I will admit, right off the bat, that I have never read anything by Stieg Larsson. Not a word, not a page, not even the back of a book cover. Yes, I am aware of the existence of the Millennium Trilogy, with the movies and the books and the commercials and whatnot, and I have perhaps eavesdropped on a few hushed, excited conversations; I am aware of the franchise that is approaching a kind of cultural phenomenon and of its rising popularity. But I haven’t read a word of it.
And now that I have established my unbiased-ly biased position, I have some things to say about Eva Garbrielsson’s “There Are things I want you to know” About Stieg Larsson and Me.
The book itself is meant to be a “biography“—take that as you will—of the late author’s long time partner Eva Gabrielsson, whom he met at age nineteen (she was eighteen), and stayed with for over 30 years. Eva chronicles the ups and downs of their life together, the different political movements and counter movements the couple was involved in, the roots and creation of the Millennium Trilogy, and their reasons for avoiding marriage. The last part of the book is also devoted to Eva’s loss of control over Stieg’s legacy and the downward spiral of his estate.
Gabrielsson writes “This book . . . I wish I hadn’t had to write it. It talks about Stieg, and our life together, but also about my life without him.” Reviews call the book “poignant,” “romantic,” and “touching”; and it is. There are moments of great accomplishment and personal danger mixed with the little everyday couples’ rituals that keep a relationship alive. But there is, of course, another tension.
The book admits early on, in both a foreword by Marie-Francoise Colombani and in the first chapter, that Eva is “today fighting to obtain control over Larsson’s literary estate.” An estate that is according to some sources worth $15 million dollars or more (over 97 million Swedish kronos), the sixth largest estate attributed to a dead celebrity after Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, JRR Tolkien, Charles Schulz, and John Lennon. But that is not to say that the book does not have its moments of emotion and poignancy.
I was an animal acting on instinct—a protective measure that kept anyone harmful to me a t a distance. I went through life like a zombie. Every morning I woke up in tears, although my nights were dreamless. Absolute darkness. The animal in me was restless and kept me constantly in motion. I did a lot of walking, but never alone, because I no longer dared to go out on my own. Not recognizing the woman I’d become, I had no idea what she might be capable of doing, to myself or to the people I might meet. Like a hunted beast, I fed only on little things picked up in passing: dates, nuts, fruits.
All the while Erland kept saying that he didn’t want any part of Stieg’s estate.
While the potential for gold digging and a character assassination of the Larsson family is there it is, as Eva promises, not the focus of the book. Short chapters further break down into vignettes on the couple’s life together and their experiences both political and personal, snapshots of 32 years, including the daily threats and phone calls from extremist groups retaliating against Stieg’s investigative journalism writing. Within this the writing is at some times fantastically picturesque and on point and at others of absolutely no relevance.
The writing itself has a kind of choppy, almost stilted quality. For someone who apparently spent many years translating magazine articles as well as doing editorial work, Eva’s work is somewhat unpolished and, in a few spots, clearly unedited. Whether this is due to a flat out refusal to make any changes, as some rumors have suggested, or simply Eva’s style, it is for the reader to decide.
And I suppose, in the act of reviewing this, that if I were a more suspicious person I would note that her writing becomes more fluid, coherent, and lyrical—and readable—in the second half of the book where she focuses on the creation of the Trilogy and her eventual loss of control over the Stieg Larsson estate. But that might be my small inner cynic talking.
However, it must be said that never in the book does Eva Gabrielsson write of a time when she asked for control of the estate’s money, only its intellectual property rights to protect, as she says, Stieg’s vision and his work’s integrity. Nor does she ask for money outright to continue her crusade, although a short chapter is devoted to her website supporteva.com, which has stopped taking donations as of January 10, 2011.
Bottom line, while “There Are things I want you to know” About Stieg Larsson and Me is no Millennium Trilogy novel (I am guessing) it will be an interesting read for book fans and people who are interested in Stieg Larsson’s life. Information is included on the backgrounds of the series’ characters and the real life inspiration for the plots, places, and names as well as some information on the unpublished fourth novel. If the book is perhaps not a great piece of writing, it is at least an intriguing read.
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