31 July 2009

Backstory on Stieg Larsson's titles

Partially reprinted from my comment on www.best-sellingbooks.com/the-girl-who-played-with-fire-review.html/comment-page-1#comment-8. Click on the cover images to enlarge them.

The title of the first book was "Men Who Hate Women."

The second one was indeed called "The Girl Who Played with Fire" when published in Sweden, although Stieg's original title was "The Girl Who Fantasized About a Gasoline Can and a Match."

Note the very modern-style dragon, much more to Lisbeth's taste than the Chinese one on the UK cover, I think.

Stieg's original title for the manuscript of #3 was roughly "The Queen in the Air Castle," which ended up being published as "The Air Castle That Was Blown Up" -- neither one really suitable for use in English.

So you can see that "The Girl..." was used originally only on the 2nd book. The titles of the French editions seem to have been taken from earlier versions of the manuscripts rather than the later books as published in Sweden, since I believe France was the first country outside Scandinavia to translate the trilogy. There will be plenty of work for literary scholars of the future to unravel the differences in all the versions and translations!


  1. Fascinating stuff and, you are right, the original titles will give future critics plenty to ponder over. Is thee a date for the publication of the third book in the UK yet?

  2. Hi Alan, Quercus has scheduled the hardback of #3 for Oct. 1 and the trade paperback for Oct. 31. I haven't heard the date for #3 in the US; Knopf was talking about next summer, but I think that's too long and they may lose a bunch of sales to Amazon UK. I know they're positioning for the "beach book" market, but late July like this year is a bit late -- don't people start hitting the beach on Memorial Day?

  3. I know how difficult it is for a translator to reach the original meaning of a work, how a novel of renown may be wasted by a mistranslation.

    That's why I understand you. Translators must be, so to speak ambidextrous, "think" and - most important - also "hear" and "see" and "feel" in both languages.

    Congrats for your work, Reg.

  4. Really interesting.
    As you probably know, I love the series, but I do think he was better on content than titles. I didn´t like the first title at all and only read the book because it was a gift from my children. Similarly, my husband was put off the book until he decided he´d better see what all the fuss was about. Of course he also enjoyed the story very much.

    And for Stieg´s own version of the second title - far too long and off-putting.

  5. Thanks, Jose. Since most excellent translators hit their peak in middle age or later, it's an odd feeling to be suddenly in demand at what would be retirement age for normal people. Our good friend Helen Lane kept on until her death at 83. Why stop when you're in your prime? Maybe somebody will figure out a way to keep a translator's brain working in a glass container for many more years (although they could dispense with the typing). Come to think of it, they ought to do that with musicians too. Remember the movie Donovan's Brain?

  6. saw all three in French on Montreal more than a year ago, and all three had been translated into German then, too. I made a post on this subject last June, complete with French, Italian and Dutch covers. =================
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  7. quote
    Since most excellent translators hit their peak in middle age or later, it's an odd feeling to be suddenly in demand at what would be retirement age for normal people.

    Indeed, for translators the ripening of their age will enhance their capacity to interpret, provided their brains keep being faithful to them (LOL).

  8. Yes, Peter, I remember seeing that article in my pre-blogging days, thanks for reminding me for my archives.

    LOL indeed, Jose. Had an MRI of my head a few years ago when I got sick at Thanksgiving dinner.

    The doctor came back and asked, "What sort of work do you do, anyway?"

    "I translate books."

    "Well you haven't lost any brain cells at all, very rare for your age."

    So, folks, start translating!

  9. That doctor of yours, Reg. has become wiser now. LOL.

  10. Translation is just so much headache, but fun... I remember translating something about yaghts from English to Dutch - I had no idea in either language what yaghts were supposed to look like inside, nevertheless I learned a lot (this was a long time ago). I love the Larsson book in English so you must have done a great job! Translators, mmm, they are a special breed - see my today's blog on being bi-lingual. You just end up being slightly weird, whatever spin you put on it and in my experience, people around you will compensate for you being weird. :) Actually, I no longer do translations...

  11. sorry, I meant yachts... aargh translators...

  12. I'm not sure if they compensate or not. But the Net has certainly been a boon to learning more languages. One of my Swedish authors just had a big review of a book in Lithuanian. Wished I could read some of that... Talk about weird, one of my friends is an indexer -- what does that do your head?

  13. Excellent, Reg. I've read your translations of Larsson and can't wait for the 3rd one. Thank you.

    I've seen your list of translations woooh I do like Mankell, too.

  14. Have read the first two books and can't wait for the third to be released! I think you've done a truly masterful job with these works, which can't have been easy. I hope you get some of the awards for which you've been nominated as they are really deserved! (I'm trilingual but in romance languages, which are easier, so I know how hard it can be to translate, much less to incorporate an author's style & also make it as compelling as you have).

    Have been following the sad disputes over the estate between his brother/father and his lover/companion.

    Do you think there's any chance - if these get resolved - that there might be a 4th book, eventually?

    I also read that Stieg had prepared outlines for a 5th and 6th book. Commissioning other writers to continue a book series has worked for certain "brands" such as Ludlum's. Do you think that might apply here?

    I just hate to think of book 3 or 4 as being "the end" of such great characters.

    Please keep up the good work!

  15. Marsep, you'll have to wait for answers to most of these questions in Eva Gabrielsson's upcoming book, The Year After Stieg. She is in control of the part of book 4 on his laptop, and I have no idea whether there were outlines for any more. From Swedish rumors online I have heard that the Larssons are considering licensing rights to use the characters in comics, videogames, lunchboxes, bubble gum, who knows?

    I would hate to see anyone take the characters and try to continue the series. A hack writer would not be able to infuse any future books with Stieg's serious social concerns and stern morality. We don't need another Lara Croft.

    I don't consider great writers to be "brands," but people with unique sensibilities. Should there be Lisbeth Salander action figures, maybe? They'd be very small, but powerful.

    Just wait till you read #3 and see if you like the wrap-up of the trilogy!