Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author of the Millennium trilogy, only became world-famous after his death in 2004. His long-time companion Eva Gabrielsson is still fighting for her share of the inheritance, but says she no longer plans to finish his fourth book.
Eva Gabrielsson is already waiting on a sunny park bench. She is a middle-aged woman with a penchant for black clothing, both mild-mannered and proud, approachable and shy. Sticking her book into her bag, she suggests taking a walk to show me a building on a hill at the end of the promenade. It has a wonderful view of the Baltic Sea and the series of islands that make up Stockholm. Up there, says Gabrielsson, pointing to the large building, is where Lisbeth Salander lived.
Using an assumed name, Lisbeth Salander bought an enormous apartment in the building. She hid there, a place where she felt safe from the members of the murderous sect within the Swedish intelligence service who wanted to kill her, or at least lock her away in an institution.
Gabrielsson talks about how Lisbeth Salander simply showed up in her life one day and took possession of it. She admires Salander for her indomitable spirit and the right she assumes to eradicate the injustice that was done to her.
The building on the hill really exists, but Lisbeth Salander is a fictional character, a creation of Stieg Larsson, and a brilliant one at that. A hacker with a photographic memory and little use for other people, this young, anarchic woman is the heroine in Larsson's Millennium trilogy, in which she fights to the death with intelligence agents, the police, her father and her half-brother. But Salander also wreaked havoc on the lives of Larsson and Gabrielsson.
Gabrielsson has to smoke a cigarette now. She lived with Larsson for 32 years. Together, they moved from rural northern Sweden to Stockholm. Larsson was a moderately successful journalist who, at some point, began to write a crime novel. He invented a few characters, but they all seemed too virtuous for his taste. Most were the kinds of characters he would have encountered in his surroundings, little more than extensions of his real life. But Salander was his inspiration, the product of his fantasy, and she became a third party in the relationship.
When Larsson felt pleased with a chapter, he would give it Gabrielsson to read. He became increasingly confident in the crime story, until he eventually said that he had 10 books in his head about Salander and the insanity she encounters. But then he died. One day when the elevator in his building was out of order, Larsson had to climb the 197 steps to his office. He had a heart attack when he reached the top. He had just turned 50.
Shortly before his death, Larsson had submitted the third volume in the trilogy to his publisher Norstedts, but not a single book had yet been printed. Today more than 63 million copies of the Millennium trilogy have been sold.