Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2008, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2009, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Beyond the Book

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Stieg Larsson
Swedish author Stieg Larsson's life is every bit as fascinating as that of any fictional character. In fact, Mikael Blomkvist, the protagonist of The Millenium Series, bears many similarities to his creator.

Karl Stig-Erland Larsson was born on August 15, 1954 in Västerbotten, in northern Sweden. He was raised in the countryside by his grandparents until his grandfather's death in 1962 (despite considerable research, including questions to his publisher, that is all we have been able to glean of his childhood).

After performing his mandatory two-year military service, Larsson traveled widely in Africa, witnessing the civil war in Eritrea first-hand. On his return to Sweden in 1977, he worked for Tidningarnas Telegrambyra (TT), the largest Swedish news agency. He was employed at TT for most of his adult life as a journalist, feature writer and graphics artist.

One of his many passions was science fiction. He was the co-editor of several fanzines, including Sfären, Fijagh! Additionally, he was president of the largest Swedish sci-fi fan club, Skandinavisk förening för science fiction (SFSF), from 1978 – 1979.

Until the posthumous publication of his books, Larsson was best known as a political activist and journalist. He never officially joined the Communist party in Sweden, but he was a strong advocate for the Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers League). He also edited the Swedish Trotskite journal Fjärde internationalen. He was devoted to fighting racism and totalitarianism, and became instrumental in documenting and exposing organizations advocating these and other far-right philosophies. He initiated the Swedish Expo foundation (a sister-society to the British Searchlight foundation) dedicated to countering nationalist, racist, anti-democracy and anti-Semitic groups.

Larsson was widely admired for his stance against extremist groups. He received many death threats over the years, and those close to him were seriously concerned for his life. When he died in 2004, many conspiracy theorists speculated that what was deemed a massive heart attack was, in fact, murder. (Given the fact that the man smoked over 60 cigarettes a day and led a relatively unhealthy lifestyle, however, the official cause of death seems likely.)

The Millennium Series
(or at least the first 4 books) was nearly complete before Larsson showed the first two books to a publisher shortly before his death. In Sweden alone, over 2.7 million copies have been sold since the first book published in 2005 (almost one for every three Swedes in a country of nine million people). At least 32 countries have bought the rights to the trilogy, and all three books have film adaptations in the works.

More about the Millennium series - books and movies - in the main body of the review

Walking Tours
The Millennium series has become so popular in Europe that the Stockholm City Museum now offers walking-tours of the sites featured in Larsson's trilogy.

Article by Kim Kovacs

This article was originally published in October 2008, and has been updated for the June 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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