Book Review: The Girl who Played with Fire
by Steig Larsson
Vintage books Zoro
More Gratuitous Sex and Historical Revisionism
This book is the second in a trilogy by Larsson which started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In it the two main characters, Mikael Blomkvist the journalist and Lisbeth Salander the tech savvy researcher, continue once more in a deadly hunt for truth. This time Blomkvist uncovers a sex trafficking operation and decides to publish a piece exposing these crimes against the people, when folks start getting murdered and his colleague Salander is implicated in some murders. And so once more the pair dive into another job to uncover the truth.
Initially I became interested in this trilogy after learning that the author, Larsson, was an "expert in Nazi organizations" and as a novelist his work would either consciously or unconsciously reflect this "expertise." Propaganda is a powerful medium whether in the literary field or in art and so I thought I would check out Larsson's second book in this trilogy.
This trilogy is drenched in violence and sexual abuse, even torture. I suspect his being immersed in Nazi history and ideology while developing his "expertise" leads to this tendency.
This book starts with the character Salander being on vacation in Grenada and gives a watered down version of Grenada's revolutionary history. Larsson writes: "Some two hundred years later, in 1979 a lawyer called Maurice Bishop started a new revolution, which the guidebook says was inspired by the communist dictatorships in Cuba and Nicaragua. But Salander was given a different picture of things when she met Phillip Cambell, teacher, librarian and Baptist teacher. She had taken a room in his guesthouse for the first few days. The gist of the story was that Bishop was a popular folk leader who had deposed an insane dictator, a UFO nutcase who had devoted part of the meagre national budget to chasing flying saucers. Bishop had lobbied for economic democracy and introduced the country's first legislation for sexual equality. And then in 1983 he was assassinated."(p. 15)
What Larsson doesn't say is Maurice Bishop was assassinated after an Amerikan instigated coup — think Libya most recently. Bishop attempted to free the Grenadian nation from imperialist influence and Amerika began to work toward overthrowing this nation just as it's currently doing to Syria. Larson, who no doubt was aware of this history, failed to be honest with the people about Grenada and the Amerikan invasion of marines once Bishop was assassinated. It would have been good to read the real story woven into this novel but instead Larsson states, in step with imperialism, "The United States invaded the country and set up a democracy."(p. 16) What the united snakes sets up after invasion is neo-colonialism, not democracy. Amerika is a parasite, compelled to exploit Third World nations.
In The Girl who Played with Fire, the character Blomkvist is approached to expose sex trafficking and so the book attempts to examine gender oppression:
"Apart from a handful of women working on their own who profit from the sex trade, there is no other form of criminality in which the sex roles themselves are a precondition for the crime, nor is there any other form of criminality in which social acceptance is so great, for which society does so little to prevent."(p. 113)
I don't totally agree with this last point in Amerika, although I agree that gender oppression is great and society does little about it in Amerika. But there is another form of criminality which is socially acceptable, and that is national oppression. In the United $tates, Brown, Black and Red peoples are overwhelmingly imprisoned, given life sentences and placed on death row or murdered in the streets by the state, and social acceptance is great. Many don't do shit about it, and others think the oppressed nations bring it upon ourselves. Chican@s are living under occupation. Aztlán, the geographical homeland of the Chicano nation (the southwest), was stolen by Amerika via murder and terror. Many Amerikans act as if this is normal. Even so-called "revolutionaries" like the revisionist RCP-U$A are against Aztlán regaining our land that is occupied by the imperialists. So gender oppression is not the "only" socially acceptable crime. Like national oppression, class oppression is also socially acceptable to many but this is something else Larsson leaves out.
The Girl who Played with Fire is filled with sex. At one point Salander, while vacationing in Grenanda, is having sex with a Black male teenager, who the author portrays as being eager but unsure of how to initiate sex with Salander, a white womyn. What the author doesn't reveal is this uncertainty in real life on how to initiate sex may be from centuries of oppression and lynchings of Black males after having sex with white wimmin, even if the womyn initiated sex or was the one who pursued the Black male in the first place. The character Blomkvist is having sex with Harriet, who was in the first book of the series. She is now a board member to the magazine Millenium where Blomkvist works.
Salanders old guardian, B Jurman, who raped her and who as a result she tortured in Dragon Tattoo, is back and in this book he hires some nazi-connected motorcycle club to take out Salander. She finds out and then her guardian turns up dead, along with two more people who are killed by a gun with Salander's fingerprints on the weapon. Salander becomes the prime suspect in these murders and so Blomkvist begins his own investigation to clear his ex-lover Salander's name.
Larsson describes how the character Salander, while being pursued for three murders, is targeted by the bourgeois press, and how all her past is blasted all over the front pages of Swedish newspapers. In one article they describe her as being placed in a psychiatric institution where Salander was placed in a room the doctor described as being "free of stimuli" for being unruly. The author discusses this solitary confinement: "When she grew older she discovered that there was another term for the same thing. Sensory deprivation. According to the Geneva conventions, subjecting prisoners to sensory deprivation was classified as inhumane. It was a commonly used element in experiments with brainwashing conducted by various dictatorial regimes, and there was evidence that the political prisoners who confessed to all sorts of crimes during the Moscow trials in the 1930s had been subjected to such treatment."(p. 450)
Larsson attempts to show how sensory deprivation is inhumane, a fact that those of us housed in SHUs across Amerika can agree with. But Larsson, as a true Amerikan apologist, points the finger at Russia in the 1930s for using such treatment. This is bullshit! Russia in the 1930s was building socialism while encircled by imperialism and fighting off attacks for being the world base for revolution. Russia in the 1930s was gearing up for the war with Nazi Germany, sending Soviet tanks to fight Mussolini's fascists. This was a time when comrade Stalin also fought the Soviet-Japanese war of 1939. There were counter revolutionaries working with the imperialists to uproot socialism, and in Russia during the 1930s those imprisoned were given a trial to see if they would stay in prison or be released or face other penalties. This is in contrast to the thousands in solitary confinement here who do not even get a trial! We can not even face our accusers! We are not placed in solitary for crimes or violence, but for our ideas, our thoughts or supposed beliefs! And we are kept in solitary until those brainwashed confess and implicate others after being subjected to this treatment by the capitalist dictatorial regime of Amerikkka! This is something Larsson refuses to admit in his capitalist propaganda books. It is common knowledge that Amerika imprisons a higher percentage of its people than any other country. Larsson does not even mention Amerika in discussing the use of sensory deprivation. My first "baptism" to a sensory deprivation cell by Amerika was at the ripe age of 12 so I'm well aware of what life is really like in the Amerikan capitalist dictatorial regime.
Salander soon learns that the persyn responsible for the murders she's accused of is an ex-Russian military intelligence man named Zala who she and her co-workers at Millenium magazine find out is also Salander's dad. Salander uncovers documents that track her life since childhood and reveal a coverup that has the Swedish government working with her father and providing him secret exile. The book ends with Salander attempting to take out her abusive father and ends with her father actually shooting and burying Salander, leaving her for dead, only to allow her to awaken in a shallow grave and unsuccessfully attempt to exact revenge on her wrongdoers. This book describes Salander as a lesbian man-hater but she only seems to exact justice on wimmin-abusers and stands up and takes on the most primitive patriarchal male chauvinists in her society.