Sunday, 24 April 2016

Blekingegatan 32 by Lena Einhorn

I read another historical fiction by Lena Einhorn, some years ago. It was Siri, about Siri von Essen, the first wife of August Strindberg. It was excellent, so when I saw this book, which is about the early years of Greta Garbo, I grabbed it. It does not disappoint. Excellently and engagingly written.

Lena Einhorn is a physician, with a PhD in Virology and Tumor Biology, and has also done research ranging from tumor viruses, to the question of "what it is in embryonic life that strongly inhibits the development of cancer in fetuses and newborns". In the 1990s she changed her carrier into making television programs and writing books. She has also made a documentary of Greta Garbo and now using her research into her life, to write this book.

Garbo's story is rather well-known, especially her career. Here we get to know so much more about her, and I think Einhorn has managed to transfer the character of Garbo into this book. It is written with great respect for the person behind the name. We follow and live with her through the pages. Very early on it is clear that Garbo really is the reclusive person she was thought to be.

Her first relationship was with a man in Stockholm, Max, when she was still very young. After a while she ends it, he is very sad, and says to himself; "Greta, is there anyone who can have you?" I think this line is significant for her whole life. She decided who to be with, but she never gave all of herself in her relationships. Possibly only to Mimi.

When starting theatre school at the Dramatic theatre in Stockholm, she meets another young, aspiring actress, Mimi Pollak, and they become friends for life. Ms Pollak also made a successful acting career in Sweden. They spent as much time the could together, and their friendship slowly turned into a relationship. It was only in 2005, when the author saw the letters from Greta Garbo to Mimi Pollak, that she realised that their friendship was so much more and how much they really meant to each other. The son of Mimi Pollak published the letters after her death, and it is said that she kept them in her handbag all her life! There are extracts from the letters in the book.

As we know Garbo left for a successful career in Hollywood, although short. She had many relationships, but none lasting, at least what we know of. This was not for her. It is somewhat typical of her character to finish when she was on top. It seems she wanted to act, to be someone she wasn't, but only on her own conditions. A fascinating character indeed, and this fantastic historical fiction lets us have a peek on her life.

From Lena Einhorn's web-site I found this link to the book with a resumé in English

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