[Marxism] NYT Henning Mankell obit

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 5 08:48:32 MDT 2015


Henning Mankell, Writer Whose Wallander Patrolled a Gritty Sweden, Dies 
at 67
By JONATHAN KANDELL

Henning Mankell, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for 
police procedurals that were translated into a score of languages and 
sold by the millions throughout the world, died on Monday in Goteborg, 
Sweden. He was 67.

The cause was cancer, said his literary agent Anneli Hoier. Last year, 
Mr. Mankell disclosed that doctors had found tumors in his neck and left 
lung.

Mr. Mankell was considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir 
writers who gained global prominence for novels that blended 
edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and 
strong social themes. The genre includes Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland, 
Jo Nesbo of Norway and Stieg Larsson of Sweden, among others.

But it was Mr. Mankell who led the way with 10 mystery novels featuring 
Inspector Kurt Wallander, a gruff but humane detective troubled by 
self-doubt, overeating, alcoholism and eventually dementia. Most of the 
action takes place in and around Ystad, a real-life town of 18,350 
inhabitants on the Baltic Sea, about 380 miles south of Stockholm and 
now a magnet for Wallander buffs.

Mr. Mankell divided his time between Stockholm and Maputo, the capital 
of Mozambique, where he was the artistic director of the main theater, 
Teatro Avenida.

“I came to Africa with one purpose: I wanted to see the world outside 
the perspective of European egocentricity,” he wrote in an essay for The 
New York Times in 2011. “I could have chosen Asia or South America. I 
ended up in Africa because the plane ticket there was cheapest.”

Though Africa was rarely the main setting for Mr. Mankell’s detective 
novels, it informed his sensitivity to the mistreatment of non-European 
immigrants in enlightened Sweden.

“Solidarity with those in need run through his entire work and 
manifested itself in action until the very end,” Robert Johnsson, Mr. 
Mankell’s literary agent for Sweden, and Dan Israel, with whom he 
founded the publishing company Leopard, said in a statement.

In “Firewall” (1998), he managed to adeptly intertwine financial 
cybercrime with colonialism. It begins with the discovery of the body of 
what appears to be a heart attack victim lying in front of an A.T.M. in 
Ystad and the seemingly unconnected murder of a cabdriver by a teenage 
girl on the outskirts of the town.

The novel ends with the villain — a white doctor in Africa driven by 
anticolonialist rage — flying to Sweden in a frantic attempt to ignite a 
meltdown of the global financial system. Wallander saves the day, but 
only after stumbling into the conspiracy through his hapless affair with 
a woman who is the villain’s accomplice.

Mr. Mankell grew irritated over attempts by readers to trace elements 
from his life in Wallander’s. Still, the parallels were there. Born in 
Stockholm on Feb. 3, 1948, he was abandoned by his mother, along with 
his two siblings, and they moved in with their father, a judge, in Sveg, 
a small community in northern Sweden.

Through his father’s court activities, Mr. Mankell learned about 
criminal cases in a small-town setting not unlike Wallander’s 
investigations in Ystad. And like the author’s mother, Wallander is an 
errant parent who abandons a child — though the two reconcile in the 
course of the detective series.

Mr. Mankell, whose grandfather was a composer, passed on his love of 
classical music to his famous detective. Wallander spends many lonely 
nights listening to Mozart operas or walking the windswept beaches of 
Ystad with his dog, Jussi — named after Jussi Bjorling, the great 
Swedish tenor.

And Wallander’s repeated failures at lasting romances echoed the 
author’s own: Mr. Mankell was married four times, the last to Eva 
Bergman, daughter of the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman. “It shows 
I am an optimist,” Mr. Mankell said in a 2013 interview with The Guardian.

Mr. Mankell embarked early on a literary career. Hoping to emulate 
Joseph Conrad, he went to sea in the Swedish merchant marine at 16. But 
he quit when, after numerous voyages, he got no further than the British 
industrial port of Middlesbrough. Besides, at 19, a play he had written 
was produced in Stockholm. A year later, he was named an assistant 
theater director and traveled around the country with touring productions.

It was not until 1991, when he was 43, that the first of his Wallander 
novels, “Faceless Killers,” was published. In the opening scene, Ystad 
police officers, led by Wallander, are called to an isolated farmhouse 
where they find the owner, an elderly man, tortured to death. His wife, 
brutally bludgeoned, survives only long enough to utter a single word: 
“Foreign.” And that incites Ystad mobs to attack local immigrants in 
revenge. The novel won the Glass Key award, given annually to a crime 
novel written by a Scandinavian.

Mr. Mankell’s popularity grew with each Wallander mystery. In 
“Sidetracked” (1995), a series of aged men, apparently model citizens, 
are killed in increasingly grisly fashion and then scalped by the murderer.

In “One Step Behind” (1997), three young revelers, dressed as 
18th-century nobles, are found shot to death in a forest. And in “The 
Man Who Smiled” (1994), a depressed, alcoholic Wallander comes out of 
brief retirement to investigate a double murder that may be linked to a 
wealthy philanthropist.

Like almost all of the Wallander mysteries, these best sellers were 
adapted for television. The British actor and director Kenneth Branagh 
played Wallander in several BBC broadcasts. Perhaps the most successful 
Wallander screen portrayals were for Swedish television and starred the 
Swedish actor Krister Henriksson, whom Mr. Mankell often said came 
closest to his own image of the detective.

Income from his novels and their screen adaptations made Mr. Mankell a 
multimillionaire. But he continued to espouse often controversial, 
left-wing views.

A virulent critic of Israel, he denounced the two-state solution as 
fraudulent. Writing for a leftist political blog, Pulse, after a visit 
to Israel and the West Bank in 2009, he called for “the fall of this 
disgraceful Apartheid system.” And in 2010, he was aboard one of the 
ships in the flotilla that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. In 
a confrontation with Israeli forces on one of the boats, nine people 
were killed. Mr. Mankell, who was on another vessel, was arrested and 
deported back to Sweden.

He is survived by his wife, Ms. Bergman, and a son, Jon.

Mr. Mankell chafed at his failure to reach a broader audience outside of 
Sweden for his many works besides the Wallander series. In all, he wrote 
more than 40 volumes of fiction and 40 plays.

But some critics suggested that, like other mystery writers seeking 
higher literary recognition, Mr. Mankell could not escape the stylistic 
limitations of the detective genre.

In a 2007 Times review of his World War I-era naval novel “Depths,” Lucy 
Ellmann asserted Mr. Mankell was “encumbered with all those irritating 
little habits mystery writers can develop: staccato sentences, 
paragraphs and chapters,” as well as “that old audience-grabber, plot 
for plot’s sake, in the form of a murder every now and then (even the 
cat gets killed).”

Mr. Mankell eventually tired of Wallander. He ended the detective’s 
career with the publication of “The Troubled Man” (2009), in which 
Wallander bows out of the police force because of Alzheimer’s disease. 
“I shall not miss Wallander,” Mr. Mankell told The Guardian in 2013.

But his readers and many reviewers did.

“Detective Chief Inspector Kurt Wallander has solved his last case,” 
Marilyn Stasio lamented in a 2011 Times review. “Making this news more 
bitter, the alcoholic, diabetic, antisocial and perpetually dour Swedish 
detective is at his gloomy best in ‘The Troubled Man.’ ”



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