June 24, 2011
From the Georgetown Dish:
“After one year
I wait for a call that never comes
His number in my cell phone
I wait for a smile I never get
His photo on my wall
I wait for a caress I never feel
His jacket in my closet
But I hear his voice answer me
When my despair is at its worst.”
To an audience of 220 assembled at the House of Sweden Wednesday evening, Eva Gabrielsson read those words from her new book, “There Are Things I Want You To Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me.
National Public Radio host Diane Rehm was invited to talk with the woman who shared her life for 32 years with Swedish journalist and author Stieg Larsson until his untimely death at 50 from a heart attack in 2004.
Not living to see the success of the publication of his crime novel trilogy, the Millennium series (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest), his longtime partner is now embroiled in an intellectual property fight with Larsson’s father and brother over the commercialization of his work, and for the rights to publish a fourth unfinished book.
Combating social injustice, specifically sexual violence, Sweden’s Neo-Nazis and racists, are themes woven into Larsson’s writings, and the reason he chose to protect Gabrielsson. “We bought rings in 1983. I have the rings. Now I wear both of them. He was trying to protect me by not marrying me. The right to information, for Steig and me, everyone can find out anything. They could find out. We arranged it that we weren’t married.”
Diane: “You’re in this gorgeously created embassy and yet it was that very government that prohibited you from rightfully proclaiming your inheritance. There must be some conflicting feelings.”
Eva: “It’s a personal tragedy. That’s why I wrote a book about co-habitation. It’s a tragedy for the individuals, a tragedy for society. You look at the paper instead of the reality.”
Written as a memoir, Gabrielsson recounts the details of their daily life over three decades, many of which made their way into Larsson’s writings, from their caffeinated talks, to friends and foes. From their first meeting at age 18 at a political rally against the Vietnam war, they were together, as lovers and comrades.
Diane: “What do you think of the Vietnam memorial?”
Eva: “Extreme sadness. … Sweden was one of the countries where Americans came. We knew what this had done to them. You really should think about it when you start a war.”
A practicing architect, author, political activist and protector of Larsson’s legacy, Gabrielsson expressed pride over the Spanish government’s posthumous award to Larsson for his work to combat violence against women. “Spain passed a law making it mandatory that perpetrators of crimes had to stand trial within 48 hours. In Sweden it takes a year and a half. The Millenium [series] made the Spanish people understand.”
Diane: “I think you’ve also brought Sweden into a different light. You and Stieg shared similar beginnings, similar respect and understandings for family and yet, he really for quite awhile had no parents … What about you?”
Eva: “My parents were divorced in 1989. My grandparents were next door. He was also raised by an older generation with 19th century values. You are always part of the community. That’s how people survived. Something in the culture was passed on to us, long-time sustainable values.”
Diane: “You talked about how Sweden changed after Vietnam, how difficult it was for Stieg to speak out about the evolution of Sweden. We in the West have thought of it as a peaceful place. These novels bring out a whole new impression.”
Eva: “The Millenium books balance out the dream castle fantasy. It’s good for us to know that. We really want justice, to move forward as a country. The extreme right causes us to catch voices of complaint. We find scapegoats for problems that lie somewhere else.”
Diane: “The legal case you have between Stieg’s father and brother. They broke off talks? Profits from 45 million copies of the Millenium trilogy. Where are the monies going?”
Eva: “To his father and brother.”
Diane: “How do you think you’ll be received when you return to Sweden?”
Eva: “I think I can handle it whatever it is.”
Asked by an audience member about a fourth book, Gabrielsson responded, “It’s not a finished book. Millenium fans will have to face the fact that I’ve had to. He’s dead.”