Eva Gabrielsson: The woman behind the man who wrote 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'
Swedish author Stieg Larsson hit big -- really big -- with his crime novels "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest." Sadly, he didn't live to see his books find the massive international audience that they eventually did -- he died of a heart attack at age 50 in 2004.
Even sadder is that his literary success has led to wrestling over his estate between his family and his longtime companion, architect and author Eva Gabrielsson, who was with Larsson for 32 years. They never married; Larsson feared his political writings might make him a target.
Gabrielsson explains that and more in her new book, "'There Are Things I Want You to Know' About Stieg Larsson and Me," reviewed Wednesday by Evelyn McDonnell.
Bereaved and depressed after Larsson's death, Gabrielsson found herself in an epic, public war with Larsson's father and brother over the writer's increasingly valuable estate. She was a widow emotionally, but legally, she was a concubine — without any inheritance rights. Family and partner fought ugly battles in the European media. Gabrielsson continues to wield her most powerful, if dubiously ethical, weapon: She refuses to help finish the next books in the series, or to answer where Larsson's missing computer — with the unfinished manuscripts — is, until she's given control of his literary estate. The issue is not money, she says, but her ability to guard her partner's artistic integrity.
Gabrielsson does recall her personal life with Larsson: the prosaic details of their devotion to coffee, and the bigger picture of their shared political passions (Trotskyism, anti-racism, feminism). "Politics with him was not a chore or a duty, the way I'd thought it would be, but a real pleasure — which was something of a rare experience in our austere milieu," she writes.
The book's title refers to a line Larsson wrote about Lisbeth Salander, the now-famous girl with the dragon tattoo, that Gabrielsson says is a saying of hers. Some have speculated that she helped Larsson in writing his bestsellers, but this book, McDonnell writes, lacks the panache of his thrillers.
For thrills, fans of his books can look forward to the first American movie adaptation from the series, David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, coming in December.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Eva Gabrielsson in 2009. Credit: Rob Schoenbaum / For The Times