It is sad but a fact that we reside in a cruel world – one filled with twisted human beings who are numerous shades of grey. This statement has never been highlighted with greater intensity than by the Millennium trilogy – a set of three books written by Swedish journalist and left wing enthusiast Stieg Larsson.
The man has brilliantly penned down a blend of fiction and fact, sticking to a world he is most familiar with, rather than venturing into unknown arena. Genius and enthralling reads, the books - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest - were published posthumously as Larsson passed away in November 2004, soon after delivering the manuscripts of these three books to his publisher.
Larsson drew heavily from Astrid Lindgren’s children’s books and based the protagonist of his saga, Lisbeth Salander on Pippi Longstockings. The idea for the character came to Larsson when he was discussing with his colleague, Kenneth Ahlborn, how characters from children’s books would manage and behave if they were alive and all grown up.
The books trace the journey of Lisbeth Salander, a social recluse who has been declared of unsound mind by the social welfare bureaucracy. She is fierce, pierced and tattooed, bisexual and heavily independent. Yet, she is an enigma – she is a multilayered personality who will leave you shocked, outraged and impressed, all at the same time as each layer is peeled off, one at a time.
Salander meets a disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist who is one of the directors of the magazine Millenium, famous for its outstanding journalistic efforts. The character of Blomkvist was inspired by another Astrid Lindgren character, ‘Super Sleuth’; thus the nickname Kalle Blomkvist for the journalist. Together, Blomkvist and Salander embark on a journey which exposes scandalous stories, shocking secrets, deplorable acts, and appalling misdemeanors on behalf of people supposed to be caretakers. The books are undoubtedly for grown up readers, certainly not a fairytale read and compel one to reflect on society and its dark realities.
The saga raises a variety of issues – cruelty towards women, corruption among authorities, propagandist agenda, appalling manipulation, and exploitation of basic human and civil rights. It forces one to not only ponder on these issues but also the multi - faceted monster that is society.
The characters are so well rounded and etched out so perfectly that one tends to forget it is fiction one is reading. Larsson’s feminist world view is what probably encourages him to sharply criticize Sweden’s misogyny and discrimination against women in the trilogy.
The books have enjoyed tremendous success in a very short while. The trilogy was in fact translated into 12 languages and sold over 6.5 million copies.
If there is ever a set of books I would heavily recommend, swearing my life upon it, it’s the Millenium series. Definitely a must read, a worthwhile read.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who Played with Fire and Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is indeed someone you would want to encounter!