Blekingegatan 32 (2013)

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.

Press Voices

“An effervescent story about the two years in Greta Garbo’s life when she attended the acting school at Dramaten, and her meeting with Mimi Pollak who became one of her great loves. They seem so vivid, the main characters – Greta, Mimi and the great film director Mauritz Stiller (who discovered Garbo) – and the glimpses into the film and theatre world of the 1920s. This is a book that you devour at a single sitting.”
Jeanette Gentele, Svenska Dagbladet

“Lena Einhorn is a rarity in as much as she is an author who likes her characters and can make her readers like them too… Greta’s two sides are described superbly, she was elusive and strong, frightened and weak at the same time. The discouraging precision in her words. Her fascinating shyness and capricious energy. The dialogue both has an everyday warmth and a very believable tone.”
Sven Olof Karlsson, Expressen

“Her driving force is the delight she feels in telling the other story: the forbidden one, the one that generations of interpreters, film critics, reviewers and researchers have refused to touch or recognise… when Einhorn makes it her purpose to raise the curtain, it becomes easier for us others to understand both the person and the artiste Greta Gustafsson under the misanthropic surface … Blekingegatan 32 is a melancholic novel with stifled undertones. It is often a fantastic read.”
Ulrika Kärnborg, Aftonbladet

“Lena Einhorn has written a fictive biography about Greta Garbo that carries the whole way. The writing is magnificent and the novel is dense and very well worked through … Blekingegatan 32 is definitely one of the best books I have read in this genre. One gets a fantastic introduction to the Stockholm film and theater scene of that era, and learns a lot about the life of the actors, both on stage and in front of the camera. One also gets an entirely new feeling for the mysterious Greta Garbo. Lena Einhorn manages to bring her readers very close to her fictive main character, and when you put the book down, you can still feel the scent of fried herring from the apartment on the South, where Greta used to share the bed sofa in the minute kitchen with her sister Alva, and you understand a bit more of where the iconic Garbo had her roots, and why everything turned out the way it did.”
Elisabeth Brännström, Tidningen Kulturen

“Lena Einhorn is really determined to get under the skin of Greta Garbo and portray a vulnerable person who also craves affection… What is so nice about a novel like Blekingegatan 32 is the interest it creates for Garbo’s films. You feel like pulling the old classics down from the shelf to discover which secrets Mauritz Stiller – he is portrayed with unusual sensitivity in the book – and the other directors saw in Garbo’s face.”
Åke Leijonhufvud, Sydsvenskan

“Lena Einhorn’s book about Garbo – Blekingegatan 32 – is brilliant! I would like to do a deep curtsy for a gifted author; it is an exciting, well written, very touching book… This is sterling romantic literature, a gift to be able to read! … This book gives me a feeling of joy, I’m flying! How fantastic it is to be able to read a book by a talented writer who can really go all the way in her subject!”
Yvonne Gröning, Dala-Demokraten

“This novel really does get to you. And it stays behind long after you have stopped reading, long after Lena Einhorn’s story is finished. Because when I have read Blekingegatan 32 from start to finish I google all the names in the book. I look at all the film clips I can find on YouTube. I have quite simply fallen in love with the young, forceful yet strangely submissive Greta Gustafsson… I hope this will be turned into a film some day. I hope we will be able to follow these young people at the acting school through a sparkling winter-Stockholm in the 1920s. Anybody at all must surely realise that this would be a magical film.”
Minna Jonsson, Gefle Dagblad

“Reading this book is like watching a classic, and of course very sad, romantic film… And what I wouldn’t have been able to imagine without Einhorn’s help is Greta Garbo as radiantly in love. Crazy. With a touch of joy.”
Bodil Juggas, Arbetarbladet

“The young Greta Garbo comes to life in some utterly remarkable way… She [Einhorn] simply makes the tale of Sweden’s foremost film star her very own – and her brilliant storytelling talent soon silences any possible protest.”
Johan Fingal, Jönköpingsposten

“Garbo’s time in Hollywood is by Lena Einhorn, in her novel Blekingegatan 32, depicted as the Guantanamo of film stars. It is horrific and outstanding, in the form of fiction, and Einhorn is masterly at creating a charged atmosphere …
There was once a human being underneath the misanthropic surface, and the wistful glimpses from Hollywood stand in stark contrast to that image of Greta. This is what lifts this tale from being a very good novel about the mysterious Garbo to being an absolutely outstanding one, about a creative and once joyous Greta.”
Marianne Ekenbjörn, Norrbottenskuriren

“Her electrifying way of writing, and the material she works with, makes one breathlessly throw oneself from page to page.”
Inger Dahlman, Norrköpings Tidningar

“Lena Einhorn makes a human being out of the myth … [Blekingegatan 32] is well written and sensitive, it penetrates under the surface, but with great respect for the real people.”
Camilla Carnmo, Borås Tidning

“I see a knot. And when I read Lena Einhorn’s tale about Garbo I sense it so strongly as if it lay in my own hand. Here, Garbo is depicted in a way that is an artist’s way of depicting someone. We don’t know what is true and what is untrue. But we feel. A young person’s desire to come into existence …
A role demands its shell. If you remove the shell from a turtle, you see all that you do not wish to see. Flesh, blood, nerves. The shell of the turtle is the camouflage of the role. Perhaps Garbo mastered camouflaging to perfection. The horrific experiences of her own life rested under the shimmering shell. A Garbo knot. Waiting for the slash…
Perhaps it is Lena Einhorn who has just drawn the sword. Exposing that which might just be.”
Gunilla Röör (Actress and Professor of Acting), Tidningen Vi

With great warmth and psychological credibility, Einhorn depicts a fragile, affirmation-thirsty revanchist, who oscillates between hubris and feelings of inferiority.  A woman who chooses to become “the Divine”, to become untouchable and eternally alone.  With only the memory left of  the one intimacy that meant something.
Yukiko Duke, Tidningen Vi

Blekingegatan 32 is a book about dreams, about an extraordinary life … The problem with good books is that they are almost impossible to put aside before one has finished. They become quick reads. Then one goes back, and reads again, and finds new angles. It is impossible not to be fascinated by this story. The writer’s voice keeps the reader totally enthralled.

Einhorn has written something magnificent. Read it!
Ulrika Larsson, QX

Sweden (Norstedts)

Germany (Langenmülle)