Henning Mankell: An Obituary


As a true fan of the author I like to think of as the forefather of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, I thought I would share with you the obituary for Henning Mankell which I wrote shortly after his death last year.

Mankell was a talented, effortless writer who had the extraordinary talent of writing strange, deviant thoughts that were often unthinkable to normal, sane people, in a manner which made them seem logical.

He also had an eye for setting, and his most famous creation, Inspector Kurt Wallander, was characterised as much by the Skane countryside as he was by any of the sparse and unkind adjectives Mankell used to describe him.

Like many great detective fiction writers, Mankell grew to despise his creation, but his novels of the grumpy small town detective showcased innumerable narrative skills and had a richness and a humanity about them which raised them above the cheap thrills of traditional crime writing.

The Wallander novels are often political, with Mankell adding further dimension to already vastly emotive novels by posing critical questions on international and often uncomfortable issues, such as the Russian occupation of Latvia and the underlying racism inherent in Swedish culture, which was his first topic of discussion in the deftly plotted and skilfully crafted Faceless Killers.

His other works, most notably the stunning and haunting Depths, were so utterly sumptuous and rich in their use of language, even when read in translation, that they captivated audiences around the world, with Mankell’s work more popular in some countries than the Harry Potter series.

His novels transcribed many facets of life, highlighting the richness and the diversity of existence, from the existential crisis bought on by a haunted past he depicts in the beautifully dialogued Italian Shoes to the harsh, brutal and unglamorous reality of international conspiracy that pervades through The Man From Beijing.

Aside from his literary contributions, Mankell was a humanitarian, a great believer in caring for people who inspired many others through his work in Africa as well as his writing, which often reflected the harsh struggle many have to face and encouraged compassion and kindness. He fought tirelessly, even following his cancer diagnosis in 2014, which he chronicled in blog posts and essays on the process of cancer treatment and the mental and physical struggle he experienced.

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