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Why we’re publishing “There Are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me”

Why we’re publishing “There Are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me”

March 1, 2011

From Judith Rosen at Publishers Weekly:

This summer Seven Stories is counting on the continued appetite among U.S. and Canadian readers for all things Stieg Larsson and a certain tattooed hacker, when it goes out with an 80,000-copy first printing of “There Are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me” (laydown: June 21) by his longtime companion, Eva Gabrielsson, the model for Lisbeth Salander, written with Marie-Françoise Colombani. A love story about a bestselling author whose literary estate has been mired in controversy since his death from a heart attack in 2004 is not Seven Stories’ usual fare. But then there’s nothing typical about the success of the Millennium series or Gabrielsson’s book, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale, which is being published in 15 foreign editions this year.

For starters, the book is not being released by Larsson’s U.S. publishers, Knopf and Vintage, because of Gabrielsson’s dislike of the translations and the retitling of the first book. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally more blunt, and didactic: Men Who Hate Women. Then, too, the English translations weren’t intended for publication, but were commissioned by the Swedish film company making the Millennium movies to help an English-speaking screenwriter. In a New York Times Magazine article, “The Afterlife of Stieg Larsson,” published last May, Gabrielsson told Charles McGrath that Christopher MacLehose, the British editor and publisher, changed the translation, so much so that translator Steven T. Murray asked to have his name removed. Ironically, Seven Stories is moving its distribution from Consortium to Random House Publisher Services on June 1. Although the Gabrielsson book won’t have the same publisher as Larsson’s novels, they will share a sales force.

While not exactly a memoir, “There Are Things I Want You to Know” combines the personal (the title comes from a letter that Larsson wrote to Gabrielsson in his 20s before he left for a mission to Africa where he thought he might be killed) and the political (her relationship with Larsson, his work as a crusading journalist, and her moral right to act as executrix of Larsson’s literary estate). Gabrielsson uses the book as a public forum to rebut the arguments of Joachim and Erland, Larsson’s brother and father, who were awarded the rights to Larsson’s estate by the Swedish courts. Although Larsson and Gabrielsson exchanged rings, they didn’t marry because their address would have become a public record, and Larsson feared for his life because of his work on an anti–neo-Nazi magazine. Sweden doesn’t recognize common-law marriages.

The original title for Gabrielsson’s book, and the one used in France, Sweden, and Norway, where the book was released last month, is Millennium, Stieg and Me. “We considered that title,” says Seven Stories’ publicity director Ruth Weiner. “But we wanted it to reflect how much of the book is about them and their love story.” The book even includes an eight-page color photo insert of the pair, who met at an anti–Vietnam War gathering in 1972. As for the size of the first printing, says Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon, “We’ve done it before. But in these days it’s a lot. It’s not so different from Kurt Vonnegut’s Man Without a Country in size and intentions, a first-person nonfiction that’s not exactly a memoir. I’d be more nervous if it wasn’t such a good book. The focus is like a Greek tragedy, like the Oresteia, the laws of the state versus higher laws.”

For Simon, Gabrielsson’s writing style in “There Are Things I Want You to Know” is reminiscent of two of her favorite writers, Joan Didion and Doris Lessing. That 57-year-old Gabrielsson can write has never been in doubt. An architect by trade, she translated Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle into Swedish, and some have even wondered whether she authored the Millennium series. In the book, she writes that if she were given control of Larsson’s literary estate, she could finish the fourth Millennium title, for which there are only notes. It was to be called in Swedish Guds hämd, or God’s Revenge.

Seven Stories’ promotion for her book resembles that of a much larger press, starting with a first serial in Vanity Fair and a profile in Harper’s Bazaar. Gabrielsson will do a five-city tour—New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Toronto; and Philadelphia—and already has appearances on the Today Show and NPR’s Diane Rehm Show lined up. Seven Stories is also planning an ad campaign in the New York Times Book Review and on selected Web sites.

Further whetting the appetite for the book is the fall release of the U.S. film of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher of The Social Network fame. The Swedish version, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, had a box office of $100 million, making it the biggest grossing European film of 2009.

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