In the footsteps of Lisbeth Salander

Its always fun to see references to Sweden in the Sydney Morning Herald, so I was pleased to see this article today. I’ve always thought the English title of the book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is a bad representation of the books real title, Män som hatar kvinnor, which literally translated means “men who hate women”. Lisbeth Salander is arguably the most interesting character of the book, but the book is not just about her. She is only one of the two main characters, the other being the journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who really seems to be more central to the narrative than Salander. The theme of the book really is much better indicated by the real title, and it is clear that this subject – the abuse of women by evil men – is one that Stieg Larsson, the author, was fascinated and horrified by. That horror is clearly conveyed in his book.

Lisbeth Salander, or Sally, as Blomkvist calls her, is a fascinating character, but in the end I found her unbelievable. She is depicted as a person who has been through incredible psychological suffering and deprivation, but she is super intelligent, athletic, sexy, endearing, even lovable, and despite her apparent hardness gets hurt. The combination of virtues and vulnerabilty in a person so severely abused seems unlikely.

But then, writers are allowed to invent people to get their message across, just as they can invent towns like Hedestad, which doesn’t exist. I did think the Herald article was a bit misleading in indicating the supposed location of Hedestad as on the Swedish coast north of Stockholm. Certainly the book indicates that it is north of Stockholm, but it also says it is in Norrland, which is nowhere in the vicinity of the capital, but around 500km away at its southern edge. But here even the Swedish version of the book is confusing, since it indicates that Hedestad is only three hours train ride from Stockholm, and that puts you an hour north of Gävle, which I would not have thought of as Norrland.

But then what would I know. I am not much more Swedish than the Herald’s travel writer.

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