”I thought I ’knew’ Greta Garbo.” This is how Lena Einhorn begins the epilogue of her novel Blekinge Street 32. At the end of the nineties, Einhorn had made a television documentary about Garbo and therefore had had reason to spend many hours with this inaccessible and – mostly – unhappy woman who was once the world’s greatest movie star.
But then, in 2005, Einhorn got to read the thirty-three letters from Greta Garbo to fellow actress Mimi Pollak. They hailed right back to Greta and Mimi’s time as students at the Royal Drama School, and continued until long after the end of Greta’s career. Mimi was said to have kept these letters in her purse through her entire life.
And suddenly a completely different Greta Garbo emerged: a woman who had once had other choices in life, and who already felt she had achieved her dreams when suddenly a world-famous film director – Mauritz Stiller – came forward and explained to her that she could go further than that – much, much further…
The novel Blekingegatan 32 opens in 1920, in an impoverished home in the district of Södermalm, in Stockholm. Greta has recently lost her father and works as a sales girl of hats at PUB, a major department store. But she longs to get away, fantasizes about another life. Aged seventeen, she manages to get in to the Royal Drama School as the youngest of all the school’s students. We will follow this period in her life, which, later, she would describe as the happiest one she ever had. It was a time of well-being, friendship and, for the first time in Greta’s young life, a sense of belonging. It was a time, also, of passionate love.
But then, suddenly, a total change of scene is ushered in with the entrance of master director Mauritz Stiller. He lays the world at her feet, and at the same time pulls her away from the places and people she knows and loves.
In 2014, Blekingegatan 32 was awarded the Garbo Prize.