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There are a few problems here. For one, while Rich acknowledges a biased perspective, he plays into a rather patronizing stereotype when evoking, yet again, the perceived serenity of the Scandinavian tableau. One need only skim recent headlines from mainland Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) to ascertain that the famed tranquility of the Nordic welfare state has begun to face some dramatic challenges. For instance: each of these countries has seen a marked increase in immigration in the last few decades, an influx which has challenged the homogeneity of the local populations, and more often than not, created quite an existential crisis for societies which have for so long been able to claim a fundamental sameness in traditions, language, and cultural outlook.
In Denmark, whole debates have been sparked over whether second and third generation immigrants — "New Danes," as they've been dubbed — should "be like everyone else
." Tensions between Danish biker groups (really!) and gangs of immigrant youth frequently bubble over, most recently exemplified in a manifesto published by a group called The Hell's Angels, which encourages young Danes to rally against "jackals
": those who "hate Danes, the mentality, lifestyle, Christianity and its symbols." In Sweden, neo-nazi/nationalistic activity has been on the rise since the mid-eighties
(not long, one might note, after the as-yet unsolved assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme
and anti-immigrant, racist tendencies have also become increasingly prevalent
. Norway has seen a similar shift, with popularity for the staunchly nationalistic "Progress Party
" growing rapidly — this being the same party which utilized blatantly anti-immigrant scare tactics
to gain support during a political campaign, and whose leader recently warned against the risk of "sneak-Islamisation" in Norway.
Secondly, it is misleading for Rich to suggest that Larsson has somehow revolutionized the Scandinavian crime genre. Yes, his novels are "frenzied" and "up to date," with tech references abounding and peopled with adept hackers and "young leftist do-gooders." And in their way, these ultra-contemporary elements do heighten the dramatic contrast of extreme violence within a peaceful society. But in essentials, Larsson's narrative concerns are precisely those of his literary brethren.