[Marxism] Things You Should Know About Eva Gabrielsson and Stieg Larsson
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Fri Jul 1 08:12:23 MDT 2011
Counterpunch Weekend Edition
July 1 - 3, 2011
Things You Should Know About Eva Gabrielsson and Stieg Larsson
Swedish Travesty of Justice
By CHARLES R. LARSON
"There Are Things I Want You to Know" about Stieg Larsson and Me.
By Eva Gabrielsson (with Marie-Françoise Colombani)
Trans. from the French by Linda Coverdale.
Seven Stories Press, 224 pp., $23.95
Eva Gabrielsson met Stieg Larsson—the celebrated author of The
Millennium Trilogy—in 1972, at an anti-Vietnam war meeting. They
lived together for thirty years, until the time of his death in
2005, shortly before any of the novels were published. They never
married, though they had planned to once his novels brought them
economic stability. Before that time, when Stieg edited Expo,
which exposed right-wing fascism in Sweden, and there were
constant threats on his life. The two of them feared that the
marriage records would make it easy for right-wing fanatics to
identify where they lived and possibly go after her.
Eva was a trained architect, Stieg a journalist with less formal
education. Both had been born in the northern part of Sweden, 600
away from Stockholm where in the winter there were only
thirty-five minutes of daylight. Metaphorically, that darkness
permeates much of Larsson's fiction. Stieg was raised by his
grandfather, a man with strong Old Testament values.
Expo had always been erratically funded, surviving from issue to
issue. Gabrielsson provides this chilling context: "In the 1990s,
more than a dozen people were murdered in Sweden for political
reasons by individuals involved with neo-Nazi groups. Säpo—the
Security Service, an arm of the Swedish National Police—estimates
that during 1998 alone, there were more than two thousand
unprotected racist attacks, more than half of which can be
directly linked to neo-Nazi militants in White Power groups."
Some of the fanatics obtained the telephone number of the
apartment Stieg and Eva shared. They received anonymous calls, so
they installed a security system. Bullets were sent to Stieg in
the mail. Anyone who has read The Millennium Trilogy understands
the context. Gabrielsson remarks that nothing in the three novels
was made up: all the murders, the violence, and the extremism were
based on actual events. Interestingly, Stieg saw the arrival of
the Internet as an obvious concern. He wanted it regulated like
other media. "For racist groups," he said, "cyberspace is a dream."
Larsson began writing his novels in 2002. His strong Lutheran
upbringing (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth) shaped his
writing. Gabrielsson refers to this as "the dilemma between
morality and action." "Individuals change the world and their
fellow human beings for better or for worse, but each of us acts
according to his or her own sense of morality, which is why
everything comes down in the end to personal responsibility. The
trilogy allowed Stieg to denounce everyone he loathed for their
cowardice, their irresponsibility, their opportunism: couch-potato
activists, sunny-day warriors, fair-weather skippers who pick and
choose their causes; false friends who used him to advance their
own careers; unscrupulous company heads and shareholders who
wangle themselves huge bonuses…. Seen in this light, Stieg
couldn't have had any better therapy for what ailed his soul than
writing his novels." No surprise that the trilogy's phenomenal
success in the United States has paralleled the country's rampant
greed and opportunism, our increasing economic disparity.
Some readers of Gabrielsson's book may accuse her of being
self-serving, but that is too narrow a response. She shows how
Stieg drew on her architectural and geographical background when
he chose the settings and places for his novels. Because the two
of them sailed and knew the country's many islands, these
locations often entered into the narratives. Their travels
(particularly Grenada) operated the same way. Eva read the drafts
that Stieg wrote and edited them. She was intimately involved in
the construction of the novels, though she had her own career,
which, sadly, in the last couple of years of Stieg's life,
required her to work 150 miles away from him several days a week.
Though she doesn't say this, she had clearly read every scrap of
his writing—his journalism and his fiction—for thirty years, was
intimately connected to his writing life. They had always had a
difficult time economically.
Then Stieg died, suddenly from a heart attack. And then even
though they had lived together for most of their lives, because
they had no children, the National Swedish Institute of Statistics
classified Eva as "single," not legally heir to Stieg's estate.
Instead, the estate fell to Stieg's father, Erland, and his
brother, Joakim, two people with whom he had almost no
connections, other than biological.
The rest is pretty much a horror story. Eva Gabrielsson has spent
several years trying to get Stieg's brother and their father to
assign her control of Stieg's literary estate—not the
royalties—but the intellectual property. This is her reason: "I do
not want his name to be an industry or a brand. The way things are
going, what's to stop me from one day seeing his name on a bottle
of beer, a packet of coffee, or a car? I don't want his struggles
and ideals to be sullied and exploited. I know how he would react
in every situation I'm facing today: he would fight." The two
"official" heirs have treated her shamelessly, even proposing at
one time that the only way she could manage his literary estate
would be by marrying Erland, Stieg's father. What kind of monsters
can these people be?
Gazillions of dollars have fallen into the hands of Stieg
Larsson's brother and father from the massive royalties of his
books (and the movies). Erland and Joakim have become clones of
the villains of Stieg Larsson's novels—loathsome people the
Swedish novelist will never be able to depict in his work.
Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American
University, in Washington, D.C. Email: clarson at american.edu.
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