Eva Gabrielsson's new memoir about her life with Stieg Larsson.
Eva Gabrielsson's new memoir about her life with Stieg Larsson. Joel Saget/AFP/Getty
My good friend (and reporter extraordinaire) Zoe Chace asked me last week, "whose side are you on in the Stieg Larsson estate feud?" I told her I hadn't formed an opinion, which is, as anyone who works in news or academia knows, a euphemism for not having read into the story enough.
Except, now that I have, I still haven't formed an opinion. Here's why. In broad strokes, the problem is this. In case you have not been in an airport bookstore, movie theater, or read a magazine in the last year, Steig Larsson wrote a chilly crime series that exploded in popularity over the last few years. The Girl With the [insert fire, dragon, and or hornet] has been monumentally popular, selling forty million copies around the world, receiving two separate cinematic treatments, any number of spinoffs and ripoffs, and inspiring me to KIND of want to give myself a mohawk and wear more rubber. (Maternity rubber pants, anyone?)
Problem is, Stieg Larsson died before the novels were published — and now, there's a tug of war — a hornet's nest, if you will — over his legacy. His brother, Joakim, who along with Larsson's father inherited the estate, have rejected claims by the late novelist's longtime companion, Eva Gabrielsson, that the family is out to just wring money from the books. Because Gabrielsson and Larsson were never married, she could not inherit.
Gabrielsson is holding the trump card though — a fourth, unpublished manuscript. She doesn't own the rights to it, and refuses to hand it over to Larsson's family, and she claims they had very little contact with the author before his death. (They dispute this.)
Gabrielsson has recently published her side of the story, titled: Millenium, Stieg et moi, and it's filled with juicy tidbits. No one comes out particularly well in this story. From the Slate review:
In one particularly incredible scene, Gabrielsson exorcises her grief and fury by performing a pagan ritual, complete with a torch and a goat's head on a spike, in which she recites a poem to the Norse gods, cursing all those who crossed Larsson in life and in death. In another, she speaks to a crow she believes has been sent to her by the god Odin and which she thinks may be an embodiment of Larsson himself.
(Whoa. I mean — couldn't she just hack a computer, Lisbeth style?) But it does speak to the depth of feeling, and possibly just the depths, that this particular estate war inspires.
Here's the problem: there's a fine line between protecting a legacy, and griping over it. I understand why feelings run deep, but I wish I had a better sense of each party agonizing over what to do. For instance, Dmitri Nabokov really wrestled with the decision to publish his father's manuscript, Laura. There was a real philosophical debate over it — and it was really about Nabokov, not about his son. Now, I know that comparing Stieg Larsson to Vladimir Nabokov is, um... sorta comparing fries to foie gras, but people feel deeply about these novels. And it's hard not to feel like the people involved in this dispute feel deeply about themselves.
That said, make up your own mind. Here's some required reading.