Thus far I have truly given a great deal of thought about the books that have shaped me from my youth into middle age. I honestly believe that if I am alive and well in 40 years, most of the books I’ve mentioned thus far will still be on the list of Books that Shaped My Life. However, I’m pretty sure that today’s book won’t be. That said, sometimes you just have to chew on something pulpy and enjoy it for what it is.
Thus I present to you The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I think the highest compliment I can pay to the late Stieg Larsson is that the Millennium Series made me want to learn Swedish. You always know something is being lost in translation, but when the title Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (literally, Men Who Hate Women) gets translated into something involving skin art, well, it does make you wonder what the author’s intent was in writing the elaborate story of Lisbeth Salander and how much of this book series was a mea culpa for Mr. Larsson’s own sins. (As a teen, he apparently witnessed a friend being raped and did nothing to stop it; since he died before the book was published, its all guesswork why he wrote this very dark and brutal trilogy.)
The writing (at least in translation) is not the best I’ve ever read, but the storytelling is captivating. Most of all, Mr. Larsson has insured his immortality by creating one of the most indelible characters ever put down in paper. I tore through the roughly 2100 pages in a couple weeks (not consecutively; I had to wait almost a month on the reserve list at the library to get the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire). In fact, if I have doubts about whether or not I will still consider this book important in my life 40 years from now, I have no doubt whatsoever that Lisbeth Salander will remain as vividly fierce in my imagination as she is on paper.
I actually had my doubts about the English translation of the book. I don’t understand why so many words were left in Swedish. I read the other 2 books of the trilogy in the Russian translation, but they were not much better than the English. I’m afraid, translation is becoming a lost art.
Absolutely, Marina, but it’s especially true with popular fiction. Translation used to be an art form, and you had to be just as much a writer as a linguist. I’ve always enjoyed reading in the original (usually after I’ve read a translation).