Stieg Larsson

Eyridiki Sellou | Jun 15, 2023

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Karl Stig-Erland Larsson († November 9, 2004 in Stockholm) was a Swedish journalist and writer. He became internationally known as the editor of the anti-racist magazine Expo and especially for his crime novels in the Millennium series, which were published only posthumously.

Stieg Larsson's parents were both nineteen years old when he was born. He grew up with his grandparents in a small village in the province of Västerbotten in northern Sweden, which he later cited in his first crime novel in the Millennium trilogy. It was not until he was eight years old that Larsson returned to his parents. According to his friend and biographer Kurdo Baksi, Larsson witnessed his friends raping a girl at the age of fourteen, and he did nothing about it. From then on, burdened by this feeling of guilt, he dedicated his life to the fight against social ills. The experience can also be seen as a motive for his novels. After attending high school and working various jobs, including at the Swedish Post Office, Larsson took up a permanent position at the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) in 1979. He worked there for the next 19 years, mainly in the graphics department, but also wrote essays, smaller articles and literary criticism.

Even as a young man, Stieg Larsson was interested in the African wars of liberation. In 1977, he traveled to the province of Eritrea, which was then fighting for its independence from Ethiopia. He joined a guerrilla training camp, where he encountered an army that was one-third women. Larsson became a military instructor and taught how to use grenade launchers, which he had learned in his military service.

In 1981, Larsson and his partner Eva Gabrielsson went on a study trip to Grenada, where the New Jewel Movement had established a socialist system after a revolution in 1979.

From 1982 he was Scandinavian correspondent for the British anti-fascist newspaper Searchlight Magazine. He also wrote articles on right-wing extremism and U.S. imperialism in the Trotskyist weekly Internationale in the 1980s under the pseudonym Severin. In 1991, together with Anna-Lena Lodenius, he published the book Extremhögern, which deals with Swedish right-wing extremism. After seven people were murdered by right-wing extremists, he founded the Expo Foundation in 1995, which includes the magazine of the same name. Since then, he has been editor of the anti-fascist magazine Expo, which has been the target of right-wing extremist attacks. Right-wing activists smashed store windows, threats reached the printing house, and in June 1999 a detonated car bomb seriously injured an Expo author.

Larsson was considered one of the world's leading experts on fascist, far-right, neo-Nazi, and also right-wing conservative movements, which he equated with extremist movements. He came from a social democratic family and described himself as a communist. His father said about him in a ZDF documentary on January 23, 2011: "Politically he was further to the left than we, his parents, unfortunately".

In addition, Larsson wrote crime novels in which he criticized social ills in Sweden. In the years before his death, he wrote three crime novels around the main characters "Mikael Blomkvist," a journalist, and "Lisbeth Salander," a whimsical hacker. For these, Larsson changed his first name from Stig to Stieg to avoid confusion as an author with screenwriter and director Stig Larsson.

Stieg Larsson died in 2004 as a result of a heart attack.

The Millennium series was, similarly to the author duo Sjöwall

His former colleague Kurdo Baksi claimed Larsson was a "mediocre journalist," adding, "He's been an excellent opinion writer. But he has not been infallible." In an article in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, journalist Anders Hellberg reported that he had experienced Larsson during his time at the TT news agency; Hellberg worked there as a night editor and Larsson as a graphic designer. "And I had to conclude that he simply couldn't write. The language was poor, there was a lack of word order, the sentence structure was monotonous and the syntax was sometimes totally out of place. To make this language work professionally, you had to rewrite it." Both Hellberg and Baksi concluded that it was a "mystery to them how Stieg Larsson could have written his books. He simply had not mastered the craft." Both speculated that there may have been a division of labor between Stieg Larsson and his partner Eva Gabrielsson; Larsson may have been responsible for plot and material and Gabrielsson for language.

Some critics were very disparaging about Larsson's writing style, one example: "Larsson's writing is characterized primarily by a penetrating logorrhea and a redundancy unchecked by any editor's hand. The book comes across as reportage bloated into ashen gray by a shoddy investigative reporter working for a tabloid and not fluent in any language. Rarely have descriptions been more awkward and bumpy than in this joyless book, rarely have hackneyed clichés and stylistic flourishes clustered in such piles as here."

Others attested to just the opposite: "Stieg Larsson cultivates an extremely simple and entertaining style, which in its execution strikes the nerve of a skillfully narrated crime novel and is able to inspire. This style already distinguished 'Verblendung' and also makes the second part of the 'Millennium' trilogy a reading experience. However, it is also clear that one should not expect much in terms of originality from this kind of style. Neither 'Verblendung' nor 'Verdammnis' is entertainment on a high level, but it is the very best reading to enjoy without much mental effort. But the style is also the only strength. Neither the characters nor the story can convince. Stieg Larsson crosses the boundaries of implausibility."

The Millennium Trilogy is not distinguished by linguistic subtleties; it is rather the "no-frills writing style" that is one of the special features of Stieg Larsson's work.

Larsson's success can be explained by the successful mix of story, writing style and characters. The protagonists Mikael Blomkvist, Henrik Vanger and Lisbeth Salander are individualists with strong character traits that make it easy for the reader to identify with the characters. This contrasts with the meticulous depiction of the gruesome crimes.

Novel series

At his death, Larsson left behind the first three of ten planned books, which were first published posthumously in Sweden under the titles Män som hatar kvinnor (2005, published in Germany as Verblendung), Flickan som lekte med elden (2006, Engl. Verdammnis), and Luftslottet som sprängdes (2007, Engl. Vergebung). The three novels of the "Millennium Trilogy" became a major international success, selling 82 million copies worldwide (as of 2015). In Sweden alone, 3.5 million copies have already been sold.

Books four to six of this series are available as synopses. A fourth volume has been completed to a good extent. However, neither Larsson's father Erland and his brother Joakim, who jointly hold the rights to his works, nor his partner, Eva Gabrielsson, want the fourth volume to be finished and published by another author, as this would not be in the spirit of Stieg Larsson. Larsson was posthumously awarded the Scandinavian Crime Prize (Glasnyckeln) in 2006 for Disappearance, which had already been chosen as the best book of the year by the Swedish book trade a year earlier. In his analysis of the trilogy, literary scholar Tim Parks attributes the success not to Larsson's skills as an architect of suspense, but to his credibility as a writer.

In December 2013, Swedish publisher Norstedts announced that journalist and author David Lagercrantz was working on a new fourth Millennium novel. The novel, however, will be written without Eva Gabrielsson's involvement and also without using the unfinished fourth manuscript, and is conceived as a freestanding sequel featuring Larsson's characters in the novel. However, Larsson's heirs, his father and brother, have agreed to its publication. On August 27, 2015, the fourth installment of the Millennium series was finally published under the title Det som inte dödar oss (German title: "Conspiracy"). The book's publication has been met with some sharp criticism in Sweden, as it exploited Larsson's fame and would not have met with his approval. The novel series was continued by David Lagercrantz in 2017 with the title Persecution and in 2019 with the title Annihilation.


The first Millennium trilogy was filmed mainly in Sweden with Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. Originally, this film adaptation was set up as a television production, but was eventually shown in a shortened version in theaters first. The first film, Blinded, was released in Swedish cinemas on February 27, 2009, and is one of the most successful theatrical films of all time throughout Scandinavia. In the fall of 2009, the second part Damnation and the third part Forgiveness premiered in Sweden. The films were released in other countries a short time later.

In spring 2010, the original extended versions of the three feature films were broadcast on six Saturdays on Swedish public television SVT1. In 2011, the trilogy was broadcast in six parts by German broadcaster ZDF, also in the extended version.

Directed by David Fincher with a screenplay by Steven Zaillian, the internationally co-produced second adaptation of the first book, Dazzling, was filmed in Sweden (October 2010). Verblendung was released in U.S. theaters in 2011 and in German theaters in 2012.

Conspiracy, directed by Fede Alvarez, is another film that is no longer based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, but builds on its motifs.

Headlines were also made by a dispute over the rights to the manuscripts and Stieg Larsson's legacy between his father and brother on the one hand and his life partner Eva Gabrielsson on the other. Eva Gabrielsson and Stieg Larsson had been in a relationship for 32 years until the latter's death, but were not married, which is why Gabrielsson did not receive any rights to his works. While going through Larsson's legacies, Gabrielsson came across a will written by him in 1977: "I am hardly a rich man, but my fortune in pure money (and I am very definite on that point) is to go to the Umeå chapter of the Communist Workers' League." She let it go unheeded because, according to Swedish law, it was ineffective without notarization. The Swedish TV news magazine Uppdrag granskning (German: Auftrag Recherche) got wind of the matter and made a sensation out of it. His father declared that he would continue to finance political movements in the spirit of his son with part of the inheritance. Among them, in particular, the magazine he founded against right-wing extremism.

The Umeå chapter of the Swedish section of the Communist Workers' League, now called Socialistiska Partiet (SP), stated:

Non-fiction (selection)

The Millennium Trilogy:


  1. Stieg Larsson
  2. Stieg Larsson
  3. ^ a b c 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. ISBN 9781609803636.
  4. ^ "Steig Larsson". Books of the World. Archived from the original on 9 October 2010.
  5. Carola Wittrock: Rückschau: Eine Frau gegen Männerhass – Noomi Rapace als Filmheldin in Stieg Larssons Bestseller-Trilogie. (Nicht mehr online verfügbar.) ttt – titel, thesen, temperamente, 24. Januar 2010, archiviert vom Original am 3. April 2010; abgerufen am 24. Januar 2017.
  6. a b c d e Martin Uhrmeister: Die Stieg Larsson Story – Was hinter der Millennium Trilogie steckt. ZDF-Dokumentarfilm, 2011, 45 Minuten.
  7. Röda Lund: Visst kunde Stieg skriva! Weblog von Röda Lund auf, 31. Januar 2010, abgerufen am 24. Januar 2017 (schwedisch).
  8. «Release dates for Män som hatar kvinnor» (en inglés). IMDb. Archivado desde el original el 20 de octubre de 2011. Consultado el 26 de mayo de 2009.
  9. ^ Förlaget hade fått manuset för bedömning men ansåg sig inte ha tid att läsa manuset, varvid Larsson istället kontaktade andra förlag.[13]

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