Photos: Edi Matić /Fraktura
I was horrified that people would say I wasn’t capable of writing well.
David Lagercrantz is an unpretentious and introspective man. A former journalist, Lagercrantz has been, for quite some time, a globally popular writer who talks about his emotions in public almost as openly as he writes about the life of his characters. Lagercrantz is one of the most prominent writers of the famous Nordic thriller production. He was born into a well-known Swedish family; his father was a writer and publicist, his grandfather a philosopher, and his sister, an actress, has been in the Swedish diplomatic service in recent years.
He grew up in an environment where he was expected to get a PhD and pursue an academic career, or, if nothing else, to become a literary critic. Partly to rebel against his parents’ expectations, he became a journalist, and in those early days he covered the crime beat for Swedish tabloids. True, there are similar moment in great Mario Vargas Llosa’s biography. The Peruvian writer also was also a crime reporter in his youth, and later went to win a Nobel for his novels, forever earning a spot next to Gabriel Garcia Márquez.
Lagercrantz has gained worldwide fame by writing biographies. He first published a book about the Swedish mountaineer Göran Kropp and his ascent of Mount Everest, followed by a biography of the inventor Håkan Lans. His biography of Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Swedish footballer with roots in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was published in 2011 and translated into thirty languages, selling a huge number of copies around the world.
After the death of Stieg Larsson, the author of the planetary successful Swedish crime trilogy Millennium, Lagercrantz agreed with Norstedts publishing house and Larsson’s estate to pick up where Larsson had left off (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest). He took over Larsson’s characters and wrote three more novels in the Millennium series, telling the story of Lisbeth Salander, a talented woman with a traumatic past, and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist. David Lagercrantz has achieved world-wide popularity, becoming as famous as Larsson, who, admittedly, did not live to see his book become popular.
Every new addition to the Millennium series (The Girl in the Spider’s Web, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, and The Girl Who Lived Twice) was eagerly awaited by readers all over Europe, Asia and North America. Around the world, publishers rushed to publish translations in the same month the original came out; such was the level of interest Lagercrantz’s novels attracted.
And then David Lagercrantz had had enough. In 2019, he finished the last, sixth, instalment of Millennium, announcing that he would write a thriller series about new characters and get away from Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, whom he took over from Larsson. There are not many authors in the whole world who, without having written a single sentence, can sell books, sign lucrative contracts and, indeed, earn big money from licensing translation rights in dozens of countries for books that are only in their heads at the time of signing the contract. That’s exactly what David Lagercrantz managed to do. Late last year, his novel Obscuritas came out and was published in twenty-five countries within just a few months.
Asked if it was harder to continue writing novels with characters created by Stieg Larsson or to start a new, ambitious five-book series with new characters, he does not hide that writing Obscuritas was hard and took a long time. For a while, he says, he would just sit and think; he would write fifty, sixty pages, and, discontentedly, delete them all.