Stieg Larsson “faced bullets” to train revolutionary Amazons!
Apart from being dead and all, Stieg Larsson is iiving the life. Seldom has a writer gotten to eat so much of his cake and have it, too. Now comes word the crusading feminist anti-fascist reporter (so brave!) and accalimed bestselling novelist was also a revolutionary Marxist commando!
Indeed, the Stieg Larsson legend metastasizes daily: What’s next– He fought alongside Che in Bolivia? Showed Jane Fonda how to sit in that anti-aircraft gun? Wrote speeches for his secret lover Angela Davis? Blew up the Glenn Canyon Dam with George Hayduke?
Okay, so that last one is a fictional character (from Edward Abbey’s novel The Monkey Wrench Gang), but I’m starting to suspect that much of what is reported about the Swedish thriller writer is fictional, too.
Consider this story from The Guardian, reporting that in 1977 a young Stieg Larsson, who had served in the Swedish army, traveled to Africa to give weapons training to female Eritrean guerrillas, part of “a Marxist liberation group fighting for the country’s independence from Ethiopia.”
Sweden has an army?
This tale comes from the writer’s “close friend,” John Henri Holmberg, who calls Larsson “a card-carrying Trotskyite,” and says the future writer spent part of the year in Africa with the “Marxist EPLF group” training “a company of women guerrillas in the use of grenade launchers.”
No word on rumors Larsson tried to prevent the 1978 breakup of the ELP group or wrote some of the hit songs for the ELO group.
Holmberg’s story is backed up by Graeme Atkinson of Searchlight magazine (“Fighting Racism and Fascism for 25 Years!”), who puts an even more heroic gloss on it:
“He went there to aid the struggle,” Atkinson says. “That meant in the end being involved in fighting and he faced live bullets. He was an amazingly courageous man. He told me a lot about it, but never boasting. A lot of what he saw left me deeply shocked.”
I’ll bet it did. Pardon me if my skepticism is showing, but this all has the pungent aroma of spin and puffery. Just look at the first sentence by the Guardian’s reporter, Homa Khaleel:
“The life of Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson reads like a thriller. The anti-fascist journalist – who died just before his bestselling Millennium trilogy was released – had his life threatened by far-right groups and could not marry his long-term partner for fear of compromising his safety.”
That’s not reporting, that’s buying into the momentum of a PR narrative that may or may not have any basis in reality. “Reads like a thriller?” Please, that’s the hoariest and least credible of cliches. I’m shocked it got by the Guardian‘s editors.
And Larsson couldn’t marry his girlfriend because he was afraid Swedish neo-Nazis would crash the reception? I can’t believe a woman smart enough to be with a guy like Larsson would be gullible enough to fall for that one.
True, his “longtime partner” Eva Gabrielsson never insisted on marriage, but I expect personal choice had more to do with it than fear of right-wing assassins.
I’d sooner believe we’re watching the hand of the self-mythologizing Larsson reaching from beyond the grave to plump up his image. He certainly does it in the novels that made him famous, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels.
For one thing, the novels take a self-righteous feminist stance — the Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women — yet the books brim with scenes of the ugliest violence against women. Not, you see, because it titillates the author, but because he must show you what he so greatly abhors.
Another point, and I’m not the first to make either of these: Larsson’s fictional alter-ego Mikael Blomkvist, is, like his creator, a fearless investigative journalist. He’s also a serial womanizer that no female, including the feral, much-abused genius Lisbeth Salander, can keep their hands off of.
In short, Larsson gets in death every male wish-fulfillment he may have nurtured in life: Feminist and great lover. Brave journalist and nightime novelist. Critical darling and bestselling crowd-pleaser. And now he’s a globe-trotting warrior for the leftist cause.
A superhero, in other words. Never mind that Larsson was a doughy desk jockey who smoked himself into a fatal coronary at age 50. He was actually a Svenska James Bond.