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Henning Mankell appearance in USA, summer 2004

Henning Mankell made three public appearances in the USA in the summer of 2004.

  Chicago - June 5, 2004
Printer's Row Book Fair
1727 South Indiana Ave.
Suite # G02A
Chicago, IL 60616
312-222-4778, 312-222-3986
  New York City - June 10, 2004 7:00 p.m.
Henning Mankell will be in conversation with Michael Ondaatje.
Barnes & Noble
33 E. 17th Street
New York, NY 10003
  Boston - June 11, 2004 6:00 p.m.
Harvard Bookstore
1256 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

Tim, one of our fellow readers, was able to take some photographs at the event. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Henning Mankell in Boston, Summer 2004 Henning Mankell in Boston, Summer 2004 Henning Mankell in Boston, Summer 2004
Henning Mankell in Boston, Summer 2004 Henning Mankell in Boston, Summer 2004 Henning Mankell in Boston, Summer 2004

Chris, a member our discussion list, posted his summary of Henning Mankell's talk in New York City. Both parts are posted below:

  Hi, I'll just jot down a few things as I remember them, hope it's of interest to the group:
HM was at a B&N bookstore with the author Michael Onddatje, who introduced Mankell and said he was a fan of the Wallander books (and especially likes the character of Ann-Britt Hoglund). HM gave a short reading of the opening of "Faceless Killers," and they discussed the novels and HM's theatre work in Mozambique. (HM seemed a bit put off by the impulse some people have to write to the Ystad police and go to the town, when they know very well that Wallander and team are fictional.)

During the talk and in response to questions, Mankell spoke about Kurt Wallander (name created from phone book), the writing process, theatre, Africa, AIDS-orphans & the west, and why he started the Wallander novels:

The main point Mankell would like readers to take away from the Wallander novels is the evil of racism. He believes it is such a terrible crime, he needed a police procedural as the vehicle to hold up a mirror to society, and that's what started Wallander's series.
He believes people are not born evil, circumstances create the occasion for their evildoing.

He said he and Wallander have only 3 things in common: love of Italian opera, working hard, &[-- I'm blanking on the 3d!] He said he doesn't even really like Wallander all that much, which is why he enjoys writing about him. He thinks Wallander doesn't treat women well enough, for instance.

Mankell does a lot of research and thinking before he ever sits down to write, so that by the time he does, it's relatively quick to get the work written.

He loves being able to do both theatre and solitary fiction writing. The common language in Mozambique is Portugese, so his
(professional) repertory theatre does plays in Portg. He both directs and writes plays.

He has helped, and been deeply affected by, the Memory Book project which helps illiterate, young, dying parents in Africa to leave something for the orphans to remember them by, e.g., something like a dried flower or a painting.

HM also told us a story, and encouraged us in the audience to repeat it, so I'm telling you as it was told to me:

We've all seen ads, etc., about "what a small world this is becoming," etc. One day, as Henning Mankell strolled around a small African island off Mozamb., a small group of young teens, 14 - 15 yr -old African boys and girls walked with him, asking him questions. He sensed there was something else they wanted to ask; eventually, one of the boys took him aside and asked, "When two people kiss, who should close their eyes, the boy or the girl?" Not seeing the context for these kids, he simply said, you should do whatever your feelings suggest. The kids were dismissive of this answer and left. Mankell did some thinking, and realized that since kissing was not a part of this African culture, the kids were trying to understand a foreign concept they had seen in movies or magazines, and assumed there was a correct "technical" answer to be had! So, when slogans report, 'the world is getting smaller,' he says, "no, the world is getting bigger" meaning we all are gaining an enlarged view of other cultures.

Hope if others were at the talk they will fill in the gaps from my stream-of-consciousness post. There was a photographer there, I don't know if he was hired by the bookstore or someone else.

Cheers, Chris

  I recalled a couple of other things, and want to add to the comment about Mankell's feelings about Wallander.

Mankell said that the Swedish prime minister is a fan and always reads each new Wallander novel. Mankell also planned for a long time to have Linda take over as the main character, and intentionally set up the scene where she informs Kurt that she will become a policeman - framing the young Kurt's announcement to his own father, which caused years of estrangement or at least difficulties.

As to Mankell's less positive feelings about Wallander, I suspect from the way he said it that he was in part being deliberately provocative. It seems to me that he could not write so sympathetically about Wallander's personal feelings and struggles, and have made him such an intuitive and sympathetic character, without liking him - but they are not similar people; Kurt is no intellectual, for one thing. It may also be that he is exasperated that fans "forget" that Wallander is fictional. He tells the story of an instance in Sweden when an elderly man came up to him and asked him about an upcoming election: "How would Wallander vote on this referendum?" Mankell answered - on Kurt's behalf, so to speak - and then hurried away. :)