Posted by: nordicnoir | April 14, 2010

Stieg Larsson Scandals

First things first, before I get to the origins of Nordic Noir, I’ll do a round-up of the latest chatter regarding Stieg Larsson—the battle over his estate and the question of whether or not he actually wrote the Millenium books himself.

Scandal #1:  Death…Success…No Will: Estate Battle

Most people know by now that Stieg Larsson died tragically at the age of 50, after having just signed a 3-book contract but just before his books came out—thus without any knowledge of just how popular his books would become.  Things got sticky when his ‘sambo’ (the Swedish term for live-in partner) of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, was denied any control over Larsson’s estate; they were not married and Larsson had failed to draw up a will. The whole estate went instead to Larsson’s father and brother—with whom Larsson had been on very bad terms.

Not surprisingly, Gabrielsson is engaged in a legal battle with Larsson’s father and brother. In Sweden, public opinion falls sharply in her favor.  And yet in this Guardian interview with Gabrielsson, she says she “cannot win a case according to co-habitation law.” The whole scandal is covered almost weekly in the Swedish papers.  The father and brother are scrambling to repair their tarnished image as cold-hearted and greedy, while also alleging that Gabrielsson is mentally unstable (she claims she just sought therapy after Larsson’s death).

Scandal #2: Larsson Witnessed a Gang Rape       

As is common after anyone’s rise to fame, many of Larsson’s friends and colleagues are now rolling out article upon article and even books about the Larsson.  Two well known journalists, Anders Hellberg and Kurdo Baksi, have made some startling claims.  Baksi wrote a biography of Larsson and published an excerpt in DN in January. There he asserts, among other things, that Larsson witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15—too young and naïve to intervene (Gabrielsson has confirmed this).  He says this haunted Larsson.

“Consequently, women in his novels are headstrong and go their own way.  They fight.  They take a stand.

Just as he wished they could do in reality.” (translation mine)

Aside from the fact that many women ‘in reality’ are headstrong, do fight, and do take a stand (though lacking the superhuman powers of Lisbeth Salander), the real irony may be that Lisbeth Salander does what Stieg Larsson himself apparently couldn’t do back when he was 15.

Scandal #3: Larsson ‘Couldn’t Write’—Eva Gabrielsson Wrote the Millennium Novels

Anders Hellberg truly got everyone’s ire up by claiming that Stieg Larsson couldn’t write (the article is translated).  After reading Larsson’s work over the years, he developed a poor view of his friend’s linguistic abilities: “The language was weak, the word order was often incorrect, sentence constructions were simple and the syntax was sometimes completely mad.”  Hellberg suggests that perhaps his partner, Gabrielsson, wrote quite a lot of the material.  Kurdo Baksi stops short of agreeing, saying only (harshly) that Larsson was a mediocre journalist.

Many have been quick to defend Larsson.  And it is easy to see how a) Larsson could have improved his writing, b) Larsson’s old “friends” seem to be grabbing for attention and c) grammatical and narrative ability are two different things.

For her part, Gabrielsson has kept quiet.  She rejects the claim that Larsson was a bad journalist, but in the face of her battle over Larsson’s estate, she tells the Guardian, “I could now try to claim co-authorship but that is a very long process and it will be expensive.”  But she adds, “I’m very confident the truth will win out in the end.”

Just what does she mean by that?  We will have to wait for her book about her life with Larsson, which will perhaps earn her enough to pay those lawyer fees.  Or she could just write a fourth Millennium novel proving it was her all along.

To be fair though, Gabrielsson isn’t claiming sole authorship of the books; if she claims partial, or limited authorship, then she will have a good excuse for not putting out a thriller ever again.

Next post:  One more theory about Stieg Larsson’s ‘questionable’ authorship.



  1. I’ve heard some people suggesting the third part of the Larsson trilogy is not as good as the earlier ones. There are doubts, but which book can give me insurance it won’t disappoint me. The reputation of the author (his death has increased my curiosity) is huge, so may be the book would be worth the money.

    • It’s hard to say whether the third book is ‘as good’ as the first two–I think it might depend on the reader. I couldn’t put it down again. But I will be touching on the third book here and there in the next 2-3 posts because I think ‘Hornets’ Nest’ is culturally interesting (in addition to having a brilliant fight scene!).

  2. I put off reading “Hornet’s Nest” for reasons unrelated to the books, and when I did read it,
    I did so as slowly as I could manage with such a page
    turner. I simply did not want to leave those characters. If I have any objections at all to the book, it might be that that Larsson tied up the loose ends almost too neatly. I am almost as bereft as when the Beatles broke up.

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