Literary Hero of the Month: April: Lisbeth Salander


Photo of Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander from here

With a new Larsson follow-up due out, I’ll admit it- I’m a not-so-secret Larssonist. Steig Larsson’s ‘Millenium’ trilogy- published posthumously, and now a worldwide phenomenon- is controversial for me, as a longtime feminist, because of its graphic descriptions of brutal sexual and physical violence, including rape and domestic abuse. This sits uneasily with me- particularly when it’s blown up on the big screen in a massive glossy Hollywood production, starring, um, Daniel Craig- and yet Lisbeth Salander can happily sit next to me any time. I think she is nothing short of awesome- a true survivor and fighter in Larsson’s bleak, often thrilling world of misogynist men and their female victims. Lisbeth is one woman who refuses to be silenced- either metaphorically or literally, by her male abusers (of which there are many, many, many.)

The original title of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ was ‘Men Who Hate Women’, and the novels centre on just that- a slew of misogyny, and its effects, directed usually at Lisbeth Salander, Larsson’s  antiheroine, anti-establishment computer hacker punk.  Known literally as ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, Lisbeth Salander is one tough, tough cookie. For me, it is her finely-delineated, brittle-as-glass character that makes the whole of Larsson’s thriller series just-about-palatable, even at its most shocking and divisive. As the series develops, we learn more about her abusive upbringing and her unpredictable, truly dangerous nature, something that makes her a wild card in an otherwise ordered world of journalism and computers, and yet also makes her touchingly vulnerable. Drawn into a web of deceit, violence and cruelty, will she survive? It is this that, for me, makes her all the more whole, even in her brokenness, and all the more memorable.

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