Stieg Larsson: Timeline of a Life
By Julie O’Connor
August 15: Born Karl Stig-Erland Larsson in Skelleftehamn, 475 miles north of Stockholm to unwed teenage parents Vivianne Boström and Erland Larsson.
Stieg’s parents move to Stockholm and he is left to be raised by his maternal grandparents in Bjursele. He will see his biological parents only occasionally (for holidays, etc.) until he is almost nine years old.
Parents move to Umeå, 75 miles south of where Stieg is living. Vivianne works in a dress shop, Erland works as a window dresser and a graphic designer.
Stieg’s brother Joakim is born but lives with his parents.
March: Stieg’s parents marry.
December 20: Severin Boström dies of a heart attack at 56. Stieg was deeply
shaped by his beloved grandfather, a staunch anti-fascist and union activist.
June: Stieg and his grandmother move in with his parents and brother in Umeå, after he finishes 2nd grade.
In a notebook, Stieg handwrites a story set in America.
As a birthday gift, Stieg’s parents give him a Facit typewriter and a telescope.
Grandmother Tekla dies of heart attack at 57.
Father rents a basement room in the building next door for Stieg so he can use his noisy typewriter without disturbing others. “After that we never saw him,” said his father. “He would come up just to eat and talk politics.”
On May Day, Stieg and his family march in two different parades: he as a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War and his parents as supporters of the Social Democrats whose prime minister had not yet fully broken with U.S. policy on Vietnam.
Summer: Stieg sees teenage boys rape a girl, said by one source to be named Lisbeth, at a campsite in Umeå. He does not intervene. Later he calls the girl to apologize, but she says she could never forgive him. It is a painful memory that some see as having an impact on his entire life—and of course on the creation of Lisbeth Salander as a fictional character.
March: Stieg begins writing for publication in the Umeå DX club’s mimeographed magazine.
Around his 16th birthday, Stieg moves out of his parents’ apartment.
Begins two year vocational school program.
Submits two works to the science fiction magazine Jules Verne that are not published. Almost 40 years later, in June 2010, the stories surface in an archive donated to the Swedish National Library.
Hitchhikes on a truck to Stockholm in attempt to go to Algeria but is mugged and forced to return home.
Begins research on racism and political extremism for school project.
Becomes active in Swedish sf (science fiction) fandom. Rune Forsgren and Stieg start their first fanzine, Sfären.
Stieg is rejected by the Stockholm School of Journalism.
Autumn: meets aspiring architect Eva Gabrielsson at an anti-Vietnam War movement event in Umeå; they would become lifelong partners, collaborators and companions.
Steig enters normal gymnasium school program for the next three years.
Co-edits his first fanzine, Sfären. Attends his first science fiction convention, SF•72, in Stockholm. He would continue to write for and publish sf fanzines throughout the 70s. He edits and writes for Sfären and Fijagh! until 1978.
Meets John-Henri Holmberg and they remain friends until Larsson’s death.
Works as a dishwasher.
Stieg wins first prize in a short story competition run by the sf fanzine Cosmos bulletin.
He and Eva start living together as a couple. Stieg joins a Trotskyist Party and begins contributing to their magazines. He also begins to use “Stieg” instead of his birth name, “Stig.”
Stieg completes about a year of compulsory national military service. Smuggles Trotskyite magazine Röd Soldat [Red Soldier] into the barracks.
Eva moves to Stockholm to attend architecture school, Stieg follows later. They move into a culturally diverse neighborhood of Rinkeby, where they will live for the next 12 years.
February 9, on the eve of a secret trip to Africa, Stieg creates two documents to be opened after his death, a love letter to Eva and a “will” leaving his minimal assets to an Umeå Trotskyist group. From February to July, probably at the behest of the “4th International” (a Trotskyist group), he brings aid of some type to the Eritrean rebels. A nearly fatal kidney infection and malaria forces his return to Sweden.
Starts a two year stint at the Post Office in Stockholm at night, while seeking writing opportunities.
Stieg edits or contributes to several fanzines, including Fanac, Science Fiction Forum, and The Magic Fan. He also becomes a Board Member of the biggest sf fan club, Scandinavian Science Fiction Association, 1978 – 1979. He is its president in 1980.
Recruited to work at the Stockholm-based News Agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) as a graphic news artist. Over two decades he writes many feature articles. Twice a year he reviews the top translated works of crime fiction.
Eva translates Philip K. Dick’s sf novel The Man in the High Castle from English into Swedish.
Stieg and Eva spend summer vacation in Grenada. Later Stieg writes about the Grenada revolution in Internationalen, a Trotskyist publication.
Stieg begins his series of contributions to the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, which continue until his death more than 20 years later.
Stieg joins, is active in and contributes magazine articles for an organization called Stop Racism, which is a precursor to and evolves into Expo.
February 28, Olof Palme assassinated in Stockholm—seminal event in modern Swedish history.
Stieg determines he no longer wishes to defend foreign socialist regimes of dubious democratic content and leaves the Trotskyist Socialist Party (former Communist Workers’ Union).
Spring: Stieg publishes his first book Extremhögern (The Extreme Right), in collaboration with Anna-Lena Lodenius. (Lodenius reports that Stieg talked about writing detective novels even then.)
Stieg’s mother, Vivianne Boström, dies of a heart attack at 56.
The shooting of 11 people, and death of one of them, between August 1991 and January 1992 by the “Laser Killer,” racist John Ausonius, in Stockholm, highlights growing trend of hate crimes and violence against immigrants.
February: Stieg Larsson calls Kurdo Baksi without knowing him to discuss the immigrant’s strike Baksi is organizing and to encourage him to broaden it to include all people. They meet nine months later. Over the next few years they will collaborate on articles and publications, including incorporating EXPO as an insert into Baksi’s publication for a period of time.
Eva Gabrielsson’s mother dies.
White Aryan Resistance magazine publishes Stieg’s photograph and address, suggests he should be eliminated as an “enemy of the white race.” Publisher sentenced to 4 months imprisonment.
Eight people killed by neo-Nazi activity in Sweden.
Stieg and other journalists and concerned citizens come together to launch the Expo Foundation “to study and survey antidemocratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies.” First issue of EXPO is published.
The first Expo office is in a basement on Lundagatan, in the Södermalm district. In the Millennium novels, Lisbeth Salander is said to have grown up in an apartment building on this street.
May: Attack on the premises of EXPO’s printer leaves every window smashed. Also, retail stores that sell EXPO are vandalized. The two leading Swedish afternoon newspapers come together to defend EXPO by publishing the next issue as an insert on June 10 in their own editions, in an act of solidarity.
Robert Aschberg calls EXPO to ask how he can help. He contributes money but doesn’t meet Stieg for months. Later, he becomes publisher and a member of the Board. In 2004, he will open the door at Norstedts to get Stieg’s novels published.
Stieg is still working at TT and ever more intensely on EXPO as well. In his spare time, Stieg writes “…a short story about a man who receives an anonymous bunch of flowers every year on his birthday,” which eventually becomes the opening of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Due to economic problems, EXPO ceases as an independent publication. Stieg becomes editor in chief, but the magazine is published for the next five years as part of Kurdo Baksi’s magazine SvartVitt.
Stieg remains Chief editor of EXPO magazine and president of the Foundation, until his death in 2004.
Björn Söderberg, an anti-fascist trade union leader, is killed by neo-Nazis. Police find information about Stieg and Eva in one of the murder suspect’s homes. A fellow investigative journalist had a bomb placed under his car, shattering his spine. Stieg and Eva are given police protection.
Stieg takes voluntary retirement from TT.
Stieg publishes Överleva Deadline: Handbok för Mordhotade Journalister [Surviving Deadline: A Handbook for Threatened Journalists] for the National Union of Journalists.
Stieg publishes a book about the Sweden Democrats, an extreme right wing party, co-written with Mikael Ekman. He warns that they could win seats in parliament, which they since have done.
On summer holiday with Eva, Stieg begins writing what becomes The Millennium Trilogy.
April: EXPO again begins independent quarterly publication.
Summer: Stieg submits his novel to Piratförlaget, a Swedish publishing house. They never opened the envelope. Eva hand re-delivers the manuscript after getting verbal assurances that they will consider it. They nevertheless reject it, unopened, with a form letter.
Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, a leading female political figure, is murdered on September 11.
April: Stieg submits the books to Norstedts and is immediately offered a three-book deal. Having already submitted two, he delivers the third a few months later.
Stieg writes a provocative piece on violence against women in The Honor Killing Debate, a book of essays he edits with Cecilia Englund.
November 9: Stieg suffers a heart attack after arriving at the EXPO office. He is rushed to the hospital and after an hour revival process, he is declared dead at 4:22 p.m.
December 10: Funeral and Memorial Service at Forest Cemetery, Stockholm. Later there is a public memorial meeting to honor Stieg at the Worker’s Educational Association (ABF) Hall and a final gathering for friends at Södra Teatern.
January: Nortstedts tells Eva that Stieg’s request the year before to have the paperwork drawn up that would pass royalties on to a joint company Stieg and Eva had planned to set up had not yet been done.
Eva receives a brown envelope from the Swedish government informing her that Larsson’s entire estate, including half their apartment and the rights to his books, belong to Larsson’s father and brother. She inherits nothing.
It becomes clear Stieg has died without a written will and Swedish estate law does not recognize common law marriage. Therefore his father and brother receive the inheritance, not his lifetime partner.
August: Publication of Larsson’s Män som hatar kvinnor [Men Who Hate Women] in Sweden. Later, the UK publisher will rename the book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Numerous issues begin to arise between Eva and the Larsson family. It’s not clear exactly what is fact and rumor, but among the reports: Eva asks Larsson family if she can handle Stieg’s literary legacy, supervise the quality of the translations, and have literary and creative control of the work in exchange for a percentage of the royalties. They refuse. One of the most shocking stories has Stieg’s brother Joakim proposing a solution to Eva Gabrielsson: that she should marry Erland, Stieg’s father. She has not spoken to them since. The Larssons reportedly offer Eva $2.6 million to drop her pursuit of her rights and stop talking about all the issues; she refuses. Later reports have the Larssons offering to trade Eva their half of the apartment for the manuscript still on Stieg’s computer. Eva declines.
Stieg is posthumously awarded the prestigious Glass Key award for the best Nordic crime novel of the year.
May: Book number two, Flickan som lekte med elden or The Girl Who Played With Fire, is published in Sweden and earns the Best Novel of the Year Award by the Swedish Crime Fiction Academy. The three books, as well as the three Swedish films, will go on to win numerous awards all over Europe, Scandinavia and the USA.
May: Book three, Luftslottet som sprängdes or The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, is published in Sweden. In 2008, it also wins the Glass Key award for best Nordic crime novel of the year.
The books are huge hits in Sweden when Sonny Mehta (publisher of U.S.-based Knopf/Random House) is handed a rough translation of the first novel at the 2007 Frankfurt Book Fair.
Autumn: The Larssons allow Eva to keep Stieg’s half of her apartment.
January: UK publication of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
May: Stieg’s un-witnessed “will,” dated 1977, which bequeathed his financial assets to the Communist Workers’ Union (Socialist Party) Umeå is deemed not legally binding.
September: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is published in the US.
February: The film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is released in Sweden and becomes a major hit.
April 22: Jan Moberg, a Norwegian former newspaper executive, launches a Web site to raise funds in support of Gabrielsson’s cause: supporteva.com.
May: First annual Stieg Larsson prize of 200,000 kronor (about US$ 32,000) for a person or organization that acts in the spirit of Stieg’s journalism is awarded to Daniel Poohl, Editor in Chief of EXPO. The award is established by Norstedts Publishing House together with Erland and Joakim Larsson.
July: The U.S. edition of The Girl Who Played With Fire is published.
March 20 – April 24: The broadcast of the Millennium films as a Swedish six-part TV series is a huge hit. Over the course of the year, all three films will be distributed in the U.S. and do strong box office by the standards of foreign films.
July: Larsson, already dominating the New York Times bestseller list for Tattoo and Fire, becomes the first author to sell over a million Kindle ebooks through Amazon.com.
May: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest published in U.S. by Knopf Doubleday and David Fincher begins developing the Hollywood version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” film.
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy is increasingly recognized as the dominant global publishing phenomenon of the current era, with total book sales exceeding 45 million copies by the end of 2010 and still going strong. Over 15 million copies have been sold in the US, or roughly the equivalent of recent works by John Grisham, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, and Stephen King combined.
September: Sweden Democrats, one of the right-wing groups Larsson had warned about before his death, wins 20 seats in the parliament.
December 4: World premiere of a stage production of Stieg’s first novel at the Nørrebro theater in Copenhagen. Eva Gabrielsson is actively involved in the production.
January 14: Eva Gabrielsson announces she is ready to complete writing the fourth book based on the partial manuscript Stieg left behind. The title is to be God’s Vengeance.
January 19: Millénium, Stieg et Moi (Eva Gabrielsson’s memoir) is published by Actes Sud in French, as well as in a Swedish edition. U.S. publication is planned for later in 2011 as “There Are Things I Want You to Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me by Seven Stories Press.
January, February, March: A swirl of publicity concerning Eva Gabrielsson’s memoir and the response to it by the Larsson family reignites the long-simmering debates of the prior six years over Eva’s lack of recognition as an heir, her fear of a “Stieg Larsson industry,” Stieg’s relationships with his father and brother, and most especially, the mystery manuscript for the fourth book, and future outlines and plots for what are said to be up to ten books.
May: The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of Our Time, by Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer, and John-Henri Holmberg, is published by St. Martin’s in North America and by publishers all over the world.
October: Planned publication of En annan sida av Stieg Larsson [Another Side of Stieg Larsson], a collection of his EXPO writings on feminism, racism, right-wing extremism and other matters, edited by current EXPO editor, Daniel Poohl.
December: Planned release of the American film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, starring Daniel Craig as Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth.