More On Stieg Larsson and Lisbeth Salander

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By Arzie Umali

Recently the UMKC Women’s Center, together with University Libraries and the LBGTQIA Resource Center, hosted a couple book discussions analyzing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).  The discussion focused on the main character Lisbeth Salander, her heroism, her feminism, and her interaction among a cast of characters carefully defined by Larsson. The small groups that met had varied experiences with the books.  Some had read the entire series, some were still making their way through the books, and some had not read the books but had seen the movies.  The comments and views were just as varied, but Scott Curtis, UMKC Research Librarian, did a great job leading a conversation that benefitted from the different perspectives. 

One question that remained at the end of each discussion was what was going to happen to Lisbeth Salander after the third book.  Rumors have circulated that Larsson’s intent was to write as many as 10 books in the Millennium series, but his untimely death in 2004, a year before the first book was even published, abruptly ended the possibility of continuing the saga of Lisbeth past the three manuscripts that were already written.  A fourth book is also rumored to exist, but speculation about a legal battle over the rights to the work, will probably keep it from being published. 

To possibly tie up the loose ends and appease the curious fans of the series, like those in our discussion group, the publishers of the Millennium Trilogy will be releasing a new book to go with the Millennium Trilogy box set that will hit retail shelves after Thanksgiving.  The new book, On Steig Larsson, includes four essays about the author, as well as emails between Larsson and his editor, Eva Gedin, as they were communicating about the publishing of the series.  This book intends to give fans of the series a glimpse into the mind of Larsson as he was developing the computer-hacking, enigmatic character of Lisbeth Salander.

What the new book also does is reveal Larsson’s creative process, and explain his motivations for creating the stories, plots, and subplots that take Lisbeth and the books’ other main character Mikael Blomkvist  through a roller-coaster of dark, violent, and oftentimes unbelievable episodes toward vengeance and redemption in the end. As our discussion group discovered, many of the secondary characters in the series had the potential of playing more major roles had the series been continued. Feminist characters, Sonja Modig, Annika Giannini, and Erika Berger were particularly interesting, and many of us in our group felt that those characters could have become even more believable feminist heroines than Lisbeth Salander. The new book includes an email sent by Larsson to his editor where he admits to an excitement about more fully developing some of the minor characters in future plots.

There probably won’t be any more books in the Millennium series.  The three books have now been adapted into movies in Sweden which have all been released in the U.S.; and the American movie is currently in the works.  But for true fans of the books, On Stieg Larsson, may be the best alternative for those who weren’t satisfied with just three books about the enigmatic, feminist heroine Lisbeth Salander and the man who created her.