Stieg Larsson is a hot name. It has become an international brand. His books, the Millennium trilogy, have been – and in some cases still are – on the bestseller lists in all corners of the world. The three movies based on his books have been viewed by tens of millions, and Hollywood will produce remakes of movies seeking to utilize the brand some more. Also, it has become a brand that is heavily exploited by publishers and the media: Authors are promoted as “the new Stieg Larsson” – even though they don’t necessarily write in a style similar to Stieg Larsson. And the media have published thousands of articles about Stieg Larsson, possible “new” Stieg Larssons, the Stieg Larsson movies and the Hollywood remake of it. It has become big business.
The reason, of course, is that there is demand for all things Stieg Larsson. People read those stories. They watch the movies. They notice when an author is launched as the “new Stieg Larsson”. Given all this, it is not very surprising that a number of Stieg Larsson biographies have been written as well – and that more are in the making. Many people want to know more about the man who created Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, the man who has given them so much joy, has entertained them so thoroughly, has made them stay home from work or miss out on dates while they finished The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo or one of the other books in the Millennium series.
Kurdo Baksi, the author of Stieg Larsson, My Friend is one of the few among the people who have written biographies about Stieg Larsson so far that actually knew Larsson and was a friend of Stieg Larsson. Baksi first met Larsson in 1992, was a friend of Larsson for many, many years, worked with him, shared his views on racism, collaborated with him against the neo-Nazi movement and in the fight against racism in Sweden, and even helped Larsson save his journal Expo when it was about to go bankrupt. Kurdo Baksi is the author of ten books on human rights, racism, emigration and exile, and in 2000 he was awarded the Olaf Palme Peace Prize. There has been much controversy about his Larsson-biography, and many have accused him of writing it for money (as if other writers don’t write at least partially for money), yet there is little doubt that Kurdi Baksi has been close enough to Larsson and knew him well enough to be in position to have something to say about him and write a biography as well.
Stieg Larsson, My Friend is a biography primarily about the anti-racist, the pro-feminist, the politically active and the professional Stieg Larsson, and less about the private and personal aspects of Larsson’s life. Baksi knew Larsson primarily from working with him, so naturally that is what he writes about. Given these limitations, it is quite good and provides people interested in learning more about Larsson with lots of facts and interesting viewpoints.
The biography tells us about a young man who decided early on to become a journalist, who wanted to learn about and see the world and traveled widely; a man who all his life was very politically engaged, and who worked extremely hard and in many ways was a workaholic. It also tells us about his impatience, how he smoked incessantly, slept little, and ate badly.
Stieg Larsson, My Friend, is a serious, mostly warm yet not uncritical biography with a somewhat limited scope, and a light-weight introduction rather than a definite biography of Larsson. Given these limitations, it provides new information and an understanding of the man behind the Millennium trilogy and sheds considerable light on the life of the intriguing and fascinating Swedish author Stieg Larsson.
See also The Man Who Left Too Soon: The Biography of Stieg Larsson, by Barry Forshaw.