Jan Guillou

Jan Guillou

Infobox Writer
name = Jan Oscar Sverre Lucien Henri Guillou

imagesize =
caption = Jan Guillou at the Göteborg Book Fair in 2005.
pseudonym =
birthdate = birth date and age|1944|1|17|df=y
birthplace = Södertälje, Sweden
deathdate =
occupation = author, journalist
nationality = Swedish, French
period =
genre = spy fiction, historical fiction, political thriller

Jan Oscar Sverre Lucien Henri Guillou (pronounced|jɑːn gɪjuː; born 17 January, 1944) is a Swedish author and journalist. Among his many books, the most well-known are the spy fiction novels about Swedish spy Carl Hamilton and the historical fiction trilogy about Knight Templar Arn Magnusson.

Guillou rose to fame following his role in the exposure of a secret intelligence organization in 1973 ("see Informationsbyrån"). In connection to this he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to ten months prison. Today he is an influential independent commentator of current events, particularly the conflicts in the Middle East and miscellaneous domestic issues. In his columns in Sweden's leading tabloid newspaper "Aftonbladet" he tends to criticize the way the United States pursues its War on Terrorism, the Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, the Swedish Security Service and the powers vested in "experts" in for instance court trials.

Early life and career

Jan Guillou was born in Södertälje, Stockholm County, Sweden.cite news |first=Cecilia |last=Hagen |title="Det ska mycket till för att reta upp mig" |url=http://www.expressen.se/1.481347 |publisher=Expressen |date=2006-12-03 |accessdate=2008-02-26 |language=Swedish] His French father, Charles Guillou, came to Sweden as the son of the janitor at the French embassy in Stockholm. His mother, Marianne (née Botolfsen) Guillou, is of Norwegian descent. Jan Guillou received both French and Swedish citizenship at his birth. When Guillou's grandfather was appointed as French Ambassador in Helsinki, Finland, his father decided to move with him and settled there. [cite news |first=Maria |last=Trägårdh |title=Kan man ta bort sin ondska, Jan Guillou? |url=http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article166513.ab |publisher=Aftonbladet |date=2003-09-27 |accessdate=2008-02-26 |language=Swedish] Jan Guillou grew up with his mother and her new husband in Saltsjöbaden and Näsby Park outside Stockholm. He studied at Vasa Real in Stockholm but was expelled from the school for physical abuse, theft and blackmail. He then studied for two years at the boarding school Solbacka in Södermanland from where he was also expelled. He finished his "studentexamen" (upper-secondary final examination) from the boarding school Viggbyholmsskolan, located in Viggbyholm, in 1964. Guillou has described his upbringing, with the physical abuse from his sadistic stepfather and the harsh treatment at the Solbacka school, in the semi-autobiographical novel "Ondskan" (1981).

Guillou started his career as a journalist for the adult magazine "FIB aktuellt" from 1966 to 1967. He later co-founded the "Folket i Bild/Kulturfront" magazine, for which he wrote between 1970 and 1977.

IB affair

In 1973, "Folket i Bild/Kulturfront" published a series of articles written by Guillou and Peter Bratt that revealed a Swedish secret intelligence agency called "Informationsbyrån" ("The Information Bureau" or "IB" for short). The organization had gathered information on Swedish communists and other people deemed to be "security risks", engaged in break-ins against foreign embassies in Sweden as well as spying abroad. The revelations led to a major domestic political scandal, known as the "IB affair" ("IB-affären"). Guillou and Bratt were convicted of espionage and got a ten month prison sentence. In practice, he served five months in solitude. Guillou was first imprisoned at the Långholmen Prison in central Stockholm and later at the Österåker Prison in Österåker Municipality north of Stockholm.


Guillou first book, "Om kriget kommer", was published in 1971.


In 1986 Guillou published a novel about the fictional Swedish military spy Carl Hamilton. He was originally drafted and trained to become an attack diver, then he was taken out for training in California to become a U.S. Navy SEAL. Notably, he has a leftist background and was dubbed Coq Rouge by one of his superiors, while he was temporarily in the security police (Säkerhetspolisen). The first "Coq Rouge" novel was followed by ten more books.

Several characters in the books are based on actual persons. Jan Guillou himself is the basis of a character named Erik Ponti, which is also the name Guillou uses in the autobiographical novel "Ondskan" (literally: The Evil).

A complete list of the "Coq Rouge" novels:
* "Coq Rouge - berättelsen om en svensk spion" (1986) (literally: Coq Rouge - the story of a Swedish spy)
* "Den demokratiske terroristen" (1987) (literally: The Democratic Terrorist)
* "I nationens intresse" (1988) (literally: In the interest of the nation)
* "Fiendens fiende" (1989; English translation "Enemy's Enemy" by Thomas Keeland 1992)
* "Den hedervärde mördaren" (1990) (literally: The honourable murderer)
* "Vendetta" (1991)
* "Ingen mans land" (1992) (literally: No man's land)
* "Den enda segern" (1993) (literally: The only victory)
* "I hennes majestäts tjänst" (1994) (literally: In service of her majesty) Note that the feminine "hennes majestät" in this case refers to the queen of Britain.
* "En medborgare höjd över varje misstanke" (1995) (literally: A citizen raised above every suspicion)
* "Madame Terror" (2006)
* "Men inte om det gäller din dotter" (2008) (literally: But not if it concerns your daughter)

A partial draft of an eleventh novel, along with Guillou's account on why it could not be completed, was published as "Hamlon" in 1995. Guillou assured from then on that "En medborgare höjd över varje misstanke" was the last book and to make sure that Hamilton never returned, he "bannished" him from Sweden through a life sentence, and since he only intended to write about Sweden, no other book would be possible. However, when he was working on "Madame Terror", he realised that he needed Hamilton to fill in a specific role. After the border of no more Hamilton books was crossed, Hamilton made another major appearance in "Men inte om det gäller din dotter", where he, among other things, manages to get cleared from his life sentence and thereby, Guillou could do more Hamilton books if he wants to.

A number of film and TV adaptations have been made based on the Hamilton character:
* "Code Name Coq Rouge", portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård (1989)
* "Förhöret", portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård (Television, 1989) (literally: The interrogation)
* "Enemy's Enemy", portrayed by Peter Haber (Television miniseries 1990)
* "The Democratic Terrorist", portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård (1992)
* "Vendetta", portrayed by Stefan Sauk (1995)
* "Tribunal", portrayed by Stefan Sauk (Television, 1995)
* "Hamilton", portrayed by Peter Stormare (1998, television miniseries 2001)

Crusades trilogy

::"Main article The Knight Templar (Crusades trilogy)."

After finishing the Coq Rouge series, Guillou wrote a trilogy about Arn Magnusson, a fictional Swedish character from the Middle Ages who was forced to become a Knight Templar. The series is an account of the life of Arn Magnusson, a person who becomes witness as well as catalyst to many important historical events, both in his homeland of Sweden and in the crusader states of the middle-east.The trilogy, dubbed the "Crusades trilogy", consists of the following books:
* "The Road to Jerusalem", originally "Vägen till Jerusalem" (1998)
* "The Knight Templar", originally "Tempelriddaren" (1999), ISBN 0-7528-4650-7
* "The Kingdom at the End of the Road", originally "Riket vid vägens slut" (2000)

Guillou also wrote a follow-up novel about Birger Jarl, founder of Stockholm, entitled the Heritage of Arn ("Arvet efter Arn", 2001). In Guillou's universe, Birger Jarl is the grandson of Arn Magnusson.


Guillou has also written an autobiographical book about his school years, "Ondskan" (1981), which also became a film, "Evil" (2003). The movie was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003, but Guillou was unable to attend as the director Mikael Håfström had handed away his ticket to his spouse instead. [cite news | first=Karin | last=Lindstedt | title=Guillou snuvad på Oscarsgalan | url=http://varnpliktsnytt.com/vemfan.php?id=534&datum=2003-03-11 | publisher=Aftonbladet | date=2004-02-24 | accessdate=2007-01-03 | language=Swedish]


Guillou has served as the host of several television programmes: "Magazinet" (1981–1984), "Rekordmagazinet" (last years together with Göran Skytte) and "Grabbarna på Fagerhult" (together with Pär Lorentzon and Leif G. W. Persson), all shown on Sveriges Television.

He co-authored the crime/drama television series "Talismanen" (TV4, 2003). In the series, Guillou and co-author Henning Mankell both plays the roles as themselves. Guillou also authored and narrated the history documentary series "Arns rike" (TV4, 2004) and "Häxornas tid" (TV4, 2005).

Political views

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Guillou was associated with the Maoist Clarté association. [cite episode |title=IB-affären |url=http://www.sr.se/cgi-bin/p3/programsidor/artikel.asp?ProgramID=2519&Artikel=1435314 |series=P3 Dokumentär |credits=producer: Fredrik Johnsson |network=Sveriges Radio |station=P3 |city=Stockholm |airdate=2007-06-17 |season=4 |number=1 |minutes=21] He was also a member of the Communist Party of Sweden (formerly known as the Communist League Marxists-Leninists), a minor Maoist party active mainly during the 1970s, for six months until he was expelled from the party for refusing to pay the monthly member fee while he was living abroad. Today he describes himself as "socialist" only.

Guillou is known for his strong support for the Palestinians and he has consistently criticized Israel in harsh terms. In 1976 he wrote: "Zionism is in its foundation racist because the state of Israel is built upon an apartheid system, exactly like South Africa". [cite journal |last=Guillou |first=Jan |year=1976 |title=Sionism är rasism |journal=Folket i Bild/Kulturfront |issue=1 |language=Swedish] He has repeated the stance that Israel is an "apartheid state" many times since. [cite news |first=Jan |last=Guillou |title=Så tystas kritik mot israelisk apartheid |url=http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/0104/16/guillou.html |publisher=Aftonbladet |date=2001-04-16 |accessdate=2006-08-02 |language=Swedish] In an interview published in "Svenska Dagbladet" on 13 March, 1977, Guillou said: "I'm an optimist, I believe that Israel will cease to exist prior to Armageddon".

Ever since the IB affair and the resulting prison sentence for espionage in 1973, Guillou has been a strong critic of the Swedish Security Service. According to Guillou, the Security Service has listed him has a terrorist, something which has led to some problems with security officials when visiting other countries. [cite news |first=Jan |last=Guillou |title=Väpnad kamp mot förtryck är ingen tebjudning |url=http://wwwc.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/9807/27/guillou.html |publisher=Aftonbladet |date=1998-07-27 |accessdate=2008-03-03 |language=Swedish]

In 1977 the book "Irak–det nya Arabian" ("Iraq–The New Arabia"), written by Guillou and his then wife Marina Stagh, was published. In the book, which deals with Iraq under the Baath Party, it's argued that "the European idea of Iraq as a particularly violent country is neither more or less a blend of political propaganda and racist fantasies" (pp. 91). According to the authors, "the Baath regime is clearly popular and among the most stable in the Arab World" (pp. 168-169). They state that "it will surprise us if the development doesn't go the way that, prior to the year 2000, Iraq will have surpassed European contries in living standards" (pp. 174). It's further claimed that "Iraq has fewer restrictions in the freedom of the press than a majority of world countries, and is on the way towards larger and not less press freedom" and Western demands for more generous press freedom in Iraq are dismissed as too "luxury-emphasized" (pp. 239). The conditions at the Abu Ghraib prison, which Guillou claims to have visited as the first Western journalist, are described as excellent and even "better than Swedish prisons" (pp. 249-250). [cite book |title=Irak–det nya Arabian |last=Guillou |first=Jan |coauthors=Stagh, Marina |year=1977 |publisher=Norstedt |location=Stockholm |isbn=91-1-761371-X |pages= ]

Immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Guillou caused controversy when walked out from the Göteborg Book Fair in the midst of the three minutes of silence that had been announced throughout Europe to honour the victims of the attacks. In an article in "Aftonbladet", Guillou argued that the event was an act of hypocrisy, stating that "the U.S. is the great mass murderer of our time. Only the wars against Vietnam and its nearby countries claimed four million lives. Without any minute of silence in Sweden". He also criticised those who said that the attacks were "an attack on us all" by stating that the attacks were only "an attack on U.S. imperialism". [cite news |first=Jan |last=Guillou |title=Vi blev tvångs- kommenderade att bli amerikaner |url=http://www.aftonbladet.se/vss/nyheter/story/0,2789,89840,00.html |archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20050306140912/http://www.aftonbladet.se/vss/nyheter/story/0,2789,89840,00.html |archivedate=2005-03-06 |publisher=Aftonbladet |date=2001-09-17 |accessdate=2006-08-02 |language=Swedish]

He harshly labeled the media's reaction to the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, and the necessity of creating the airport havoc, considering that the suspects had been caught. He argued that the media was driven by sensationalist profit and the British government by a will to give an impression of success in the War on Terrorism. He also pointed out that no explosives had been found and implied that the Muslim community was being victimized. [cite news |first=Jan |last=Guillou |title=Tro aldrig på någonting som skrivs om al-Qaida |url=http://www.aftonbladet.se/vss/nyheter/story/0,2789,874233,00.html |publisher=Aftonbladet |date=2006-08-20 |accessdate=2006-08-02 |language=Swedish]

In recent years, Guillou has repeatedly criticised some people and groups within the Swedish radical feminist movement.cite news |first=Jessica |last=Ritzén |title=Räddad–av sin hjälte |url=http://www.aftonbladet.se/bocker/intervjuer/article397956.ab |publisher=Aftonbladet |date=2006-07-31 |accessdate=2008-03-03 |language=Swedish] He rejects being called an "antifeminist".

Guillou has also attracted controversy over his views on homosexuality. He has said that "homosexuality is more of a vogue phenomenon than something you're born into. It's something that has come and gone through history" [cite news |first=Anna-Maria |last=Wiklund |title=”Homosexualitet är snarare en trend” |url=http://www.aftonbladet.se/vss/nyheter/story/0,2789,874233,00.html |publisher=Aftonbladet |date=2002-08-02 |accessdate=2008-03-01 |language=Swedish] and that "homosexuality didn't exist in the 17th century". [cite news |first=Therese |last=Garthman |title=Straffad machorebell |url=http://varnpliktsnytt.com/vemfan.php?id=534&datum=2003-03-11 |publisher=Värnpliktsnytt |date=2003-03-11 |accessdate=2008-03-01 |language=Swedish]

Personal life

Guillou was married first to the author and translator Marina Stagh, with whom he has the children Dan (born 1970) and Ann-Linn (born 1972) Guillou. His daughter Ann-Linn, a journalist and feminist commentator, lives in a civil union with Sandra Andersson, daughter of film director Roy Andersson.

Today he is married to the book publisher Ann-Marie Skarp. He has an apartment at Östermalm in Stockholm, where he has lived for most of his adult life. [cite news |first=Agneta |last=Ullenius |title=Ridderliga Östermalm |url=http://www.svd.se/kulturnoje/nyheter/artikel_37317.svd |publisher=Svenska Dagbladet |date=2007-09-21 |accessdate=2008-02-26 |language=Swedish] He also has a country residence in Flybo, Östhammar Municipality, northern Roslagen, where he lives when he writes his books.

Guillou is an avid hunter and has several trophies in his apartment and country residence. He was introduced to hunting by his friend, the professor in criminology Leif G. W. Persson. [cite episode |title=Babben & co |network=Sveriges Television |station=SVT1 |airdate=2007-10-20 |season=1 |number=5] He also has a passion for alcoholic beverages, especially wine and whiskey.

He is a self-described atheist [sv icon "Translation:" "I am [an] atheist, but Ann-Marie and I light a candle anyway. I have dedicated "Madame Terror" to her. Since she has helped me much with [my] books, not least with this one, the latest. Much talk on and forth, I've had a lot yellings." cite web|date=2006-12-03|url=http://expressen.se/index.jsp?a=777301|title="Det ska mycket till för att reta upp mig"|publisher=Expressen|accessdate=2007-01-20] and many of his non-fiction works contains critique of prominently Christianity. It should be noted though that atheism is fairly common in Sweden. ["According to Norris and Inglehart (2004), 64% of those in Sweden do not believe in God. According to Bondeson (2003), 74% of Swedes said that they did not believe in “a personal God.” According to Greeley (2003), 46% of Swedes do not believe in God, although only 17% self-identify as “atheist.” According to Froese (2001), 69% of Swedes are either atheist or agnostic. According to Gustafsoon and Pettersson (2000), 82% of Swedes do not believe in a “personal God.” According to Davie (1999), 85% of Swedes do not believe in God."cite web|date=2005|url=http://web.archive.org/web/20070610084208/http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/atheism.html|title=Atheism: Contemporary Rates and patterns|publisher=Pitzer|accessdate=2008-09-17]

Awards and honours

* 1984 – Stora Journalistpriset ("Great Journalist Award"), for his writings in the Keith Cederholm-case
* 1984 – Aftonbladets TV-pris ("Aftonbladet TV Award"), in the category "Male Television Person of the Year"
* 1988 – Bästa svenska kriminalroman ("Best Swedish Crime Novel") from the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers, for "I nationens intresse"
* 1990 – Prix France Culture ("France Culture Award") from France Culture, for "Ondskan" (awarded as best novel translated into French)
* 1998 – Årets författare ("Author of the Year") from the Swedish Union of Local Government Officers
* 2000 – Årets bok ("Book of the Year") from Månadens Bok, for "Riket vid vägens slut"

Guillou was also chairman of the Swedish Publicists' Association ("Publicistklubben") from 2000 to 2004.


External links

* [http://www.piratforlaget.se/sidor/ffjgu.html Piratförlaget - Jan Guillou] sv icon, presentation at book publisher's website
* [http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/kolumnister/janguillou/ Jan Guillou's column in "Aftonbladet"] sv icon (payservice)
* [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JanGuillou/ Group] Yahoo fangroup

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