Life imitating art as Millennium feud hots up

In her fight over the legacy of her longtime partner Stieg Larsson, Eva Gabrielsson finds her life starting to resemble that of the goth-punk heroine of his phenomenal Millennium trilogy.

Just as tattooed hacker Lisbeth Salander contends with men who hate women, so Gabrielsson suspects misogyny among those denying her the right to administer one of publishing's hottest properties: his literary estate.

"I think it's true," she told AFP on Thursday in Paris, where her 160-page memoir of her 32 years alongside the crusading journalist who penned "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels has just been published.

"There's a lot of truth in that. Those who are doing this are men," she said, acknowledging that her life after Larrson's untimely death might as well be the fourth volume of his best-selling crime thriller saga.

"It would have fit extremely well into the Millennium series," she said. "It really would."

Larsson, founder of a small magazine in Stockholm that shed light on Sweden's neo-Nazi underworld, was 50 when he died soon before Millennium became the biggest global publishing phenomenon of the 21st century.

In her memoir, "Millennium, Stieg and Me", Gabrielsson describes her life with the journalist-cum-novelist, their close collaboration, and the feud with his family that erupted after he died without leaving a will.

"I've got my apartment back after three years, Steig's half of it," said the soft-spoken architect during a half-hour at a Left Bank boutique hotel where parakeets chirped in a cage beside her.

"They finally signed those papers in August 2007. I got my money back; we had joint bank accounts and I got that back... but all I asked for was the right to manage the literary estate."

She does not want full ownership of the estate, she said, but just the power to oversee what happens to the Millennium franchise as publishers and film producers explores way to milk it for maximum profit.

One of their arguments for not letting her administer the rights, she said, was that doing so would put her in conflict with the rights now held by Yellow Bird, producers of the Swedish-language film versions of the books.

Those rights include the right to develop characters, "so that means they would serialise their own productions, write their own manuscripts for 15 to 18 films, which they are known to do - they've done it with another Swedish crime writer."

Gabrielsson had not spoken with the family since August 2005 when, during a visit to the Larsson home in Umea, northern Sweden, his brother Joakim proposed a novel solution: that she marry her late partner's father Erland.

The idea left her "petrified," she writes in the memoirs.

Last week the feud went online when Joakim Larsson attacked Gabrielsson's memoirs as "so many falsehoods and misleading statements... We have not contributed to a 'Stieg Larsson industry' aside from books and films, which was Stieg's own wish."

Of the much-rumoured fourth volume, Gabrielsson - who is ready to finish it if the Larsson family lets her administer the literary estate - told AFP that it opens somewhere in Canada, with Lisbeth still the central character.

"There is no book as such," she said. "There is the beginning of a book. People don't seem to understand that it's a fragment. It's something between a sketchbook and a manuscript."

It exists in a computer - exactly where that computer is, Gabrielsson would not say - with no known print-out, amounting to about 200 pages in total, "but the family was never interested in letting me finish it".

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