Monday, 21 September 2009

Millennium


Wow! I just finished the third volume of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. What an amazing piece of writing! I really think it's the most absorbing, entrancing fiction I've ever read (and I've read an awful lot of it). Unusually for me, I read it very slowly, savoring every sentence - normally I race through fiction, but with Millennium I wanted to make the most of it, especially since I know there will never, ever be another one.

It was hard to find all the volumes. The first one I found quite by chance, through an Amazon recommendation. Then when I wanted to read the second volume, I found that it isn't available in paperback in the US. I managed to get a "grey import" of the UK edition (which apparently is a different translation). But the third volume isn't available in the UK or the US, and won't be for some time. Luckily, though, it has been available in French (and Spanish) for quite a while, so I bought the French imprint from amazon.fr. I was concerned that it would "feel" different in French, but I needn't have worried - the author's style comes through in exactly the same way in either language. The French translation has a few oddities in it, but it's nicely done and enjoyable to read from a literary point of view. (Although there's a huge blog full of nit-picking criticisms by people with no life, who say they couldn't possibly read a translation where the subjunctive future pluperfect is used incorrectly, and so on - which of course is entirely their loss).

The pivotal character is of course the extraordinary Lisbeth Salander. Obsessive, brilliant, almost pathologically introverted, hacker extraordinaire, gifted with a photographic memory, and completely fascinating. She is pivotal - but not always central. In the first book she is an important, but not central character - everything revolves around Mikael Blomqvist. The second book is really hers, with Blomqvist often absent for a long time. Then in the third book, her circumstances (I won't say more, read it for yourself) keep her out of the main action for nearly the whole book, and Blomqvist is back on center stage. Until the climax of the whole series, the courtroom scene at the end, where she destroys one of her principal enemies (she has plenty) in a single blow.

Sadly, Larsson died shortly after finishing the third volume. It is rumored that the fourth volume was well advanced, but his heirs have said it will never be published. There are quite a few places where you can see loose ends left to be picked up later, and we'll never know, now, what Larsson had in mind - did the awful you-know-who really put the pictures on his computer, or were they planted by one of Salander's hacker friends? I'm sure he was going to tell us. Maybe it's better to have three extraordinary books, and be left panting for more, than to have ten (his original goal) that gradually deteriorate into repitition and mediocrity, which so often happens with long series. (Think how keen Conan Doyle was to be rid of Holmes).

In any case, a front-runner for "best read of a lifetime". Now I just have to wait for the English-subtitled movie versions to appear, and maybe re-read the third volume when it finally appears in English.

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