berger, but it didn't work with him as editor-in-chief. And so I was forced to invent Erika Berger, who became a much more entertaining character.

I am going to have a problem with Miriam Wu [Salander's girlfriend] down the line—I don't really know what to do with her. The difficulty here of course is that Lisbeth Salander cannot acquire confidantes and at the same time remain an outsider. We shall have to see what happens.

As far as Paolo Roberto [a real-life former boxer who appears in the second novel] is concerned, I'll have a chat with him in the near future. Kurdo [Baksi, a friend who also appears in the series] is not a problem. He's my "little brother," after all. We've known each other for many years.

All the best,


Thursday, Oct. 28, 11:39 p.m.
Hi, Eva,

Great that you like number three. It was a bit easier to write than the first two. Please tell Lasse Bergström [the former head of Norstedts, publisher of the books, who called the books "unputdownable"] that he is obviously an intelligent and sensible person of impeccable taste, and that flattery will get him everywhere.

Hmm. I cannot be sure, but I have the impression that you Norstedts

It is most satisfying to see that Lasse noticed that I changed the genre from one novel to the next: he cottoned on exactly to what I was trying to do.




Tulkinghorn said...

I've been having a lot of fun(at least I think it's a lot of fun) browsing the German and French Amazon websites using Google Chrome, which has a built in, but somewhat crude auto-translate function...

The same set is available in Germany but he titles of the books are even more fanciful:

Blindness, Damnation, and Forgiveness....

Verblendung, Verdammnis, Vergebung.


Tulkinghorn said...

More wealth:

The Caustic Cover Critic on the French Larssons and other books from the Actes Noirs series (which seems to have taken over from the narrower Serie Noir in French bookstores at least..)

David Chute said...

Nice, even though CCC refers to the books as "mysteriously popular." (More than one possible explanation for that sense of mystery.)