Stieg and Me - Memories of a Life with Stieg Larsson

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 2011, 12:00am


Stieg and Me - Memories of a Life with Stieg Larsson
by Eva Gabrielsson
Orion Books

With genuine excitement replacing cynicism over the December release of the Hollywood adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, interest has been reignited in the life and times of the best-selling novelist Sweden has ever produced.

Because Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack at the age of 50 before he became a publishing sensation, he has remained something of an enigma. The picture of the man is partly filled in here by his girlfriend of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, whose memoir is a fascinating yet frustrating read. One also feels it could have been longer.

Hers is a yarn that itself would make for a natural sub-plot in one of her late partner's novels. When Larsson's Millennium trilogy turned into a cash cow - further fattened by the film adaptations, and translations into dozens of languages - a bitter struggle began between Gabrielsson and Stieg's father and brother. Ignoring Gabrielsson and her needs - the couple had lived close to poverty for three decades - the Larssons seized total control of his estate and artistic ownership of the novels. Gabrielsson explains the irony, as there had been a long history of animosity between Stieg and the two beneficiaries.

Nevertheless, under Swedish law, the unmarried Gabrielsson had no legal grounds to inherit any of the estate, and the Larssons were apparently preventing her from seeing a single krona from her late partner's work. Her rage and sense of injustice are palpable in these pages.

Penned in a terse and unadorned style, Stieg & Me is as much Gabrielsson's case against the surviving Larssons as it is a memoir, which makes it all the more gripping. This legal battle has both enthralled and appalled Sweden, with very few neutral on the topic.

The book's most gratifying surprise is of Gabrielsson's own making, and is grippingly narrated. After giving the reader a detailed history lesson on Scandinavian lore, she describes how she sought supernatural vengeance against the enemies of herself and Stieg. And here the book really catches fire. The accursed includes Stieg's father and brother.

Gabrielsson is clearly an individual with an axe to grind, and then, when sufficiently sharp, to - metaphorically - bury it in the skull of Stieg's father before setting upon the brother with the same bloodied weapon, Salander-style. One thing that emerges from both the trilogy and this brief memoir is that Swedish familial revenge is nurtured for decades and through the generations; the Swedes are the blood-feuding Albanians of northern Europe.

In Stieg & Me, Gabrielsson comes across as being something of an avenging angel - not unlike Larsson's goth-punk heroine.

Nobody can speak for him now, not even his soulmate - and there is no doubt that this is who Gabrielsson was - but he would probably have liked this memoir, which describes him with such tenderness, and his enemies with such venom. Meanwhile, the legal thriller behind the Millennium trilogy is set to keep running. It's a story that forces you to take sides, and this book convinces the reader to take hers.