Much More than a Master of Nordic Noir
I first found Henning Mankell through his crime fiction featuring the melancholy Swedish sleuth Kurt Wallander. That's understandable, those novels have been translated into more than 40 languages and have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. I was thrilled by the film adaptations and the TV series too.
The landscape ever present in the Wallander novels beguiled me, the long twilights shadowing the undisturbed forests, the extensive mires and swampy lands, the lakes and waterways, the dreamlike feeling of an eerie territory. Some part of me responded to this land of bitter wind, of ice and snow.
So I was very surprised to learn that Mankell has spent much of his adult life in Africa. He stands, as he says himself, "with one foot in the snow and one foot in the sand".
Blood on the Snow
Scandinavian detective fiction bleakly portrays people and events in the grimmest of ways, it's full of brutal killers and moody detectives as chilly and gloomy as the winter.
One of these detectives is Kurt Wallander, created by Henning Mankell.
Mankell cites Macbeth as the best crime story he has ever read
Wallander muddles along most days trying to make sense of modern Sweden, listening to opera during the dreadful winters, and frequently overcome by Scandinavian melancholy. His wife has left him, his daughter won't speak to him, and he has an infuriating elderly father who paints the same landscape over and over, seven thousand times in all.
Wallander lives a less-than-desirable lifestyle, eats badly, and drinks his nights away in a lonely, neglected flat. Over the years he's become increasingly disillusioned with his work and despairs of the racism growing in Sweden. Kurt is a complex, moody man with a sharp intellect and an intuitive grasp of the hidden motivations of others. His colleagues, although frustrated by his brusque manner, respect his judgement.
It's the complexity of Wallander's character that endear him to us. We understand his frustration in the over-stretched workplace, his disheartenment with the selfishness of the younger generation and we understand, also, his fears of growing old.
The First Wallander - A dark murder, a gripping mystery and a statement against racism
A brutal assault against an elderly couple, attacks targeting illegal immigrants, a xenophobic vigilante who takes matters into his own hands ...
Henning Mankell and Actor Krister Henriksson on Wallander
The Last Wallander
I was shocked by this last in the series. Shocked and so very sorry that this is the very last time we will see Wallander
This is the Paperback format as the Kindle edition, for some strange reason, has no price attached. That oversight is as strange as the manner in which Mankell puts a definite end to the Wallander series
Another Detective from the Dark Lands of the North
Reykjavik was settled in about the year 870 by some distinctly odd characters. There seem to be some odd characters still there today, at least those I meet in fiction are highly peculiar.
A Swedish archeologist investigates the mysterious events around her son's apparent suicide, leading to a horrifying discovery
Other Novels from Henning Mankell
Mankell writes a lot more than just the Wallander novels.
Here are a couple of stand-alone novels which reveal geopolitical corruption and hard to swallow truths about humanity.
Chilling Mysteries - The Search for Truth
The Poor will do anything to earn money.
Even sell part of their bodies
Books for Younger Teens
Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm in 1948.. When his mother left the family home, Mankell and his sister were brought up by their father in a small town in northern Sweden.
His experience growing up as a motherless boy helped form his imagination and certainly helped to fix childhood memories forever.
The Joel Gustafson series is set in a secluded, small northern town in Sweden in 1956, where eleven-year old Joel lives with his father Samuel.
There are two things Joel has difficulty with. 'not knowing why, and not being able to do anything about it'.
Joel Novels - For younger readers
Mankell's teenage novels are moving, incredibly satisfying, and I'm glad that they're translated into English.
An independent sequel to A Bridge to the Stars and Joel, 12, experiences a Miracle
The first novel of the ever-questioning eleven-year-old Joel Gustafsson
Mankell is Honoured on Swedish Currency
Mankell is a Dramatist and Artistic Director
Mankell is not a typical crime writer, he's not so much attracted to the genre for its own pleasures but rather for its abilities to highlight social concerns. That's what attracted me to his Wallander novels in the first place.
But Mankell is primarily one of Sweden's most frequently played dramatists. He wrote his first play, The Amusement Park, in 1972 while working as a stagehand in Stockholm. It's the language barrier that stops me appreciating his stage dramas, I can't read Swedish and must wait for a published translation.
The theatre is his first love and, since 1986, he has been working as the Artistic Director of a theatre company in Maputo, Mozambique, where plays are performed mainly in Portuguese.
Teatro Avenido in Mozambique
How about you?
Have you read any books by Henning Mankell?
What do you think of Mankell's books? Do they appeal to you? All comments are greatly appreciated.
© 2013 Susanna Duffy