Friday, January 13, 2012

The Duty of Vengeance by Eva Gabrielsson

Stieg Larson was a generous man, loyal, warmhearted, and fundamentally kind. But he could also be completely the opposite. Whenever someone treated him or anyone close to him badly, it was “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” He never forgave such an affront, and made no bones about it. “To exact revenge for yourself or your friends,” he used to say, “is not only a right, it’s an absolute duty.” Even if he sometimes had to wait for years, Stieg always paid people back.

In the first volume of the trilogy, Henrik Vanger speaks for Stieg when he tells Mikael Blomkvast, “I’ve always had many enemies over the years. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s never get in a fight you’re sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you’re in a position of strength – even if you no longer need to strike back.” In the third book, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest , Mikael explains to Anders Jonasson, the doctor who takes care of Lisbeth Salander, that he must help his young patient even if it’s illegal to do so, because he may in good conscience break the law to obey a higher morality. For Stieg, Lisbeth was the ideal incarnation of the code of ethics that requires us to act according to our convictions. She is a kind of biblical archangel, the instrument of The Vengeance of God, the working title of the fourth volume of The Millennium Trilogy.

When he was a boy in Umea, Stieg got into fights everywhere and often. One day a boy broke one of his front teeth, so Stieg had to have a gold false tooth implanted in his jaw. Long afterward, he lay in wait for his attacker one night and took him by surprise. Stieg never had another problem with him – or anybody else. Yes, revenge is indeed a dish best eaten cold.

FIAT JUSTITIA, pereat mundus. Let justice be done, though all the world perish.

This dilemma between morality and action is in fact what drives the plot in The Millennium Trilogy. Individuals change the world and their fellow human beings for better or for worse, but each of us acts according to his or her own sense of morality, which is why everything comes down in the end to personal responsibility.

The trilogy allowed Stieg to denounce everyone he loathed for their cowardice, their irresponsibility, and their opportunism: couch-potato activists, sunny-day warriors, fair- weather skippers who pick and choose their cause; false friends who used him to advance their own careers; unscrupulous company heads and shareholders who wangle themselves huge bonuses… Seen in this light, Stieg couldn’t have had any better therapy for what ailed his soul than writing his novels.

“There Are Things I Want You To Know About Stieg Larsson And Me” by Eva Gabrielsson with Marie- Francoise Colombani; Seven Stories Press, N.Y., 2011

1 comment:

  1. Is Lisbeth Salander a feminine double for Stieg? The two share the same lousy eating habits, at least, given their addiction to frozen pizza and fast-food sandwiches. A champion hacker, a prodigy of computer and investigative skills, Lisbeth is blessed with a photographic memory that allows her to memorize complex texts, such as a treatise on spherical astronomy, with dazzling speed. I’ve already touched on Stieg’s incredible memory, is iconoclastic culture, his inexhaustible hunger for reading about the most varied subjects. Some of the elements of the hacker circles in which Lisbeth moves may come, for example, from “The Hacker Crackdown” by Bruce Sterling, but we also had plenty of “Superman” and “Spider-Man comics around the house, featuring superheroes with extraordinary powers for whom Lisbeth could serve as a little sister. As for her mania for caution and secrecy, Stieg was the same way…but

    if Lisbeth Salander takes after anyone, it’s Pippi Longstocking, our (Swedish) national heroine conjured up by children’s book author Astrid Lindgren. This delightful and formidable little girl has been a champion of equality between the sexes: she doesn’t depend on anyone, can use a revolver, has sailed the seven seas, and not only can beat Mighty Adolf, the strongest man in the world… she can lift up her pet horse! But the main thing about Pippi is that she has her own ideas about right and wrong After one of her adventures, she announces, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a pirate!”