RECLUSIVE film star Greta Garbo hated life alone as much as having to meet people, according to her private letters - some of which are being sold on Tuesday. 'It's sad to be alone, but sometimes even more difficult to be with someone,'' she wrote to a friend. About 120 pages of her letters are expected to fetch up to HK$350,000 at an auction at Sotheby's in London. Garbo, the Swedish-born Hollywood legend who later became an American citizen and died, aged 84, in New York in 1990, disappeared from public life after retiring from a glittering film career in 1941. Her $155 million estate went to her niece, Gray Reisfield, after the will was unsuccessfully challenged by a Swede, Sven Ake Fredriksson, who claimed he was the illegitimate son of Garbo's late brother. Garbo had specifically named 68-year-old Ms Reisfield, who was described as her ''friend and confidant for many years'' as the sole beneficiary, and stated that seaman Mr Fredriksson, 64, had no claim to any part of her estate. He was believed not to have seen or talked to his aunt for 15 years prior to her death. Her letters up for auction contain constant references to attempts to avoid people, especially journalists, and to travels made in secret and incognito. However, solitude also made her depressed. Garbo-mania swept through the same auctioneers in 1990, when nearly 1,000 people turned up to bid for the right to own some of her chairs, books, and other items. Her possessions included three Renoirs among more than 70 paintings and more than 150 pieces of furniture. More than 190 items owned by Garbo and kept in her Manhattan home were sold. Garbo was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson to a poor family in Stockholm on September 18, 1905. She left school at 14 to become a lather girl in a barber shop and a packer in a department store. After doing modelling on the side and appearing in an advertisement, she became a student at Sweden's National Theatre School, where she was spotted by the director, Maurice Stiller. He screen tested her at 18 and said at the time: ''You get a face like that in front of the camera only once in a century.'' Her fights with the cigar-chomping head of MGM, Louis B. Mayer, over directors, money and her refusal to deal with the press were legendary. She made 24 films in 17 years, 13 of them silent, starting with The Torrent , in 1925, when she was 20. With her great beauty and sensuality in front of the camera and her dusky, Swedish accent, she weakened the knees of a generation of men. One of her directors, Clarence Brown, once said her genius was in acting from behind her eyes. ''If she had to look at one person with jealousy and another with love, she didn't have to change her expression.'' Her casting in her one and only comedy, Ninotchka , in 1939, was done to help boost and broaden her screen career, and the film proved a great success. The film was billed as ''Garbo Laughs'' - a follow-up to the tag line from her talking film debut, ''Garbo Talks'', in the huge hit Anna Christie . She played worldly, sometimes tarnished women, whose hard veneer was pierced, just once, by fleeting, perhaps illicit loves, and who would then be consigned to sacrifice, misery - even death. Her last film in 1941 - Two-Faced Woman - was also her first flop, which may have prompted her sudden decision to retire. Garbo, however, never gave a reason. She just went into hiding. During her career, she was romantically linked to Stiller and several other men, most notably her on-screen lover, John Gilbert. Photographer Cecil Beaton was in love with her, as was Russian millionaire George Schlee and the conductor, Leopold Stokowski. However, she was not really interested in any of them - apart from Gilbert - and declared prophetically in the film Queen Christina (her favourite role as a 17th century Swedish ruler): ''I will die a bachelor.'' Her appearance in so many tragic roles helped to cultivate her image as an aloof and glamorous heroine. She was to recall: ''I am a sour little creature.'' Her studio, MGM, also played its part in cultivating her image - portraying her as unattainable and ineffably sad, so that ''I want to be alone'' became a mythical declaration. Years later, Garbo claimed she had been misquoted. ''I never said I wanted to be alone. I said I wanted to be left alone.''