Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Bloggers' Dilemma : Learn Swedish Or Live

I have not posted to any of my blogs for a week now and some kind people have been enquiring as to whether or not I was ill. I have not been ill. Perhaps, others have suggested, I have been busy with tasks of the real world such as paying bills and returning my library books. No, I have not been getting my affairs in order. The more insightful of my correspondents have recognised that my wife has been on leave from work for the last week and therefore concluded that I have been subjected to a route-march based on that popular coffee-table book "1001 Shopping Centres To Visit Before You Die". Indeed over the last few days I have become intimately acquainted with all types of carpet sample books, fabric swatches and bathroom catalogues : but, in truth, this is not the real reason for my absence. The truth is that during every spare moment I have been reading the second book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy which has only just been published in English.
Mindful of the fact that second books by authors who have achieved stunning debuts can often be disappointing, I approached the book with a degree of trepidation, but I should not have worried, it is superb. All the tautness, suspense, characterisation and good, old-fashioned thrills which were in the first book are there again in the second. Within a few pages it has taken you over and each spare moment has to be devoted to working your way through the 500+ pages. Blogs don't stand a chance.
Steig Larsson was a campaigning Swedish journalist who wrote a series of three novels for his own pleasure. In 2004 he decided to take the manuscripts to a publisher to see if they would be interested in them. Shortly afterwards he died of a massive heart attack. He never saw the books published and he never knew that they would go on to become an international publishing sensation. The first two books - "The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire" - have been translated and published in English, the third is expected to be ready later this year.
Many years ago I was mid-way through reading Len Deighton's "Game, Set and Match" trilogy of books when I was told that I might be quite ill. At the time we were fairly poor and an occasional paperback book was a rare luxury. I had never bought a hard-back novel in my life. By the time of the diagnosis, I had read the first two books in the series but the third was only available in hardback. The first thing I did after receiving the somewhat disturbing news was to go out and buy the hardback.
As it turned out the diagnosis was based on a wrongly-calibrated machine and I was as fit as a fiddle, but I had been taught a lesson about priorities. As I have got older I have tended to buy more novels in hardback form (you never know how long you have left), but with the Millennium Trilogy I have a problem as the hardback of the English-version of the third novel won't be available until September at the earliest. It looks like I will either have to learn Swedish, or to live a bit longer. I think, on balance, I will live a bit longer.


  1. Smart decision, Alan, I commend you. FYI, I finished the translation of book 3 in November '06, I believe, so the book is in the works. Blame the delay on milking each volume for maximum sales, as publishers will do. #3 takes the story into political thriller territory... Best, Reg

  2. P.S. Swedish really ain't that hard -- compared to French or German, the grammar is refreshingly English-like. Give it a try.

  3. Thanks for the comments Reg. Not sure I need to learn Swedish because someone has done such an excellent job of translating Stieg Larsson. Congratulations on that. What is more, a great translator who is also a fan of Mose Allison and Kenny Burrell, now that is something. Tomorrow I will go in search of Camilla Lackberg's "The Preacher".

  4. Oh yeah, I grew up in the black & Italian part of Oakland, just a white guy with a case of the blues and a craving for cucina italiana.


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