With the launch of the fourth addition to the Stieg Larsson trilogy The Girl In the Spiders Web, crime fiction aficionados have finally sated their anxiety levels. It`s the trilogy that globally set alight interest in Nordic Noir and arguably reinvigorated the genre, selling over 80 million copies to date. The trilogy did not just reignite interest in the genre, but more than this, it proved to be a lightening rod for making Scandinavian crime fiction on- trend and cultivating an appetite for Scandinavian television crime television drama such as The Killing et al. Amazingly its been 10 years since the first Larsson novel, but what does this new novel hold in store for readers ? Judging from the feverish interest in Larrson`s enduring characters, Lagercrantz`s offering could be as successful if not more.
To be asked to deliver Larsson`s legacy would have been undoubtedly flattering but equally something of a poisoned chalice. Get it right and you become heir apparent to Larsson`s legacy. Get it wrong and you face the indignation of Stieg Larsson fans the world over.It is a formidable task of writing a novel to not just match the supremo talents of Larsson but somehow add or even eclipse the steller success of his trilogy.
Larsson`s magnus opus is understandably considered hallowed ground in Sweden, which probably explains why according to a non-plussed Lagercrantz, critics fervently denounced the book as “the worst book they have ever read”. pregnant with the possibility of a bout of book burning no doubt. So with everything considered, just what attracted him to writing the novel in the first place. Lagercrantz describes the moment… “I like to write all kinds of books..” He nonchalantly describes the moment when he was smuggled into the publishing house and asked if he wanted to write the next novel. Recalling the moment, he said that if he didn’t, he would regret it the whole of his life.
Yet even then, he definitely appreciated the enormity of the task, but rather then wince at the task, he displays a steely proffessonal rigour about him.” Its by taking risks you grow”. ” he staunchly remarks.
Lagercrantz likes to play to the gallery and is even self-effacing at times, even appreciative of being given this opportunity and yet dig a little beneath the gregarious veneer, he`s a writer`s Writer; clever, literally adroit; acutely aware of the problems, sensitive, but as with any writer, there is inherently a professional killer of an ego. As with any author in his enviable position, there is a certain dilemma. Having been gifted with such “iconic” characters, do you write in the same style of Larrson and remain faithful to the text or do you cross the rubicon and write your own style, facing the possible wrath of Larsson fans. Lagercrantz is quick to dispel any notion that this would simply be a Stieg Larsson by novel by numbers.
“The publisher said to me that we cant pretend that its a Steig Larrson novel, because its not. It was a privilege to inherit his beautiful universe and iconic characters but at the same time, it must be my interpretation… You have to decide if I’m any good or not”
Just how much play did Stieg Larsson`s novels have on fashioning the new novel ? “I read them over and over and had them on pdf file and asked how would Steig Lasrson have solved this problem…? But then I had to stop reading and start to write the novel in my own style.” Yet Lawson points to fans` scepticism over the quality of his writing and Larsson`s own guardians` concerns, over his novel possibly compromising Larsson`s legacy.
“I accept that but it still troubled me but the only thing that troubles me for sure is that we have not reached settlement with the rights but I now know for sure that his three old books are finding new readerships and new audiences. If you wish for a strong legacy then his book does him well.”
Could we expect any follow -ups ? Is there much more creative mileage from Larsson`s “iconic” characters. Lagercrantz is seemingly ambivalent or perhaps decidedly cautious on the matter.
” We do not know anything [at this stage] but its tempting now. I will not write Steig Larsson for the rest of the life. I want to have new challenges or new creative things.”
Depending on the success of the novel, that could well change of course and whilst Lagercrantz`s reinventions are undoubtedly done with sincerity, there is arguably a danger that Larsson`s legacy may become diluted, some how loosing his literary imprint, considering it`s now written through a different voice and with an international audience in mind. Yet Lagercrantz is quick to point out that he allows Larsson`s novels to find a new voice and a new legion of fans.
Clearly the literary gamble of the decade is paying dividends with the new novel notching up an impressive 23 million copies worldwide. Like a very Larssonesque scene, Lagercrantz could well find himself bundled into a publisher`s dark room again and forced to write the follow-up before the fans succumb to lassitude. The writing as they say is clearly on the wall.
The Girl In The Spiders Web – David Lagercrantz. Published by Quercus Books. Translated by George Golding.
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