For anyone who thinks Stieg Larsson’s plots were too “over the top” to be everyday occurrences in real life, last week’s news about the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, being accused of attempted sexual molestation and rape of a hotel maid at the Sofitel in New York City, followed immediately by the news of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger having had an affair and a child with his family’s housekeeper, should be eye-openers. Like any novelist, Larsson invented stories and plot details, but he pulled almost everything from real life, including how well some powerful men conceal their behavior toward women, even in an era where we presume the media knows or can find out everything. As for Strauss-Kahn, the stories suddenly started coming out after his arrest about related incidents in which he had attacked, harassed, or acted inappropriately with women in the past.
Meanwhile, a story running in the UK newspaper The Mail on Monday, alleges, among other things, that the revelation of the ex-Governor having fathered a love child “barely scrapes the surface of the real Schwarzenegger — an immoral, arrogantly reckless man with a monstrous attitude to women and a propensity for having unprotected sex.” The paper then goes on to say, “Actress Jane Seymour claimed this weekend that Schwarzenegger has two other secret love children. The 60-year-old told American TV station CNN that she was ‘not remotely surprised’ by news that he and his wife Maria have separated. ‘He was obviously jumping the gun before everyone else told the world the news. And from what I gather there will be lots of information coming people’s way. I heard about two more children. I met someone who knows him well.’”
And, further, “Indeed, Ian Halperin, who also wrote a biography of Schwarzenegger, says he has interviewed no fewer than six women who claim to have given birth to children by him. ‘You’re going to see a plethora of other women come out of the woodwork,’ he says. Another source commented, ‘His fondness for sadistic practical jokes, his delight in humiliating women and his belief that he is so physically blessed that the rules of normal morality don’t apply to him has been known to me since 1988.’” [Read more here.]
If Stieg Larsson had invented a head of the IMF or a governor of a major state behaving this way, some readers might well have said, “that’s just fiction.” But Larsson was constantly trying to use his novels to remind readers that these kind of incidents—and far, far worse ones—take place every day even in the most “civilized” of societies, even a generation after gender equality was said to have been enacted from a legal point of view.