October 12th, 2010
This dramatic revelation comes in a new book called Afterword, subtitled Stieg Larsson: Four Essays and an Exchange of e-mails, accompanying his three Lisbeth Salander novels – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest – in a lavish new cloth-bound boxed set from his British publishers MacLehose.
That Larsson was a left-wing activist is well known. He worked tirelessly all his life in the fight against fascism in northern Europe, and a cursory reading of his books would make his political leanings clear. But most critics, commentators and readers have assumed he was soft left in a typically Swedish sort of way. No one knew, at least here in Britain, that he was a radical and revolutionary who, at one point, joined the armed struggle in Africa.
It was an article here in Tribune in October last year which first revealed that Karl Stig-Erland Larsson was a young activist with the Communist Workers League and edited the Trotskyist journal Fjärde Internationalen before joining the news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå. He helped start Stop the Racism in the 1980s and, after eight people were killed by neo-Nazis in 1995, the Expofoundation, dedicated to exposing fascists in Scandinavia. He became editor-in-chief of Expo in 1999 and contributed for many years to Searchlight here in Britain. Shortly before he died from a sudden heart attack in 2004 at the age of 50 – there were suggestions that he was murdered by the extreme right; more likely it was the result of stress, overwork and the 60 hand-rolled cigarettes he smoked each day – he finished the Millennium trilogy which would make him famous.
|Noomi Rapace portrays Lisbeth Salander in |
“The Girl Who Played With Fire,” based on
the second of Stieg Larsson’s novels
“Stieg rejected both these alternatives – he viewed the USSR as a repressive totalitarian dictatorship and the Social Democrats as unprincipled and closely allied with capitalist interests. The Trotskyites, perhaps the most romantically utopian of any of the communist groups, were less intolerant in their cultural views than others, which generally viewed only socialist realism as acceptable and heaped scorn on both science fiction
and crime fiction. They also, as had Trotsky himself, stood by the dream of an egalitarian anarchist and borderless world as the final goal, and this certainly spoke to Stieg’s own individualism as well as imagination. During his military service at the infantry regiment in Umeå, in 1975 and 1976, Stieg was one of those smuggling the underground Trotskyite magazine Röd Soldat [Red Soldier] into the barracks.
“1977 was a dramatic year. Stieg spent part of it in Eritrea, where he had contacts in the Marxist EPLF liberation movement and helped to train a company of women guerrillas in the use of grenade launchers. But he also contracted a kidney inflammation and was forced to leave the country.”
But, in an interesting aside, writing to Eva about the first chapter of his second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, which opens with Lisbeth Salander in Grenada, he admits: “I have been thinking a bit about the introduction and the tornado that devastated Grenada. We have resurrected the Grenada Committee here in Sweden as a result of the hurricane, so I will be able to consult the Consul. I was involved in the revolution in Grenada in the 1980s, and was a good friend of the murdered Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. But that’s another story.”
Holmberg says Larsson was tolerant of other people’s views “and could even regard his own choice of affiliation with humour. Stieg was a card-carrying Trotskyite, I an individualist libertarian. I asked him if he could define, very simply, what he felt made his particular group different from all the then many other communist groups. ‘I think the big difference,’ he said, ‘is that when all the others are out fighting you right-wingers in the streets, we are the ones who will still be sitting in our basement, trying to decide whether this is really the right historical moment’.”
The Millennium Trilogy: Boxed Set by Stieg Larsson
MacLehose Press, £69.99