Marie-Françoise Colombani and Eva Gabrielsson wrote a memoir, Millénium, Stieg et moi, about Gabrielsson’s life with Stieg Larsson. I’m going to assume the two communicated in English for this French-language book, later translated and given the curious English title (quotation marks sic) of “There Are Things I Want You to Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me.

Since Larsson’s death, of course his publisher Norstedts and his father Erland and brother Joakim have used the powers legally available to them to cheat Gabrielsson out of every iota of Larsson’s legacy, crucially including control of the literary estate (as distinct from its proceeds). What they’re doing is within the law in Sweden, which means the law is an ass. It amounts to theft and swindling nonetheless.

From Gabrielsson’s description, Larsson lived – and wrote – according to an uncompromising moral code. He would be infuriated by Norstedts’ and his relatives’ mistreatment of his beloved widow. The lesson I draw from this story is that every gay or lesbian person needs an ironclad last will and testament that will protect their estates from their biological families, who, history shows, will swoop in to disenfranchise their partners.

Gabrielsson elucidates the cornerstone moments of Larsson’s life, many of which feel familiar to me despite the surface differences.

  • In December 1962, Severin Boström, Stieg’s grandfather, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 56…. Six months later, his widow, unable to stay on in that isolated house with her grandchild, moved with him to the area around Skeletal, in Västerbotten County….

    Severin’s death brought Stieg’s happy, carefree world to an abrupt end. He was not quite nine years old when he rejoined his parents in Umeå. In 1957, Erland and Vivianne had had another son, Joakim, and they had married in 1958. Stieg barely knew them anymore….

    He found the urban environment foreign, even hostile. He was used to living in a house out in the middle of nature, coming and going in perfect freedom, but from then on he lived shut up in a tiny apartment in the middle of town, and this switch from countryside to asphalt was painful for him. Stieg’s parents worked all day and were often absent, whereas his grandparents had always been available. The rhythm of life grew stricter, more cramped, governed by regular hours.

  • In 1979, Stieg left the postal service and joined TT (Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå), the big Swedish news agency…. He stayed there for 20 years. […]

    Most of his colleagues saw Stieg as a pleasant person, intelligent, but difficult to get a handle on, especially since he tended to keep his private life to himself. Around the mid-1980s, when militants on the extreme right began robbing banks to finance their activities, breaking into military installations to steal weapons, and killing people for racist or political reasons, the Legal Affairs and News in Brief department within the agency began consulting Stieg. More often than not, he would know the past political affiliations of the suspects, their accomplices, and even the milieux they frequented….

    [A]t the time of the Oklahoma City bombing…. Stieg understood from the beginning – unlike all the media – that the culprit was most likely an American militia member inspired by the far-right rhetoric of William Pierce’s Turner Diaries.

    From the 1990s on, TT topped the list of the news media best informed about such subjects. The Number 1 expert in this domain was right there at TT, and yet, even with the support of the other journalists, Stieg was never transferred to a job at any of the regular desks. Reason given: “Stieg Larsson cannot write.” […]

    In the end, realizing that he would never get ahead at TT, Stieg chose to take the severance package and was let go in 1999…. Later on, when he had appointments with journalists still at the agency, he met them in a café. Stieg never forgot or forgave what he and other perfectly competent journalists had gone through during the almost completely irrational dismemberment of Sweden’s greatest news agency.

  • Stieg put his entire code of journalistic ethics into The Millennium Trilogy. And he showed his respect for the reader…. Stieg adamantly championed what every newspaper and magazine owes its readers: The search for the truth. But since he also thought a publication should not sacrifice everything to its readers, he objected to putting rape victims through more suffering by splashing their private lives all over magazines….

    And when Mikael Blomkvist solves the mystery of Harriet Vanier’s disappearance, he faces a huge problem of conscience. Should he be a good reporter and tell the entire story – at the risk of exposing Harriet to public scrutiny? Or should he keep quiet, thus concealing the truth, despite the financial windfall such a scoop would mean to Millennium?

    After a long and painful inner struggle, Mikael’s conscience wins out over his ego as a reporter: He will not publish the story. The passage was of great importance to Stieg, because he sincerely wanted to send a message….

    In the opening of the first book, after being accused of not verifying the evidence he uses for an exposé…, Mikael Blomkvist quits his job as publisher of the Millennium because he’s afraid that otherwise readers will lose confidence in the magazine. Later, before he makes public the valid proof that has been gathered by Dag Swenson, he checks all this information with obsessive care. I know that behaviour well from having watched Stieg at work, and he really did feel that sources were sacred….

  • Stieg was a generous man, loyal, warm-hearted, and fundamentally kind. But he could also be completely the opposite. Whenever someone treated him or anyone close to him badly, it was “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” He never forgave such an affront, and made no bones about it…. Even if he sometimes had to wait for years, Stieg always paid people back.

  • Eva Gabrielsson composed a níð, an ancient Germanic poem used to curse and warn one’s enemies. (Now, there’s a Nordic tradition we should bring back.)

    I am reading a níð for Stieg
    I am reading a níð for you who were against him
    You who took his time, his knowledge, and his friendship
    Giving nothing in return
    Friends are duty-bound to be loyal lifelong to their friends
    And to render gift for gift
    Friends reply with mockery to the mockery of others
    And to lies with lies…
    But no one should befriend
    A friend’s enemy […]

    You the evil ones who wished to rob Stieg of life
    You who plotted, spied, and stirred up prejudice
    You above all, N.N.

    You the sly
    You who let Stieg work himself to pieces
    For your own profit and your career alone
    You above all, N.N. […]

    All sorts of you
    In suits, ties, and wingtips
    This níð is for you […]

    Until you learn, see, and feel
    Until you change
    This níð shall last and linger

    Later, she recounts:

    I’d failed in the one thing of any importance after Stieg died: Defending him. To me, this failure was a betrayal….

    Suddenly I heard a sound so strange I had no idea what it was. Looking up, I saw a raven: Royal and nonchalant, he came closer, and began to fly over me in crescent-shaped curves. It was as if he’d gone out to do an errand and, when turning toward home, had consented to make this little detour for me, thinking, Well, all right, if it’s really important. He spoke to me for a long time in a deep melodious voice. All at once, I was in the níð for Stieg, where I’d asked Odin’s ravens, Hugin and Munin, to peck holes in the head, eyes, and heart of all the cruel, sly, and cowardly people who had made Stieg suffer.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.10.08 14:06. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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