Graeme Atkinson provides an essential political service as the foreign editor of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. However necessary his work is, he never expected that he or any of his colleagues who dedicate their lives to the painstaking and occasionally dangerous task of exposing neo-Nazism would become celebrities. The global fame of Searchlight’s former Stockholm correspondent is thus filling him with an unexpected delight.
In the next fortnight, he will hear the name of his old friend Stieg Larsson everywhere. The bookshops are preparing to receive 320,000 hardback copies of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, the last volume of the extraordinarily popular Millennium trilogy. As the hype builds again, only three thoughts will make Atkinson wince: the memory of Larsson’s death in 2004 at the miserably early age of 50; the knowledge that Sweden’s sexist inheritance laws denied Larsson’s partner, Eva Gabrielsson, a share of his posthumous royalties; and the irritation which always overcomes him whenever he hears the media describe his old comrade as a “liberal journalist”.
Larsson was not a liberal or anything like one. He was a revolutionary socialist, but of a remarkably generous and democratic sort, from a radical tradition that is all but dead in Europe. The notion that the work of a writer who had once been the editor of Fjärde Internationalen, the journal of the Swedish section of the Trotskyist Fourth International, could move to every airport bookstall in the world would have once seemed absurd. At the very least, you might have assumed that there would be few connections between the two sides of his life. But I don’t believe you can understand the appeal of Larsson without grasping an almost nostalgic yearning for the best of the half-forgotten politics he represented.
Before going any further, I must pepper this piece with caveats….