Larsson spends time in Africa where he trains female Eritran guerillas, according to his friend John Henri Holmberg:
1977 was a dramatic year. Stieg spent part of it in Eritrea, where he had contacts in the Marxist EPLF liberation movement and helped to train a company of women guerrillas in the use of grenade launchers. But he also contracted a kidney inflammation and was forced to leave the country.
Graeme Atkinson, the European editor of Searchlight magazine, says Larsson intended to help the Eritrean independence movement:
Stieg was a revolutionary socialist and he believed in a better life, and equality for all. The fact there was crushing poverty in Africa appalled him.
This includes risking his life in combat:
He went there to aid the struggle. That meant in the end being involved in fighting and he faced live bullets. He was an amazingly courageous man. He told me a lot about it, but never boasting. A lot of what he saw left me deeply shocked.
Larsson completes his two years of military service in Umeå in 1975-76. He has no objection to being called up and does not consider himself a pacifist. However with Swedish Trotskyists active in his regiment, he becomes a supporter of the cause and is one of the members who covertly sells the Troskyist national service newspaper Röd Soldat (Red Soldier) in barracks − without being caught. He serves as a platoon commander in regiment I20 but is unhappy, as he wants to write.
Larsson meets Gabrielsson, an architectural historian, at an ani-Vietnam War rally in Umeå. The two share an interest in activism and politics, and they become partners.
Larsson witnesses a rape by his friends of a girl named Lisbeth in the late summer of 1969, and the guilt that he feels afterwards will become a major inspiration for creating the Millennium novels and their main character, Lisbeth Salander:
The location was a camping site in Umea, northern Sweden, where he was brought up … On that day, 15-year-old Stieg watched three friends rape a girl, also called Lisbeth, who was the same age as him and someone he knew. Her screams were heartrending, but he didn’t intervene. His loyalty to his friends was too strong. He was too young, too insecure. It was inevitable that he would realise afterwards that he could have acted and possibly prevented the rape.
He later contacts the girl to try to explain his inaction:
Haunted by feelings of guilt, he contacted the girl a few days later. When he begged her to forgive him for his cowardice and passivity, she told him bitterly that she could not accept his explanations. ‘I shall never forgive you,’ she said, gritting her teeth.
Larsson develops an interest in politics and decides to try to make a living in journalism. His father:
It was the Vietnam War. Steig was young and he leaned toward the left-wing and in Sweden at the time, every town in Sweden, every Saturday the young people would be marching shouting ‘Out of Vietnam!’ Stieg was one of them and he started writing about the Vietnam War.
His views are influenced by his parents:
His grandfather was a communist and I worked with him in a factory, and soon I was a communist then. In those days, in that type of factory, you had to be a communist to survive. It was a dark place, like a Nazi-camp, but today the factory is good, but then it was a terrible place. Stieg was never a communist, his mother became a very well known social democrat. Maybe Stieg became fascinated with politics because we were a political family.
His writing begins to focus more on politics:
To begin we discussed very much politics at the dinner table. When Stieg was 14 it was the first time I lost a discussion. He just had better arguments than his mother and I. The young learned to argue and put together their arguments during the Vietnam War time. He didn’t write fiction during these times, at least he didn’t discuss them with his mother and I then, it would be much later. I never saw any of them.
Karl Stig-Erland Larsson is born in the town of Skelleftehamn in the Västerbotten region of northeast Sweden, about 400 miles north of Stockholm. He is the first child of Erland and Vivianne. He is raised by his maternal grandparents in Västerbotten after his father contracts arsenic poisoning from his job at a smelting plant. When he is nine, his grandfather, Severin Boström, dies of a heart attack and he moves to the city of Umeå to live with his parents and his younger brother, Joakim. His grandfather is a survivor of imprisonment by the Nazis and is an outspoken political activist. Stieg’s favorite pastime during childhood is reading Enid Blyton and Astrid Lindgren, the author of The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking. He later begins writing novels of his own. His father:
When Stieg was 12 I read a novel he had written in a notebook. It was then that we gave him a typewriter — it was his thirteenth birthday and I remember it was very expensive at that time. It was also very noisy, so we had to make space for him in the cellar. He would write in the cellar and come up for meals, but at least we could sleep at night.