It is as though I’ve lost a very good friend in the death of Henning Mankell today, October 5, 2015. He created the internationally known, fictional Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander, and was an honorable man, as many have commented, for he wanted to right the wrong.
His books delivered me to Ystad, Sweden an area where most of his stories took place, featuring Kurt Wallander. Mankell was a writer who wanted to make sense of the world for his readers, that’s how he described his writing in an author’s note. Kurt Wallander was one “instrument.”
He had many such instruments, as The Guardian noted today in his obituary. “Mankell was always bemused to be known in the UK and US as a cop novelist, which was a misunderstanding for his writings including 20 historical, literary and political novels and a series for children.” The Guardian wrote also that, “he was a prolific journalist and theatre-maker who wrote more plays than Shakespeare in a theatrical career so industrious that he often spent half the year in Africa, co-running the Teatro Avenida in Maputo since 1987 and undertaking much charitable and campaigning work, especially in education about HIV/Aids.”
Henning Mankell was courageous as his fictional character, Wallander, in 2010 he joined “a flotilla of Swedish ships attempting to deliver aid to Gaza, his boat was ambushed by Israeli troops and he was at one point reported dead, although he was only arrested,” The Guardian reported.
Prolific and varied a writer that he was, the author of forty novels and forty plays, according the The New York Times and The Guardian, but what brought Mankell the most fame, selling forty million copies around the world, was his eleven book series on the Swedish police detective Kurt Wallander, which no doubt contributed to his image as a crime fiction writer.
The Guardian mentioned that he was “A leading figure in the so-called “Nordic noir” genre, exploring the darker side of Sweden and providing a counterpoint to the country’s image as a relatively crime-free society.”
Kenneth Branagh played Kurt Wallander for the BBC series, and so did Swedish actors, Rolf Lassgard, and Kristen Henriksson. Mankell noted that they had done a highly personalized depiction of his character and he was “honored’ by their portrayals.
He stopped writing about Wallander while it was still fun, he said in an author’s note at in his novel, An Event In Autumn: In his own words:
“But I don’t regret a single line of the thousands of lines I wrote about Wallander. I think the books live on because in many ways they are a reflection of what happened in Sweden and in Europe in the 1990s and the first decade of the twenty-first center. They are novels of Swedish unrest, as I used to call the series of books about Wallander.”
When he heard he had lung cancer and it had spread to other parts of his body, he chronicled his decline in a series of articles. He remarked that he never lost hope in the future and that he was satisfied with his life.
This is about the best possible outcome as our lives come to a close and we take that long look back.
Brave and honorable human beings such as Henning Mankell live on inspiring us in our own works and deeds.