Jan Guillou, Swedish literary idol…and KGB agent

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Jan Guillou

Yesterday we met a few Swedish enemies of capitalism who struck it rich with crime fiction. Here’s another. Jan Guillou (b. 1944) is one of Sweden’s most famous writers. “He is the Grand Old Man of Swedish journalism,” wrote Ilya Meyer in 2010, “and has for decades set the tone for journalism in this country.”

Jan_Guillou,_2011Meaning what? Meaning that Guillou made it the norm in Sweden for supposedly objective reporters to view everything through a red prism, and to twist, suppress, or invent facts to serve ideology. In the 1960s and 70s Guillou was a Maoist, belonged to the Swedish Communist Party, and accepted money from the USSR for providing the KGB with clandestine reports on his country’s politics. You might have expected that when the newspaper Expressen exposed this decades-old secret in 2009, the government would have arrested Guillou for treason. No: what happened was that the government’s press ombudsman accused the newspaper’s editors of behaving irresponsibly and damaging Guillou’s reputation.

guillou3There’s more. Against mountains of evidence to the contrary, he maintains that Western anti-Semitism is a thing of the past and that anyone who draws attention to the rise of Jew-hatred in Sweden is carrying water for Israel – a nation of which he’s a consistent and zealous critic, often to the point of being plainly anti-Semitic himself. According to Guillou, Western prejudice against Islam is the real problem. He’s a supporter of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist group, and in 1977 he co-wrote a book praising Iraq’s Baath Party regime and predicting that by the year 2000 Iraqis would be richer than Western Europeans.

guill858jeanettel_1189060145He’s even defended Al Qaeda. In 2001, he made headlines by walking out of a book fair during a three-minute silence for the victims of 9/11; shortly afterwards, he published an explanatory op-ed calling the U.S. “the great mass murderer of our time.” Widespread claims to the contrary, he insisted that the 9/11 attacks had not been aimed at the West generally but only at evil capitalist America, which had done a great deal to deserve them. (Later terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Paris, Istanbul, etc., etc., haven’t led him to admit his error.)

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Max Manus

A couple of days ago, we mentioned Max Manus, the Norwegian Resistance hero who repeatedly risked his life carrying out acts of sabotage against the Nazis. Last year, Guillou published a World War II spy novel, Blue Star, on the last page of which he says that “no Norwegian has caused the deaths of as many of his countrymen as Max Manus.” Guillou also accuses Manus of having killed Karl Alfred Marthinsen, head of the Norwegian state police. In December, Manus’s daughter, Mette Manus, went public with her rage over this abuse of her father’s name, calling the murder accusation a “direct lie.” Of course, from Guillou’s own point of view, his slur on Manus makes perfect sense. The very idea of Norwegian war heroes – of men risking their lives for freedom – is offensive to him, as is freedom itself. There can be no idols other than Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and company; the rest, especially those, like Manus, who risked their lives to overcome everything that totalitarian monsters like these stood for, must, in the view of a Jan Guillou, be torn down without remorse. 

Sweden’s Communist crime writers

Some of Sweden’s most prominent useful stooges have been crime novelists.

Swedish crimer writers Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. ... Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. ... 04-04-2001 ... Stockholm ... Sverige ... Photo credit should read: SCANPIX/Unique Reference No. 6281139 ...
Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Maj Sjöwall (b. 1935) and her partner Per Wahlöö (1926-75), both Communists, invented the Swedish police procedural in the 1960s as a means of promoting their politics. As Wahlöö put it, he and Sjöwall sought to “rip open the belly of an ideologically impoverished society.” Why do this via crime fiction?  Because, Sjöwall has said, “people read more mysteries than they do political pamphlets.”

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Bruce Dern and Walter Matthau in the 1973 film The Laughing Policeman, based on the novel by Sjöwall and Wahlöö

In their series of ten novels featuring detective Martin Beck, the two writers approached their propaganda effort in a very canny way: to quote Danish writer Niels Vestergaard, they used their first three volumes to “bait…the general crime reader”; in the next three, they gradually dialed up the social critique; in the last four, they pulled out all the stops, serving up full-fledged “Communist indoctrination.” Great admirers of the Soviet bloc, Sjöwall and Wahlöö are universally acknowledged today as the precursors of such Swedish crime writers as Jan Guillou, Stieg Larsson, and Henning Mankell – all of whom have also used their fiction to critique democratic capitalism and celebrate Communism.

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Henning Mankell in the small town of Visby, Sweden, where his Wallander novels are set

When Henning Mankell died in October 2015, aged 67, Sweden lost one of its most famous writers – and one of its most useful stooges. In the 1970s, Mankell – who is most famous for his series of internationally bestselling thrillers about a police officer named Kurt Wallander – was active in a Maoist party in Norway. He’s expressed sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombers. In 2010 he took part in the Freedom Flotilla, which sought to break the Israeli embargo of the Gaza strip.

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Stieg Larsson

Hardly any author of our time has been as successful as Stieg Larsson (1954-2004), whose posthumously published crime novels, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, have sold tens of millions of copies. He was also, in the words of Christopher Hitchens, an “old-shoe Communist.” He belonged to the Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers’ League) and edited a Trotskyisk periodical. In 1977 he went to Eritrea to teach female Communist guerrillas how to use mortars. 

Larsson has been lavishly praised as a feminist, but British columnist Nick Cohen has noted that while Larsson “wrote with real anger about the oppression of women with white skins,” he denounced as racist those who

tried to do the same about the oppression of women with brown skins….Believe that western legal systems, for all their faults, were preferable to forced marriages, religious courts where the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man and the stoning to death of adulterous women and you were a “rightwing extremist,” carrying on the fascist tradition.

Then there’s Jan Guillou. Tune in tomorrow.