I went along on Friday 4th September to Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Road, London, as David Lagercrantz discussed continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series with writer and broadcaster Mark Lawson.
It feels like an odd position to be in, continuing someone else’s work. And in Sweden, David Lagercrantz, in his own words, became a ‘scandalous writer’ as a result. It was very controversial—a testament to Larsson’s following in Sweden perhaps. However, many other series have been continued by other writers, though I have never read such a series before.
David Lagercrantz came across as a charasmatic personality, and was funny and chatty throughout the interview, often veering off on tangents, but amusing all of us. He described himself as ‘neurotic’ perhaps ‘eccentric.’ As I sat listening, I thought perhaps he was as good a candidate as any to write about such characters as Mikael Blomkvisk and Lisbeth Salandar, characters who’s personalities stay with you long after you finish reading. Lagercrantz said he is drawn to writing about genius, and I guess genius can be considered an extreme of personality—intriguing, characterful, sometimes unlikable and likeable. His other work deals with for example, British mathemetician Alan Turing, and Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
I was interested to hear how much he studied Larrson’s books, characters, sentences, etc. How do you continue someone else’s stories? He said he read the Millennium series over and over to inhabit the world, get the style, to look up how Larsson would have written about certain situations. But after a while he had to stop, he talked about having Larrson like a demon looking over his shoulder the whole time, and after a while you have to draw a line, and let the story come from you. It had to be his story in the end, Lagercrantz’s—this makes sense, how else would a novel feel authentic, if the author wasn’t driving it, but trying to replicate something else?
During the Q&A someone asked what he thought Larsson would have thought of the book. It was a question that’s probably following Lagercrantz around on his promotional world tour, and underlying it was: would Larsson approve? It’s no secret that Larsson’s partner doesn’t, that she wants Larsson’s work to ‘rest in peace.’ It’s a dangerous question for Lagercrantz to try and answer, because you can’t speak for the dead, nor perhaps should you. However, what I think is this: Lagercrantz won’t ever get Larsson’s approval (you can wonder all you like about what a person might have wanted, but you won’t ever get an answer), but he can get the weigh in from the thousands of Larsson’s fans. And surely that is the next best thing?
Yes, this is Larsson’s Millennium world and Larsson’s characters, but this is Lagercrantz story, his novel. With that in mind, I think I’ll start reading…