Like everyone else, Stieg Larsson’s longtime companion Eva Gabrielsson, has watched with amazement as sales of his "Millennium" series crime thrillers – "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels – have hit dizzying heights, reaching more than 17 million in the United States alone and 60 million worldwide. And now it’s her turn.
Later this month, Gabrielsson will arrive in the US to begin a Larsson-size cross-country book tour – something that Larsson, who died in 2004 before the publication of his books, never had the chance to experience. Gabrielsson will be promoting her own book, “‘ 'There Are Things I Want You to Know' About Stieg Larsson and Me.”
The Swedish architect and author will be holding book-signing events in major cities across the US following her book's June 21 publication by Seven Stories Press. Her tour will include New York; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C. In New York, she will be interviewed by Gloria Steinem, the author and feminist activist (who says Garbrielsson’s book is “not to be missed”), and in the nation’s capital she will participate in a “literature evening” with NPR’s Diane Rehm.
“Her story is about the life she shared with Stieg Larsson,” according to the Swedish Embassy, which is hosting the Washington, D.C., event, “the man everyone wants to know more about, and about whom so little is known.”
But the woman we know even less about also plans to use the trip, according to friends, to discuss issues that matter to her.
Since Larsson’s death in 2004, at age 50, Gabrielsson has been involved in a highly public, name-calling dispute with the author’s father and brother, who, under Swedish law, inherited essentially everything from Larsson, including the rights to all three of his books – “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” The Girl Who Played with Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” – and the many millions of dollars they continue to generate.
There have also been questions about who controls the unfinished manuscript – said to be a fourth book in the "Millennium" series – that Larsson left behind on a laptop computer.
Gabrielsson and Larsson never married, even though they lived together for 30 years, and while he had a will (which, incidentally, would have given his estate to the local branch of the Communist Workers League in Umea, Sweden), it was not witnessed and therefore not valid. His father and brother reportedly offered to settle the dispute with Gabrielsson for 20 million Swedish kronor, or roughly $3.3 million. But she declined.
“This is a proud woman,” her friend, Jan M. Moberg, a Norwegian IT executive, said in a telephone interview with the Monitor. “She will not be bought.”
Mr. Moberg said that he first learned of Gabrielsson’s case – and of the intricacies of Sweden’s law concerning common-law relationships – in the spring of 2009 when he saw an hour-long Swedish television documentary, “The Millennium Millions,” which detailed her case. “It just got to me,” he said. “I wanted to do something to help.”
Within weeks, he had launched a website asking for donations to help with her legal bills, and over the next 18 months he raised more than $25,000.
“This gave her a lot of support through difficult times,” Moberg said, adding that the fundraising campaign has now been halted with the publication of her new book. It has already been published in Sweden, France, and Norway.
Moberg said that, in his view, Sweden’s law regarding unmarried couples will only be changed under pressure from the international community, which is where Gabrielsson and her US book tour could be helpful.
But first, according to Britt-Marie Svensson, head of the legal office at Swedbank, it might be helpful if the Swedes themselves knew the law. She says that a new study published in the June 13 issue of the national daily Dagens Nyheter shows that only 17 percent of unmarried Swedish couples know that a Swedish law – which has been in effect for more than 20 years – does not provide for them to inherit each other’s property.
This lack of awareness about the laws governing inheritance is particularly surprising, as the feud between Gabrielsson and the Larsson family has been making headlines in Sweden for several years now.
Gary Yerkey is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.