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The books serve as crucial elements of the people’s lifestyles. They help humanity in developing imagination and vocabulary from the earliest stages of their lives. Unfortunately, people read less and less in contemporary times because of emergence of new entertainment channels. Hopefully the current situation in the world will change those worrisome trends…
Throughout the author’s life, he had the pleasure of experiencing various writing styles from numerous writers in both the original versions and the translated ones. Because of the fact that he had the privilege of taking International Baccalaureate exam instead of classic polish secondary school certificate at the end of high school education, his class was able to choose the readings that were under examination in May.
The teacher picked a book “The Fifth Woman” by Henning Mankell, which served as the beginning of author’s affection for Kurt Wallander’s adventures as well as Scandinavian thrillers in general. In the coming paragraphs, Mankell’s profile will be depicted.
Threads from the life of Henning Mankell in general had a significant impact on the content and shape of the literary fiction that it offered fans. Mankell’s father was a judge and he always instilled in his children that they should respect justice. The future author listened to court hearings conducted by his father. He did it through the keyhole, but he remembered them perfectly. That is why he devoted so much attention to details from crime scenes in criminal novels, which goes on and on behind the scenes of investigations, psychology of criminals and policemen.
Earlier he was not at all so calm; he always felt hunger for new sensations and could not sit still in one place. At the age of 16, he dropped out of school and got involved in unloading coal and iron. As he later admitted, it was there that he really had the chance to learn real life lessons. Then there was time for Paris and shortly thereafter Stockholm. In the first city he failed to experience happiness, but the second one opened new possibilities for him.
Mankell started working as a theater manager, where he had the chance to eavesdrop on the best Swedish artists. From an early age, the writer particularly sympathized with theater, opera and music. Sentences overheard behind the scenes of the staging were extremely valuable to him. His own first play, “Amusement Park”, stemmed from these experiences. It is a story about Swedes trying to find joy in the nineteenth-century America. From that moment on, he did not part with literature.
The fact that the society can read Henning’s novels today, however, is primarily due to the author’s grandmother. It was she who, from his earliest years, instilled in him love for the written word. It was she who first read him fairy tales, and then taught the boy how to read and write. Thanks to her efforts and diligent education, Mankell decided to become a writer. However, he did it mainly because – as he joked – ‘he had no other choice’. Nothing else gave him equal joy and a similar sense of satisfaction. In order to find happiness at the very end of his life, he often said that he must have reached for a pen. This was not a choice, but a passion born of necessity.
The first novel of the Swede, ‘Bergsprängeren’, was published in 1973. It drew the attention of critics who prophesied him the future of criticism of ‘unfair social relations.’ However, the writer gained the most popularity thanks to the crime series with Commissioner Kurt Wallander in the lead role (apparently the writer found the hero’s name in the Ystad phone book). Since 1991, thanks to the ‘Faceless Killer’, Mankell’s name began to appear on everyone’s lips, not just the lovers of this genre. Since then, ten books with the famous commissioner have been created for 18 years, and the series was even filmed.
To say that readers love Wallander is not enough. Although he is overweight, he does not hide the problem of drinking, his adventures still are captivating to millions of readers. Interestingly, the one who created him, does not like him either. However, he believed that in this way it was easier to create a memorable character for the reader. This personal dislike of the hero helps build the much-needed distance. Apart from the age, origin and a certain amount of melancholy, he did not see similarities between them.
But anger plays the most important role in his writing. Dissatisfaction at injustice, thoughtlessness, human poverty. That is probably why he included himself in the group of moralizing authors. Not excessively serious, but also unaffected by topics involved in – as he claimed – the ‘process of repairing the world.’ In his case, the tools of this repair are pen and imagination. It is no coincidence that ten years ago he was among the VIPs who were on board one of the Freedom Flotilla ships that were helping the Gaza Strip. The expedition ended with the attack of Israeli commandos, and Mankell was later often criticized for succumbing to leftist propaganda.
But, after all, man does not live by work alone. For this man born in 1948, everyday family life played a huge role. He felt best in the company of his four sons from his previous relationship and his third wife Eva (who is the daughter of director Ingmar Bergman). Apparently, the writer finally found his happiness, although he did not like to boast about it. The most intimate aspects were left for himself and his family.
As one probably noticed, the past tense was used to describe Mankell’s profile. Unfortunately, it is because of his death in 2015 due to lung and throat cancers. Mankell was one of the most popular and award-winning Swedish writers. He was the creator of detective stories, several thrillers, but also books for children and youth and social items, including about AIDS. He was also a scriptwriter, drama writer, journalist and theater director. He created his theater from scratch, writing plays and selecting actors. Due to his fascination with the Black Land, his publications often had accents that criticized the economic exploitation of the continent and the world’s inaction towards the degeneration of African societies and culture.
Statistics are equally kind to him – Henning Mankell’s books have been published in forty countries, have so far been distributed in more than forty million copies and have endured many screenings. Is this a good score for someone who likes to talk about himself as an ordinary writer for ordinary people? Let the readers of this small essay decide for themselves…
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