‘Millennium’ author backs Danish media boycott

The Swedish author of the highly-anticipated sequel to the Millennium crime trilogy said Tuesday he supported a Danish newspaper boycott of him over his publisher's refusal to let literary critics read the book in advance.

'Millennium' author backs Danish media boycott
David Lagercrantz's book 'The Girl in the Spider's Web' hits Danish shelves on Thursday. Photo Asger Ladefoged/Scanpix
The boycott concerns David Lagercrantz's book 'The Girl in the Spider's Web' (Danish title: 'Det der ikke slår os ihjel') — the fourth instalment of Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium trilogy which is due for release in 25 countries on Thursday and in the United States on September 1st.
Larsson, who created the series, died 11 years ago and in December, Swedish publisher Norstedts said it had commissioned Lagercrantz to write a fourth instalment, although details of the plot have been shrouded in secrecy.
Media interviews with Lagercrantz ahead of the book's launch have been subjected to rigorous confidentiality agreements and Danish daily Politiken said it had been offered an interview with him in early June.
“Norstedts had an unusual condition: We would not be allowed to read the book before the interview!” Jes Stein Pedersen, the paper's cultural editor told public broadcaster Swedish Radio.
“An exceptional condition that we exceptionally enough ultimately agreed to, because Lagercrantz has written the book that everyone is going to be talking about this autumn,” he said. “Normally we would never speak to an author without having read the book first. We consider that to be part of our professionalism.”
But when Norstedts also required the newspaper to wait until the book's release date, August 27, to publish Lagercrantz's comments about his other work unrelated to Millennium, Politiken turned down the interview.
Lagercrantz, himself a journalist, told regional daily Goteborgs-Posten he found the whole situation “absurd”.
“I'm on the journalists' side in this. I don't know whether in hell I would have agreed to conditions like this myself,” he said.
Norstedts has gone to great lengths to keep fans in suspense about the book's plot.
Only a few people have read the 500-page tome — just translators and editors — and the writing of the novel was shrouded in secrecy, with the author, editors and translators working on computers disconnected from the internet to avoid leaks.
The first three Millennium books about tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, published in 2005-2007, have sold 80 million copies worldwide and have been made into Swedish and Hollywood movie

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‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.