From FRANK RICH
New York Times
The same week that Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, a Swedish crime novel titled “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was published in America. The book didn’t receive a ton of hype, not least because the author, a journalist named Stieg Larsson, was unavailable for interviews; he had died in 2004 of a heart attack at the age of 50. The mixed Times review appeared in the back pages of the Sunday Book Review. Many more readers were riveted instead by the Lehman article on that morning’s front page: “A Wall Street Goliath Teeters Amid Fears of a Widening Crisis.”
Larsson’s novel, the first of a “Millennium” trilogy he left behind, would nonetheless soar onto best-seller lists in America, as it has in much of the world. It remains a best seller 18 months later, even as the first of what may be two movie adaptations opens this weekend. In the many dissections of this literary phenomenon, much has been said about Larsson’s striking title character, a brilliant, if antisocial, 24-year-old female computer hacker who bonds with a middle-age male journalist to crack a chain of horrific crimes against Swedish women. Strangely, far less attention has been paid to the equally prominent villains in this novel — whether they literally commit murder or not. They are, without exception, bankers and industrialists. At the time of its American release, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was far more topical than most anyone could imagine.
“A bank director who blows millions on foolhardy speculations should not keep his job,” writes Larsson in one typical passage. “A managing director who plays shell company games should do time.” Larsson is no less lacerating about influential journalists who treat “mediocre financial whelps like rock stars” and who docilely “regurgitate the statements issued by C.E.O.’s and stock-market speculators.” He pleads for some “tough reporter” to “identify and expose as traitors” the financial players who have “systematically and perhaps deliberately” damaged their country’s economy “to satisfy the profit interests of their clients.”
What’s remarkable is that Larsson wrote all this in a book completed years before the meltdown of 2008 — and was referring only to Sweden. And yet the overlap with our recent history is profound…
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