Everyone Loves Her

Will Frears

  • Stieg Larsson, My Friend by Kurdo Baksi
    MacLehose Press, 143 pp, £14.99, ISBN 0 85705 021 4

A teenage boy watches three of his friends rape a 15-year-old girl. The boy does not participate in the rape but neither does he do anything to stop it. Later he telephones the victim and begs her to forgive him; she tells him she never will. The girl’s name: Lisbeth. This, according to Kurdo Baksi, happened to Stieg Larsson, and was the event that led to Larsson’s lifelong crusade against violence against women and, possibly more significantly, to the 45-million-selling phenomenon of the Millennium Trilogy. All summer, the books were everywhere. On subways and buses, in rural farmhouses and on park benches, in every departure lounge and onboard every flight, they were a beach read and a city read, in good weather and bad. People, it seemed, just had to know what was happening to Lisbeth Salander.

There are many legends attending Larsson, partly because the facts are so few – or so plain. He was a Swedish journalist and anti-Nazi activist. He founded an organisation, the Swedish Expo Foundation, modelled on Searchlight, for keeping tabs on right-wing extremists. In the evenings, he wrote the Millennium Trilogy. He smoked like a fiend and subsisted, it seems, entirely on junk food. At 50, he died of a heart attack. There were rumours, all denied, that it wasn’t an ordinary bad-habits coronary but the work of the far right. At the time of his death, in 2004, none of the novels had been published. Now they are unstoppable. As their popularity has grown, so have the conspiracy theories. An anonymous poster on the message boards at stieglarsson.com asks the all-important question: ‘What if he is pretending to be dead, and rises again, like Lisbeth from a premature burial?’

The three books that have been published were all completed before Larsson died, a fourth was three-quarters done and there were rough plans for numbers five and six. Apparently, there was going to be a series of ten. Nobody knows what will happen with the fourth book. Larsson made a will in 1977 in which he left all his money to a regional branch of the Communist Workers League; but the will was unwitnessed, which means it’s not valid under Swedish law, so his entire estate has gone to his brother and father. The estate, close to worthless at the time of his death, is now a multi-million-dollar concern. This has led, unsurprisingly, to acrimony. Larsson had been in a 32-year relationship with fellow anti-Nazi campaigner Eva Gabrielsson, but as they never married, she was not entitled to any part of his estate. What she does have, however, is Larsson’s laptop, and on it, some part of the next book in what would no longer be the Millennium Trilogy. An unspecified sum has been offered for it by Larsson’s ‘rightful heirs’ but she will not sell it; the battle for ownership continues in the Swedish courts. Gabrielsson has had a scuffle with Kurdo Baksi, too, calling Stieg Larsson, My Friend ‘pure slander’ and a ‘character assassination’. Despite its title, Gabrielsson says, Baksi and Larsson were not much more than acquaintances, and she dismisses Baksi’s claim that as a journalist Larsson had been known to invent material. She is now writing her own book about Larsson.

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