Stieg Larsson, the Swedish journalist and writer known for his international best-seller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, died of a heart attack in 2005. He was only 50 years old.
A month after he died, Larsson’s longtime companion, Eva Gabrielsson, discovered an envelope among his belongings. It was marked, “To be opened only after my death.”
In it was a letter he’d written to her decades earlier when he was just 22 and about to embark on a journey to Africa. Larsson wrote:
At this very moment, reading this letter, you know that I am dead.
He went on:
One way or another, everything comes to an end. It’s all over someday. That’s perhaps one of the most fascinating truths we know about the entire universe. The stars die, the galaxies die, the planets die. And people die too. I’ve never been a believer, but the day I became interested in astronomy, I think I put aside all that was left of my fear of death. I’d realized that in comparison to the universe, a human being, a single human being, me…is infinitely small.
Astronomy, with its unimaginable distances and timescales, truly has ...