Reviews

Larsson, Stieg: Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (2005 – 2007) – “Men Who Hate Women”

After first talking about the trilogy’s publication history and then it’s language, style and structure, I saved the best for last. Yes, last. This will be my last post on the Millenium trilogy, although I might have to come back to talk about the film adaptations as well as the sequel written by David Lagercrantz later.

I think one of the most intriguing aspects of the trilogy is its original title and the fact that it has – at least in my considered opinion – been completely butchered in the translation. The original title –  Män Som Hatar Kvinnor – “Men Who Hate Women” – perfectly sums up the essence of the trilogy.

When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies (or a newspaper, Ed.) ; it’s about violence against women, and the men who enable it.

Blomkvist says this to his sister, a women’s rights lawyer, who comes to represent Lisbeth in court, and I think that this statement also presents a nice recap of what the story is all about. It’s a story about women who experience(d) horrible treatment by men, who mostly get away with it. The original title really highlights that this is the main focus of the novels, whereas the translation makes the trilogy out to be mainly about Blomkvist and his magazine, Millenium. In a way I feel like this undermines the original intention and puts a patriarchal twist on it – stories are mainly about men and their endeavours, period.

The reason I feel so strongly about this is that throughout his trilogy Stieg Larsson really makes an effort to point out the small ways in which women in our society are still sometimes seen and treated differently than men – intentionally or not. Changing the original title to centre the story on Michael Blomkvist and his Millenium to me just looks like one of the many ways in which women – even in fiction – are sometimes silenced and overlooked, as the story Larsson tells is the story of Lisbeth Salander just as much, if not more so, as it is the story of Micheal Blomkvist.

But as my love for the novels’ content by far exceeds my contempt for the translation’s title, let’s move on to some of the most interesting aspects of the trilogy, including some instances in the story that convinced me that this trilogy should have without a doubt borne the title Men Who Hate Women.


(Spoiler alert: as I’m going to discuss as well as quote individual plot points in some detail, you might want to consider to come back after finishing the novels.)


You’ve been warned, so here goes:

In the first part, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth is brutally raped by her guardian, Nils Bjurman. This scene as well as its after-effects are described in some detail, and all of it is absolutely horrible. Lisbeth is handcuffed to a bed, completely defenceless and in great pain throughout and after the scene. She clearly didn’t give her consent to any of it and obviously doesn’t enjoy herself accordingly.

I was very impressed when I stumbled across the following scene in the second part, The Girl Who Played With Fire:

“I Feel like playing. Are you up for it?” Mimmi said.

“I’m always up for it.” [Salander replied]

“Tonight I think I’ll be a domineering bitch. I get to make the decisions. Take off your clothes.”

[…]

“Lie down on the floor. On your stomach.”

Salander did as Mimmi commanded. […]

Mimmi used Salander’s T-shirt […] to tie her hands behind her back.

Salander could not help thinking that this was similar to the way Nils Bjurman had tied her up two years ago.

The similarities ended there.

With Mimmi, Salander felt only lustful anticipation. She was compliant when Mimmi rolled her over on her back and spread her […]

I’ll stop here before anybody gets too excited. 😉

Apart from getting my readership all excited*, this excerpt showcases the distinction that Larsson really succeeds at making throughout the novels. It’s the distinction between what happens between two consenting adults and what somebody is subjected to against their will. There are instances in the second and third book in which some of the characters in the book – all of them male – fail to make this distinction, which is harshly condemned.

*If you liked this excerpt, you should read the books – I promise: there’s more where this came from. But who am I even talking to – you kept reading past the spoiler alert, so you probably know what I’m talking about anyway, right?

A similar distinction is also portrayed when Salander recounts the rape by Bjurman in the third part, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. In this case it’s the distinction between what a person inflicts upon their own body and the fact that this doesn’t give anybody else free reign to do something similar to them against their will:

On one occasion when I still had my mouth taped shut, Bjurman commented on the fact that I had several tattoos and piercings, including a ring in my left nipple. He asked if I liked being pierced and then left the room. He came back with a needle which he pushed through my right nipple.

The topic of tattoos and piercings, and what it means if a person chooses to decorate their body that way comes up again towards the end of the third book during Salander’s trial. Her former psychiatrist explains his concern for Salanders well-being by pointing out that she obviously likes to engage in self-harming activities, by which he refers to aforementioned tattoos and piercings. I really enjoyed this trial scene, as it picked up a lot of the issues explored throughout the book and also because it obviously ends in Salander’s victory over the men who had turned her life into a living hell for so long.


I’m repeating myself, but are you done reading those books by now?

What do you think about the changed title of the translation?

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