Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author of the Millennium trilogy
Stieg Larsson wrote the now famous trilogy, Millennium. He never got to witness the success – over 60 million copies sold all over the world- because he died of a heart attack at the age of 50. But there is something that might be more important than him being a successful writer: he was a man of exceptional moral conviction who dedicated his life to fighting racial and religious intolerance. He was a very passionate and hardworking journalist, one of the existing few of this kind. His plurality of opinions were valuable because he had knowledge on the matter that interested him the most: the always floating danger of the extreme right wing.
His long life partner, Eva Gabrielsson, discusses Stieg’s interest in the media.
Andreea Vasile: How did Stieg Larsson view the press?
Eva Gabrielsson: First of all, Stieg knew from a very early age that he wanted to write. Secondly, it was this concept of being a citizen that was very appealing to him. He wanted to change the world, he liked to research the world and then explain it and he could do this by writing. Even if he didn’t have any training in journalism, it was not an issue, because many Swedish journalists don’t have a diploma in the field. He was very proud of the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act (editor’s note: the world’s first freedom of the press act; it was introduced in Sweden in 1766). This was THE law for him and he knew it by heart. He connected this law, as it should be connected, to the freedom of speech, the necessity for a creative and lively debate on politics, on economics and so on. Debates are the basis for development in democratic societies. People need debate in order to find solutions to existing problems. For example, in Sweden at the moment, we need broad debate on how to develop our country, because we don’t have working industries anymore. Young people in Spain and Greece are already doing it. They set up their own debates and discuss these problems, because companies don’t discuss them, politicians don’t discuss them, so young people put up speakers and talk ideas in order to get to solutions. This is what Stieg was defending as well: freedom of public debate over important matters.
Stieg Larsson wrote heavily on the dangers of the extreme right wing that will gain more and more visibility in politics.
Andreea Vasile: What were Stieg’s favorite subjects?
Eva Gabrielsson: Most of the subjects were related to politics and the danger of the extreme right wing which didn’t want freedom of the press and wanted to control the information that was getting to the public. Stieg wrote about this. He also wrote about science fiction (editor’s note: he was the chairman of the Scandinavian science fiction society and published two magazines), about ways of seeing ultimate socities – what would happen if? –in some ways you could call what he was doing political vision or scientific vision. He also liked history. He liked to write articles that would present history to readers in a popular, entertaining way, but correct on facts. He was someone trying to enlighten people and to give them a good time.
Andreea Vasile: How valuable were his opinions on the extreme right wing in the Swedish society?
Eva Gabrielsson: They were very valuable. The book he published in 1991, „Right wing extremism”, which he wrote in cooperation with Anna-Lena Lodenius, was summing up his knowledge and research that he had been doing since the 1980’s. The book was reprinted many times and it was called „the encyclopedia of the extreme right wing”. His analysis on the extreme right wing continued to develop after this book was out on the market and his opinions on the matter were extremely valued among researchers and politicians in Europe. Stieg wasn’t just a journalist writing about things that happened or that might have happened. He could also make analysis about the future based on past and ongoing events. In this way, he was unique, because very few journalists had both the instinct and the knowledge to see what would come out of certain events.
Andreea Vasile: How did he feel about the threats he was getting due to his articles?
Eva Gabrielsson: Threats were to be expected as they came with the territory. It’s like when you have a journalist writing about the Mafia for 10 years. Of course you expect something bad to happen. Or if one writes about motorcycle gangs, like Hell Angels, one must expect something bad to happen. If you write about the extreme right wing for over 20 years, like Stieg did, you can be sure you will have trouble.
Andreea Vasile: But the value of telling the truth was more important…
Eva Gabrielsson: Indeed it was. The values and culture he was from are things that he had within him. It was a personal thing, something he couldn’t deny about himself. And he continued because he couldn’t negate who he was and what he was doing and what he wanted and all of this comes with a price. But the price to stop would have been so much higher that he couldn’t do it. It would have meant to give away his values and his ideas and those were the things that made him who he was. He never talked about stopping what he’s doing and I never brought it up either because I thought he was doing the right thing. I never complained even if it was difficult at times.
Architect Eva Gabrielsson was the long life partner of writer Stieg Larsson
Andreea Vasile: Did his writings change anything in the Swedish society?
Eva Gabrielsson: Stieg tried to change the Freedom of Press Act by including web homepages as well, but he couldn’t. What he did change, and this took almost 20 years, was getting prosecutors look into the activity of the extreme right wing and of the extreme populists and also citizens take active political stand against these kind of movements. This happened in 1999 when a bomb exploded in a Swedish journalist’s car. He and his soon were injured, but didn’t die (editor’s note: on June 28, 1999, a bomb blast targeted the freelance journalist Peter Karlsson). After a short time, 2 policemen were killed during a bank robbery and a trade union leader was shot dead after exposing a Neo-Nazi colleague. Due to these events and Stieg’s writings, policemen woke up, politicians woke up, judges woke up and started to look at the political as being a motif for crimes, robberies, assasinations, assaults, torture. Stieg absolutely contributed to this. Much worse had it been if Stieg didn’t write about all these for such a long time. He compiled educational material, gave lectures to politicians, teachers and police officers. The extreme right wing would have been in the Parliament much sooner if it wasn’t for Stieg’s work (editor’s note: in the 2010 general election, the Sweden Democrats managed to enter the Parliament for the first time in the party’s history).
Andreea Vasile: Are there journalists continuing Stieg’s work?
Eva Gabrielsson: Expo is (editor’s note: Stieg was behind the founding of Swedish magazine, Expo, in 1995; Expo is an anti-fascist magazine). I think they’re the only ones. Swedish media has not recovered from the 1990’s cutdowns. There are still few journalists in each newspaper; they want to do a good job, but they don’t get the time. They are literally chained to their desks. Very few can take time off to do research or check upon facts. It’s not journalists’ fault, it’s media owners fault that they don’t recrute twice as many people to give us the news we want. For Stieg, journalism was the instrument he used to get everyone talk about how society should be like. He wanted to make sure that through public debate harassment, discrimination and abuse of power won’t get in charge. Millenium was about all of these as well, about fighting injustice.
The interview was taken in Stockholm, Sweden on the 18th of July 2011