Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Stieg Larsson Legacy

When money destroys: Stieg Larsson’s legacy
How much can money destroy? There is reason to give this a thought when confronted with the saga of the late Stieg Larsson in Stockholm, Sweden, the writer of crime novels, i.e. the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Stieg Larsson suffered a heart attack and died in 2004, before the books were even published, but they have become a thundering success, world wide. Stieg Larsson himself will not be able to enjoy this success; as a journalist he was for many years engaged in anti-racist, anti-fascist movements. Those left behind should be able to not only honour a skilled writer but also the royalties that the books have yielded: a low estimate is that the Stieg Larsson estate is worth at least USD 15 million.
However, there is no one enjoying the incredible legacy in the remaining family. It has become clear that his life partner of more than 30 years, Eva Gabrielsson, who certainly also must have been an inspiration to the author, will not inherit anything at all, because they were not married and did not have a common law agreement. The entire estate goes to the father and the one brother.
The father and the brother have offered Eva Gabrielsson some compensation but so little that she refused to receive it.
This is a very sad story. Nobody suffers due to lack of money, but money has now already destroyed relationships in a family. None of them probably needed much of this money. They could have agreed on establishing a fund for any good purpose, be it for (poor) writers or any kind of education. By establishing such a fund they could have avoided enmity in their own midst as a close family and they could have held Stieg Larsson’s name high and with pride.
Rather than being judgmental towards the Stieg Larsson family, and of course I have the greatest sympathy for Eva Gabrielsson here, I strongly feel that this story even more is an indictment on the Swedish society which has become a very materialist society.
The kind of reaction we see in this family can only happen in a society where money and goods and consumption of these are rated very high as to what gives meaning and purpose in life. If this is so, let’s enjoy these material goods for the little while we are here, as we soon are going to die anyway, this is how the thinking goes.
Unless other values like brotherhood/sisterhood, solidarity with those who are less fortunate, tolerance and human rights are held high in a society there is no future for us. Materialism eats us from within and from underneath. If I have another ten or even twenty odd years of my life left, why should I worry about getting rich? Why shouldn’t I rather worry about how much I could help others, so as to make some kind of impact, however little, and also to make me feel good about being involved with others who may need me? The Larsson story tells me that there is something very wrong in the dear old Swedish society.

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