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The Millennium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson PDF Stampa
Scritto da Kate Coxon   
luned 13 maggio 2013

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Girl who played with Fire; The Girl who kicked the Hornets' Nest

  ImageRecent crime fiction sales figures released by The Bookseller (May 29th 2010) show that Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy occupies the first four places in the crime fiction charts (with places 3 and 4 shared between the novel and the tie-in film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Part thriller, part mystery, and part serial-killer saga, the trilogy offers an informed, unnerving and at times harrowing view of the worlds of Swedish journalism and business. Although the novels have received a mixed critical reception, the sales figures point to an astonishing commercial success.


In ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', journalist Mikael Blomkvist (recently disgraced in a libel conviction) is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Harriet Vanger, from one of Sweden's foremost industrialist families. With the assistance of Lisbeth Salander, a secretive and anti-social computer-hacker, Blomkvist solves the mystery that has haunted Harriet's uncle for decades. Book two sees radical magazine Millennium, with Blomkvist back at the helm, on the verge of running a story exposing an extensive sex trafficking operation. When the two young reporters responsible for the story are murdered, all the evidence points to Lisbeth Salander. Convinced of her innocence, Blomkvist investigates the murders. Meanwhile, Salander finds that facing present and future perils means that she must also confront her past. The third book in the series finds Salander in a critical condition in intensive care. If she recovers, she will stand trial for three murders. Only Blomkvist can help Salander to prove her innocence as well as identify and denounce those in authority - individuals as well as institutions - who are responsible for the shocking cycle of violence and abuse that has for so long dictated the course of her life.


   A tattooed and pierced young woman of four foot eleven, weighing forty pounds, with a spiky temper and prodigious computer-hacking skills, super-gifted bisexual Goth Lisbeth Salander is an unusual, yet entirely compelling choice of main protagonist. Larsson has cited Astrid Lindgren's feisty heroine Pippi Longstocking as inspiration for Lisbeth Salander; a link which is made explicit with reference to Mikael's nickname (from Lindgren) of ‘Kalle' Blomkvist. Salander has been described variously as "the thinking man's Lara Croft" "the heroine of a video game" and a "cartoon supergirl". Yet there is one crucial fact which should not be overlooked. As emerges through the course of the trilogy, Lisbeth Salander has suffered - and, at times, continues to suffer - horrendous abuse. Even worse, this occurs at the hands of those in authority who should be looking after her. However, Salander is never depicted as a victim. She's a survivor, and if the ways she escapes or deals with her abusers at times push the limits of credibility, they are only as incredible as the terrible things that have happened to her.


  Crusading investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist is in many ways Salander's foil. A driven individual, he is determined to deliver stories which expose the corruption at the core of Swedish institutions. Blomkvist appears refreshingly normal, yet somehow, miraculously, avoids being dull.  Successful detectives (in fiction at least) often have unsavoury flaws. Blomkvist, in contrast, seems comfortable in his skin.  He eats and drinks in moderation, doesn't gamble, and has a great deal of success with women. His first marriage may have failed, and he may have been an absent father to his now teenage daughter, nevertheless Blomkvist remains infinitely likeable. The bond he has with Salander is both incongruous and credible, and as their relationship changes it sustains and drives forward all three novels.


   ImageAlongside these two protagonists, the trilogy offers a varied cast of supporting characters. Many of those in power are revealed to be grotesque abusers of women, and so it's a relief to meet figures such as Palmgren, the aged guardian who treats Salander with humanity. At the same time the antics of Salander's fellow computer-hackers (the closest she has to friends) open a window onto a cyber-world that is in turn fascinating and terrifying.


    Larsson's prose style has come under fire for being dull and pedantic. In particular, critics highlight the countless cups of coffee, the painstaking descriptions of what characters eat and drink, the clothes they select for a particular occasion, and the electronic gadgets they use. However, these descriptions are as riveting as they are detailed, fostering a cult of Larsson-devotees  who follow a Millennium Map, consuming coffee, beer and pickled herring en route. The detail is there for a reason, however. For what Larsson gives us, above all, is character through action. Through the minutiae of what characters do and say, we are invited to experience their everyday lives (which also accounts for the meticulous attention paid to time in the chapter headings). Moreover, the mundanity of these descriptions creates a grotesque discrepancy between the civilized, everyday Swedish life that appears to trundle smoothly along and the horrific (often sexual) violence that lies just beneath the surface.


 Image The Millennium trilogy looks set to become (yet) another successful film franchise. First and foremost, however, these books are an incredibly good and 'unputdownable' read, and there will be few people indeed who read the first novel and don't look to devour the second and third. In terms of detective fiction, the UK seems to be enjoying something of a love-affair with Sweden: a number of other Swedish crime writers (notably Henning Mankell) are currently riding high in the UK crime fiction charts. Larsson, however, has made a very special contribution to this phenomenon.


   Larsson's Sweden is a calm, civilized, even slightly dull society with a very dark underbelly. But the power exercised by this contradiction is spellbinding, and we can't turn the pages quickly enough to delve deeper into it.

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