Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Terrorists by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Harper Perennial 1975)

She looked at him. 'You look absolutely done in. Go to bed.'

Martin Beck really was done in. The day of uninterrupted telephoning and conferring had exhausted him. But for some reason he did not want to go to bed at once. He felt too comfortable in this kitchen, with its plaits of garlic bulbs and bunches of wormwood, thyme and rowanberries. After a while he said, 'Rhea?'


'Do you think it was wrong of me to take on this job?'

She thought for a long time before answering, then said, 'That would require quite an involved analysis. But I more than understand that friend of yours who resigned.'

'He's a nice man. I like his wife, too. And I think he did the right thing. He saw that the police as an organization devoted itself to terrorizing mainly two categories of people, socialists and those who can't make it in our class society. He acted according to his conscience and convictions.'

'I think he was wrong. If all good policemen got out, because they take on other people's guilt, then only the stupid ones, the dregs, would be left. We've talked about this before, anyway.'

‘You and I have talked about practically everything before. Have you ever thought about that? He nodded.

'But you asked a concrete question, and now I'll answer it Yes, darling, I think you were wrong. What would have happened if you'd refused?'

'I'd have been given a direct order.'

'And if you'd refused a direct order?'

Martin Beck shrugged his shoulders. He was very tired, but the conversation interested him. 'I might possibly have been suspended. But to be honest, that's unlikely. Someone else would simply have been given the job.'


'Stig Malm, probably, my so-called chief and immediate superior.'

'And he'd have made a worse job of it than you? Yes, most likely, but I think you should have refused all the same. That's what I feel, I mean. Feelings are difficult to analyse. I suppose what I feel is this: Our government, which maintains it represents the people, invites a notorious reactionary to come on a visit - a man who might even have been President of the United States a few years ago. Had he been, we would probably have had a global war by now. And on top of all that, he is to be received as an honoured guest. Our ministers, with the Prime Minister in the lead, will sit politely chatting with him about the recession and the price of oil and assure him that good old neutral Sweden is still the same bulwark against communism it has always been. He'll be invited to a damned great banquet and be allowed to meet the so-called opposition, which has the same capitalist interests as the government only slightly more honestly expressed. Then he'll have lunch with our half-witted puppet king. And all the time he has to be protected so damn carefully that presumably he won't be allowed to see a single demonstrator or even hear that there is any opposition, if Säpo or the CIA don't tell him. The only thing he'll notice is that the head of the Communist Party isn't at the banquet'

'You're wrong there. All demonstrators are to be allowed within sight'

'If the government doesn't get scared and talk you out of it, yes. What can you do if the Prime Minister suddenly calls you up and says all the demonstrators are to be transported to Råsunda stadium and kept there?'

'Then I'll resign.'