Jan Guillou, Swedish literary idol…and KGB agent

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.”

Meaning 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.

There’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.

He’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.)

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.

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