Author Henning Mankell – Swedish legend

Author

Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm in 1948. He spent a majority of his childhood living with his father after his parents divorce. As his father was a District judge he was often found listening to conversations between those around him of crime, mystery and intrigue which rolled into the paths of everyday people and their everyday lives. This became a comfortable genre for Henning and would eventually unconsciously help him with the most fantastic career in writing.

Before any hint came of what Henning would one day become so respected for, Henning became a merchant seaman at 16.  After returning to land he headed off to Paris where he was to live for 18 months. This artisan lifestyle so often found in Paris certainly ignited something in him, because when he returned to Sweden he started work as a stagehand for the Stockholm theatre. By the age of 20 Henning had started his career as an author, and was now the assistant director of the Riksteater theatre in Stockholm. The arts had taken Henning into a world where his talent was revered and appreciated, and this was just the start of a long and admirable career in not only Sweden but which would make him a legend in the homes of people all around the world. He would be celebrated for his writing, theatre and eventually TV work.

Henning Mankell married Eva Bergman in 1998. Eva is the daughter of the notable Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, and together they are a formidable team within the arts and charitable work.

Strong convictions

Henning is a man who really puts his money where his heart is. He was reportedly quoted as saying “there are too many people in the world who sit and watch their money piling up, I find that hard to understand” and he certainly lives by his beliefs.

Henning donated 15 million Swedish Crowns in 2007 to SOS Children’s Villages for a village in Chimoio in Western Mozambique. He has donated other monies for similar charities.

Henning spends his time between Sweden and Africa since his first visit to Africa in 1973. Africa has become the backdrop for at least 4 of Henning’s novels such as ‘ A Treacherous Paradise’ and ‘Chronicler of the Winds’. Since 1986 Henning has enjoyed another successful part of his career where 6 months out of the year he lives in Mozambique, as artistic leader at Teatro Avenida in Mozambique’s capital Maputo.

Henning has participated in protests against the Vietnam and the Portuguese colonial wars. He has well documented views of the Left wing parties, and has spoken out against the Apartheid in South Africa and against nationalism in Norway.

In 2010 Henning boarded the MS Sofia boat which took part in the flotilla. This flotilla tried to break the Israeli embargo of the Gaza strip, but the flotilla was boarded by the Israeli defense forces and Henning Mankell was subsequently deported back to Sweden.

Henning Mankell’s political views and actions upon his beliefs have brought him to the forefront as a strong character with an incredible talent, making people want to listen to him through his speeches but also his writing.

In 1991 ‘The Faceless Killers’ was published in Sweden by an author named Henning Mankell, an author who many knew about and who was respected in many different circles. His police character in this book, and 12 others which would follow was called Kurt Wallander, a strong willed man also trying to right the wrongs in Sweden and society.

One legend to another

Kurt Wallander is a multifaceted character. He originally joined the police force with huge ideals of how he was going to change and better the world, but after being stabbed in the early days of his career by a drunk which nearly took his life, he started to become quite cynical of the world around him and policed with a different attitude.

Kurt Wallander is a detective with the Ystad police force near Malmo, province of Skåne. With a divorce behind him (blamed mainly on the demanding job of having a Police career) and his daughter Linda coming and going with her troubles (since a suicide attempt at 15) Wallander carries alot of troubles on his shoulders. But his shoulders are broad and although from the start of the Wallander book series we can see that these events have had a strong impact on Kurt, he has found coping mechanisms to still continue his work to a high standard and live a relatively peaceful life. This is due to his love of the arts and opera. Kurt Wallander is often visualised for us through the book listening to his Opera music whilst having a drink and going over the days events with which ever case he is working on at that moment. When Wallander seems to find a lady companion throughout the series you can be sure that the Opera is where they will be taken.

A humble town apartment is where we first find Wallander living, amongst his records, books and whisky canters but as the series and character progresses we are treated to the Skåne seafront as Wallander and his loyal dog Jussi move to a beach side house where a lot of his thinking is now done, walking along the sand.

The crimes Henning Mankell writes about are top class, not just based around a detective and his love life. They are emotive subjects which see Wallander denouncing a lot of rules which he feels are out dated, and not morally right. Wallander is monitored with annoyance by his superiors because of his morals and how he sees the cases with a more empathetic view, but even more annoying to them is that he will always solve the case. Wallander then quietly walks away from it to stay in the background whilst the people above face the limelight.
Wallander was eventually made into a TV series in Sweden and then beyond. It was first played by Rolf Lassgard who hit our screens to play in 6 episodes of the protagonist detective. He was later followed by Krister Henriksson.
Krister Henriksson is as a legend in the arts world as Henning Mankell is. The two seem to run parallel with their respected careers, with Krister having worked for the Stockholm city theatre and the Royal dramatic theatre in Stockholm.
Krister Henriksson lives with his partner, actress Cecilia Nilsson in Stockholm. He has two daughters and one son.

Both Henning, Krister and Kurt are powerful characters. They all stand up for what they believe, are fully immersed in the arts and just seem to try and right the wrongs.

The series

The series of books circled around Kurt Wallander, and if you want to look deeper they very cleverly have an underlying question to get people thinking of what is changing in Sweden today.

Kurt Wallander

Starting with the ‘Faceless killers’ which is set in a remote Skåne farmhouse. A farmer is savagely beaten to death and his wife left for dead with a noose around her neck. As the wife goes in and out of consciousness she utters words that sound like she is pointing to foreign attackers.

This in turn causes racial tension around the area and highlights divides.

You can also just read this as a Nordic Noir crime thriller, follow Wallander at work as he manages to upset his supervisors, work out key elements that others can not and lead a relatively sophisticated existance at home with his opera and a drink.

The series brings together well Wallander’s personal history and family problems making it easier for the reader to see why he behaves as he does and towards some criminals that other do not give a second glance.

Wallander often takes us out to visit his father who lives alone in a remote house where he paints a grouse which he has done 7000 times over, and we start to see a different side of this detective who struggles to come to terms with his fathers aging, but can also see himself in him.

Wallander is surrounded by a solid team who in their own rights are interesting character who we get to know evenly. The forensic pathologist Nyberg is very highly respected and likes to take his time to make sure he gets everything right and serves justice for the victim. Stefan Lindeman who is happy in his work and the pace that his career is going, and as the series goes on we see Wallanders daughter Linda come back to try and mend her broken relationship with her father as she joins the Ystad police force with him.

We are treated to vivid descriptions of the Skåne area and are familiarised with Ystad through the regular haunts of Wallanders eating and drinking habits.

Ystad and beyond

mans_fornander-canola_field-661

Ystad is a picturesque town with cobbled streets, medieval timber clad houses and squares filled with flowers and cafes creating a vibe that centres around people meeting, chatting and eating.

You can follow in Wallanders footsteps around Ystad with guided tours, you can try to solve Wallander murder mysteries or for the well informed Wallander fans simply walk around the beautiful town yourself to recognise the various places mentioned in the books or from the televised series.

But there is more to Ystad than just Wallander, as in its own right Ystad boast museums, art galleries, restaurants and is blessed with being close to sandy beaches.

But your wanders must not end there as Henning Mankell makes sure that we get a glimpse of beyond Ystad by introducing many non Swedish readers to the Skåne area itself. Skåne can be as remote or as interactive as you like, from rolling hills with solitary farmhouses dotted around, to lakes where people gather to bask in the water under the heat of a good Swedish summer, to the castles and viking heritage museums that tourists can stop off at in between cycling around the multi coloured fields leading down to the beaches.

The winter takes hold of this area and converts it into a seemingly desolate ice sculpture of frozen lakes, snow covered fields and haunting sky. This backdrop gives a clear feeling of the victims fear in Henning’s books as the reader can only imagine what the victim is feeling as they realise that the footsteps in the snow leading up to their isolated house can only mean one thing…..danger is coming.

Photo credit:
Politiken.dk
Onyanserat.se
Lesula & Måns Fornander/imagebank.sweden.se

3 Discussions on
“Author Henning Mankell – Swedish legend”
  • I love his crime novels and I’m looking forward to a new series about Wallander or his daughter. Please don’t stop writting. Kind regards, Izabela from Poland

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