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The Real-Life Motivation Behind Stieg Larsson’s Books

I’ve dubbed this summer “The Summer of Stieg” because half of the world and I have our noses buried in one of the books from Stieg Larsson’s crime trilogy: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. It’s become a rarity to see someone reading anything else. I mean, there’s a reason why 30 million copies have been sold and Hollywood blockbusters are in the works—the books are a force of nature. It’s rare to see a man write so passionately about Nazism and women’s issues. I’m about to start the third book in the series, and it’s a little sad because I know there will be no more Steig Larsson books—he passed away in 2004. He was only in his early 50s. There is a silver lining, though. I came across an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released memoir Stieg Larsson, My Friend, written by Kurdo Baski, and it looks like we may finally get answers about the real-life event which motivated Stieg to tackle the subject of violence against women. The secret story after the jump.

“One of the most pressing reasons why Stieg wrote his novels happened in the late summer of 1969.

The location was a camping site in Umea, northern Sweden, where he was brought up. I have always avoided writing about what happened that day, but it is unavoidable in this context. It affected Stieg so deeply that it became a sombre leitmotif running through his books.

On that day, 15-year-old Stieg watched three friends rape a girl, also called Lisbeth, who was the same age as him and someone he knew. Her screams were heartrending, but he didn’t intervene. His loyalty to his friends was too strong. He was too young, too insecure. It was inevitable that he would realise afterwards that he could have acted and possibly prevented the rape.

Haunted by feelings of guilt, he contacted the girl a few days later. When he begged her to forgive him for his cowardice and passivity, she told him bitterly that she could not accept his explanations. ‘I shall never forgive you,’ she said, gritting her teeth.

That was one of the worst memories Stieg told me about. It was obvious, looking at him, that the girl’s voice still echoed in his ears, even after he had written three novels about vulnerable, violated and raped women.

It was probably not his intention to be forgiven after writing the books, but when you read them it is possible to detect the driving force behind them.”

That’s heavy, haunting stuff. It almost makes you understand the intensity of the books. Check out the rest of the excerpt from Stieg Larsson, My Friend at the Daily Mail.

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