New review: Feminist or misogynist?

// 5 September 2009

Steig Larsson’s thrillers have been described as feminist, but Melanie Newman argues they are just the latest in a line of novels which aim to titillate readers with graphic depictions of men raping and murdering women

This may be triggering to some readers

Steig Larsson should be a feminist hero. A Swedish journalist, he founded the magazine Expo, which is dedicated to fighting racism, and campaigned for years against extreme right-wing organisations.

The Swedish title of his first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Men Who Hate Women. As Joan Smith says in her Sunday Times review, the title reflects the author’s other “great preoccupation”: violence against women.

Larsson’s second novel The Girl Who Played With Fire, set around the world of sex trafficking, received a rapturous reception from Smith this year.

But I have difficulty squaring Larsson’s proclaimed distress at misogyny with his explicit descriptions of sexual violence, his breast-obsessed heroine and babe-magnet hero.

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