Monday, October 05, 2015

On the Passing of Henning Mankell

In this 2012 interview for the Louisiana Channel, Henning Mankell “reflects upon his work, inspirations, and the role of the intellectual in society.”

This is not the sort of news any crime-fiction enthusiast wishes to read on a Monday morning. From The New York Times:
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 Nesbø 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.
More from The Guardian:
[Swedish publisher] Leopard, which he founded in 2001 with Dan Israel, and which published his books, described him as “one of the great Swedish authors of our time.” His British publisher Harvill Secker said this morning in a statement that its staff were “deeply saddened--and shocked--to hear of the news of the untimely death of Henning Mankell this morning.”

“Beloved by readers across the world, especially for his Kurt Wallander series, it was a privilege to have worked with a man of such talent and passion, and to have been his UK publisher for so many years,” said a spokesperson at Harvill Secker. “He was an inspiration not just as a writer, but as someone who always stood up for the rights of others. He will be so very sorely missed. The world is a sadder place for having lost such a charismatic and honourable man.”
The Independent adds:
Mankell announced last year that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and began documenting his experiences in a newspaper column.

“My anxiety is very profound, although by and large I can keep it under control,” he said, writing of his diagnosis in the Swedish newspaper

Of his decision to document his treatment, he said: “I have decided to write it just as it is, about the difficult battle it always is.

“But,” he added, “I will write from life's perspective, not death’s.”
In February 2014, The Guardian carried an English-translated piece Mankell had written about “how it feels to be diagnosed with cancer.” The UK Telegraph explains that the author “wrote about his experience of the disease in his most recent book, Quicksand: What it Means to Be a Human Being, to be published next year.”

I enjoyed this excerpt from The New York Times’ obituary:
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.
Then there’s this, again from The Guardian:
The Nordic crime-writing community was quick to pay tribute, with Norwegian Jo Nesbø describing him as “generous, committed, reflective and warm.” He continued: “As I see it, Henning Mankell both carried on and modernized the Scandinavian crime fiction tradition dating back to Sjöwall & Wahlöö, in style as well as content. He was one of the most important pioneers of Scandinavian crime literature, if not the most important of all.”

The bestselling Icelandic crime writer Yrsa Sigurdardottir said that Mankell “was undoubtedly the single most important person involved in bringing Scandinavian crime fiction to the rest of the world.

“His novels were immensely popular and for a reason; his mastery lay in being able to combine compelling characters, intriguing crimes and matters of social injustice into stories that were not only enjoyable but also very well written. So much so that they transcended borders and made the foreign reader forget the odd names and unfamiliar locations,” she said.
READ MORE:Henning Mankell’s Ability to Write Anything Anywhere Saw Him to the End,” by Mark Lawson (The Guardian); “Henning Mankell in Quotes: 10 of the Best” (The Guardian); “Wallender Writer Henning Mankell Dies at 67,” by Leo Barraclough (Variety); “Henning Mankell, Swedish Author of Wallander Book Series, Dies at 67,” by Alex Ritman (The Hollywood Reporter); “A Tribute to Henning Mankell” (Crime Fiction Lover); “Henning Mankell -- Appreciation: The Master of Crime Writing with a Keen Social Conscience,” by Barry Forshaw (The Independent): “Henning Mankell: In Memoriam,” by Michael Carlson (Irresistible Targets).


Nan said...

So very sorry to hear this.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Someone who used his powers for good.

Ronald Tierney said...

Thank you for this piece on Mr. Mankell.