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Before Death, Acclaimed “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Author Stieg Larsson Lamented Right-Wing Extremism

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In the aftermath of the Norway attacks, we look at the work of Stieg Larsson, an author known less for his extensive research into right-wing extremism in Scandavia and Europe than for his international blockbuster books, published after his death and known as the Millennium Trilogy: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.” As part of his passion to “counteract the growth of the extreme right and the white power-culture in schools and among young people,” Larsson founded the Swedish Expo Foundation and edited its magazine, Expo. We go to Stockholm, Sweden, to speak with Larsson’s lifelong partner, Eva Gabrielsson, about the research they did together before his death. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to look at the rising tide of far-right extremism in Norway, in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. Despite the increasing prevalence of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment in the country and region, many were surprised that the attacks were carried out by a Norwegian nationalist. The head of the security program at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo said he was one among many who thought the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda.

PETER BURGESS: I was among those who first thought, in the first 24 hours after the attack, that it was a jihadist or a al-Qaeda-inspired attack. And there were a few reasons why that might be plausible. And I think that was really the only scope of threat that was considered by the Norwegian Security Services. So now that we find out that it’s a right-wing extremist, we’re all the more surprised. And I think that the Security Services were even more surprised. There was nothing—the statements from the Security Service are that there was nothing about this man which came up—which should have come up on the security intelligence radar. Everything he was doing was within the realm of legality. There was really no reason to suspect him. And yet, there was every reason to suspect him.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Peter Burgess of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo.

According to observers, many of Anders Breivik’s views have increasingly moved into the mainstream. Right-wing parties have also re-entered European politics in recent years, including the Dutch Party for Freedom, the Sweden Democrats, the True Finns, the National Front in France, the National Democratic Party of Germany. Europe’s right fringe has secured seats in numerous national and regional parliaments across the continent.

Well, the man whose work we turn to now is known less for his extensive research into right-wing extremism in Scandinavian Europe than for his international blockbuster bestselling books known as the Millennium Trilogy: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. The author is Stieg Larsson. His books were actually published after his death. You see them at every airport. You may read the books. You may have seen the movies. But Stieg Larsson was also the editor of Expo, which was a magazine, a journal, that researched far-right movements in Sweden and beyond. So we’re turning to Sweden right now, to Stockholm, to speak with his life partner, Eva Gabrielsson. She has just published her memoir called There Are Things I Want You to Know about Stieg Larsson and Me.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! You did this work into the right wing together. When Stieg Larsson wasn’t writing these books, he was writing, doing his research for years into the right. When this took place in Norway, Eva, what were your thoughts?

EVA GABRIELSSON: Well, I thought immediately that this must be a madman, but a politically motivated madman. And my thoughts went to—that this was a person inspired by some extreme right wing, because he went to slaughter the youth at the youth camp. So I had never thought it was al-Qaeda.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the work that you and your partner, Stieg Larsson, now known throughout the world—certainly not the case when he was alive; he only dreamed that the books he—the manuscripts that he had would help to finance the research that you both have done, his life—his real life commitment. Talk about what spurred Stieg to begin his research into the right wing. You talk about it in your book, the wave of racist violence in Sweden in the ’80s, after which the extreme right became increasingly active in Sweden.

EVA GABRIELSSON: Well, he started being more openly active already in 1983, when he started to write for the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, which is based in London, and just because they needed somebody who could cover Scandinavia at the time. We had racist incidents. We had racist groups. We had neo-Nazi groups. And they all kept growing all through the 1980s. So, in the middle of the 1990s, it was time to also launch a Swedish magazine, a sort of sister magazine to Searchlight, but to make it its own, and that was Expo. So Stieg was actually working on these issues actively from 1983 up until his death.

His last article in Searchlight was published the same month as he died. That was November 2004. So he never gave up, and he continuously tried to explain that these groups aren’t deluded youth. You can’t say its their psychology or their social background which make them do these things. You have to understand that they do have a message and they do have a goal. And you have to regard their politics and take it seriously and see where they are going.

AMY GOODMAN: There is—you’re involved in an ongoing legal dispute with Stieg’s father and brother over the estate, which really—you know, it was after he died that these books became such massive blockbusters. But one of the issues you’ve raised and talked about was the reason that you, together with Stieg, for what, some three decades, didn’t get married, and it had to do with registering your location. Can you talk about that?

EVA GABRIELSSON: Well, we wanted to marry. I even—we even got the rings in 1983, and I still wear them. But we had to keep Stieg safe, and he wanted to keep me safe, by making sure that he was registered as unmarried in the Swedish public records, because we knew that they then, and still do, use the public records to make up lists of enemies of all kinds. These enemies are journalists. They are political activists. They are policemen. They are lawyers. They are politicians and so on. And Stieg was on that list from 1990 to '93, when the first list was revealed in a court case. And they continued to build on that list. So by not marrying—it was, of course, possible to find his address in the public records, but it wasn't possible to find behind which door he was living, because his name wasn’t on the door. He never paid any electricity bills. He never paid any gas bills. He never paid any insurance, anything like that. It was all in my name. So, that’s why we did not marry. And it worked. It worked fine.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning you were both protected. One of the central themes of Stieg Larsson’s work is his research into the far right and the issue of violence against women. It is also something you are deeply concerned about. And when you read his books, you see that everywhere. Can you talk about why he was so deeply concerned about this and how he linked it into the rise of neo-Nazi groups, right-wing groups?

EVA GABRIELSSON: Well, he—when you talk about violence against women, or discrimination, Stieg used to say that they are just two sides of the same coin. They are directed towards different groups of the people in a society, but it’s the same mechanism, it’s the same ideology, it’s the same terror or discrimination that they want to impose, to subject somebody to something to be able to get more power of their own. And so, he never really saw any difference between racism and anti-feminism, just that—because the extreme right-wing movements and the right-wing populist racist movements started to grow so much in Sweden and in Scandinavia, he never really got the time to develop his feminist views, until Millennium. So that’s why that became such an important thing in Millennium.

And I also noted—I listened to the program while standing here. I also noted that you finally have found out that this Breivik in Norway, he is also what you could call a man who hates women. He blames actually women for the state of things in Europe now, and he doesn’t blame the global economy and the lack of political and economical responses to that, which he should be able to do, since he went to some commerce higher education in Norway. Instead, he blames women, saying that we have destroyed societies, we are for multiculturalism, we are against men, we have made men into something that they are not. And I’m horrified to see that his long-term aim, by using terror to destabilize whole nations and the whole of Europe, is supposed to end up in a coup, first civil war and then a coup, where which they will reestablish the patriarchy again—obviously with him in some kind of lead then at some point in time.

And it’s just—it’s just so backward. It’s just so horrible. It doesn’t reflect the ideas of Scandinavian societies at all. And I’m deeply upset by his writings. I’m even more upset by what he has done. It’s—please don’t think that we are like that up here in the north. We certainly aren’t.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Eva Gabrielsson, if Stieg were alive today, since he had been researching far-right extremism in Sweden and Scandinavia, do you think he would be surprised what took place in Norway? Or do you think it links into the different groups that Stieg has been writing about in Searchlight, in his magazine Expo? In fact, the shooter said, in his manifesto, he said that he was working with others, and that’s still being investigated, with other cells in Norway.

EVA GABRIELSSON: I don’t think Stieg would have fallen into the trap of sort of enhancing this man into something more than a lone, very confused person at this point in time. What I’ve been able to see so far is that his contacts with the Norwegian Defence League and a similar thing in Great Britain seem to have been a lot contact by internet, by blogs, by emails and things like that. He doesn’t seem to have been the kind of man who was able to be in groups with real people in real life. So, for the time being—and I hope the police investigation will show how much contact he had with others and if there is, in fact, any organization, but it seems to be—so far, it seems to be a lone, lone guy.

I also would like to show you a book. This is an official government report from 1999, which dealt with the destroyers of democracy. This was a official government study into how to deepen and broaden and secure democratic ways of making politics. And Stieg wrote a chapter here, and it’s about terror, it’s about The Turner Diaries and these kinds of threats. So, we have been aware of this in Sweden, that democracy needs to be deepened and broadened and practiced by more than politicians. And I’m glad to hear Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister of Norway, expressing some kind of the same ideas in his speech to the Norwegian nation last night.

AMY GOODMAN: Eva Gabrielsson, I want to thank you for being with us. I hope this is just part one of our conversation. Eva Gabrielsson is the life partner of Stieg Larsson, famous for the Millennium Trilogy. And she has written a book about her relationship with Stieg, called There Are Things I Want You to Know about Stieg Larsson and Me.

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