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Swedish Life and Stieg Larsson's True Fiction

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Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy provides some of the best reading the planet has seen for years, but there's decidedly more than a little fact in Larsson's fiction.

Alby_Sweden0001_..._Photo_By_SickInSweden_Mark_Lewis.jpg

 

Alby Sweden0001 … Photo by SickInSweden, Mark Lewis
 
Swedish Life and Stieg Larsson's True Fiction
by Anon Y. Mous
Copyright December 2011
 

Dateline Sweden - Many folks say ‘art imitates life’, others say ‘life imitates art’, but regardless of which is more true, the truth is that Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy provides considerable fact in its fiction.  While David Fincher's Hollywood version of Stieg Larsson's ‘Dragon Tattoo’ opened in the US December 20th, discussion of how it casts the darkest shadows over this Nordic nation dominated much of the film's press. Some aspects of the Swedish reality are perhaps even darker than Fincher's fiction.

One of the many pieces appearing about the film was in CounterPunch, “The Dark Side of Sweden”, but this piece addresses the many unsettling parallels that have occurred between actual Swedish news reports and Hollywood's film. One segment reads:

Dragon tattoo's heroine, Lisbeth Salander, is brutally bound and raped at one point by the man placed as legal guardian over her, Larsson providing comment upon the disturbing reality here of those that have been found to use their official position to ruthlessly prey upon the vulnerable. In example, about a year ago the former police chief of Uppsala County, a major city area in Central Sweden, was sentenced to six years imprisonment for a string of serious sex crimes.

According to an English language article in Sweden's The Local, Ex-police chief given lighter sentence, the court found the former chief guilty of "aggravated rape, rape, assault, pimping, buying sex and attempting to buy sex." The article noted that the crimes included the rape of a seventeen year old girl, with the court determining that the "girl spent much of the rape tied up", paralleling Salander's being bound and raped.

The above excerpt doesn't seem to fit with a country famed for its propriety and level of gender equality, but that's what Stieg Larsson wrote about - the difference between what seems 'proper and noble' while in fact is anything but.  And, the CounterPunch article provides further examples, including those of the country's "Nazi heritage".

On just December 9th, the same day as the Nobel prizes were awarded, the newspaper Aftonbladet pictured neo-Nazis with black shirts and khaki pants marching through Stockholm (Inga nazister på våra gator) - they paraded by the Jewish Community's headquarters in protest of a perceived 'Jewish conspiracy'.  But before his death, Larsson had predicted that a party with neo-Nazi roots, the Sweden Democrats, would be elected to parliament in 2010, and he was right.

In real life, as an investigative journalist specializing in the 'far-right', Larsson had expressed concerns over the future of women, immigrants, and Jews in Sweden, fearing a return to the abuses that had once been common in this country.

Over the last five years, I've personally witnessed levels of xenophobia here that I had never thought possible, but recently I came to realize that the dark spectre of both xenophobia and structural discrimination had long afflicted Sweden. Like a shark lurking beneath the waves, it blatantly surfaces only for periods, then disappears.

Sweden founded the world's first 'racial biology' institute in 1922, an institute associated with the forced sterilization of 63,000 in a program only ending in the mid-1970s.

As unsettling as the above facts are, what the article described as "the banality of evil" Larsson depicts afflicting elements of Sweden's bureaucracy is perhaps worse, the examples of actual events provided by the piece making the point, as does a link to a 2005 Swedish government study on "structural discrimination". The article's author, Ritt Goldstein, notes that ongoing events have placed his own life in danger ... he questions if he will “survive much longer”.  And, in a climate combining xenophobia with the kinds of official misconduct Larsson and news accounts describe, such concerns seem all too valid.

On the positive side, both the article and the government report on structural discrimination suggest Swedish 'denial' is what has allowed such problems to take root and flourish … and, sometimes people do ‘wake up’.  Goldstein also specifically cites the "many good, decent, and fine Swedes that I’ve met, and some of these are indeed among the finest people I’ve ever encountered"; though, noting there are indeed “others”. The article ends by quoting 18th century Irish statesman Edmund Burke, in that “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”.

Stieg Larsson was considerably more than just a novelist, and David Fincher's The girl with the dragon tattoo is a 'must see', on many levels.

Reprints welcomed, but with attribution, and no derivative works.