11 July 2010

The Death and Life of Stieg Larsson

Author Stieg Larsson died in 2004 at the age of 50 from a heart attack. A year later, his first novel - up until then, he had written many short stories in the sci fi genre - was published in Sweden in 2005 as Män som hatar kvinnor ("Men who hate women"), published in English in 2008 as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -coined by his British publishers. The novel went on to win the 2005 Glass Key award, given annually to crime novels by authors who are from Nordic countries; and its follow-up, Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played with Fire), received the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2006.

The third novel, Luftslottet som sprängdes (The Girl Who Kicked a Hornets Nest), was released in May here in the States, though like the previous two, were available overseas before then.

Larsson, a journalist by day, wrote all three novels as a way to relax at home. According to Wikipedia, “Larsson was initially a political activist for the Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers League), a photographer, and one of Sweden's leading science fiction fans. In politics he was the editor of the Swedish Trotskyist journal Fjärde internationalen. He also wrote regularly for the weekly Internationalen. As a science fiction fan, he was co-editor or editor of several fanzines, including Sfären, FIJAGH! and others; in 1978-1979 he was president of the largest Swedish science fiction fan club, Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (SFSF). He worked as a graphic designer at the largest Swedish news agency, Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) between 1977 and 1999. Larsson's political convictions, as well as his journalistic experiences, led him to the founding of the Swedish Expo Foundation, similar to the British Searchlight Foundation, established to "counteract the growth of the extreme right and the white power-culture in schools and among young people." He also became the editor of the foundation's magazine, Expo. Larsson quickly became instrumental in documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organizations; he was an influential debater and lecturer on the subject, reportedly living for years under death threats from his political enemies.”

Since his death his popularity has grown outside his native country, even as his family and former long-time girlfriend battle for control of is ever growing massive estate. Like his novels, which gave an intricate look within Swedish government, its financial life and its dirty little secrets about brutality towards women, his passing has shown the reality of what happens when a will does not exist. Under Swedish law, all of Larsson's estate, including future royalties from book sales, will go to his father and brother. This has put his long-time partner Eva Gabrielsson on the outs with the family, as she claimed in a Vanity Fair article that Larsson had little contact with his father and brother and is now petitioning the right to control his work so it may be presented in the way he would have wanted.

Part of the reason they never married was due to Larsson’s activity in uncovering the unsavory aspects of Swedish life. His life had been threatened and according to Swedish law, when a couple enters into marriage, all their personal history, including home address, become public record. Essentially, marrying would have presented a security risk to both Larsson and Gabrielsson. So, it appeared they were granted some sort of masking of that information so he could continue to his journalistic duties.

Until some sort of agreement can be ironed out, what remains of Larsson’s work will remain in limbo. If, according to claims by Gabrielsson are confirmed, it seems Larsson left about three quarters of a fourth novel on a notebook computer, which is in her possession, along with potential synopses or manuscripts of the fifth and sixth books in the series. It is rumored that the computer could contain enough material for 10 novels. One assumes she wants the ability to find the right author to complete these stories, and earn the monies that come from them.

In the meantime, three Swedish language movies have been made of Larsson’s books, with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo released in limited release (the art house circuit) here in the United States back in March and is now out on DVD. The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked A Hornets Nest will be released later this year.

And because the movie has sub-titles, and average Americans refuse to watch films with sub-titles, Sony Pictures has scooped up the rights to the first three novels and will remake then in English, with the first one that will probably hit the cinemas in late 2011. Rumor suggests that Sony wants David Fincher to helm it. Interestingly Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander is not interested in recreating the role for the America remakes. She told Buzzine magazine that she became Salander too much that she was “so influenced by Lisbeth when we were shooting the film. She kept me in some kind of cage when I was her. I was really angry. I sat in a corner drinking coffee and not talking to anyone. I was very asocial and isolated.”

I guess some people don’t want to relive that sort of darkness.

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