Swedish book review: Mankell’s The Troubled Man

Troubled man At the recent Swedish Embassy evening, Karen and I met the charming Sarah Death, editor of the Swedish Book Review. Sarah very generously gave each of us a copy of the magazine's second issue in 2009. Among the many interesting articles in the magazine is a review by translator Laurie Thompson of Henning Mankell's upcoming The Troubled ManDen orolige mannen, published in Sweden last August, and due for publication in the United Kingdom by Harvill Secker in February 2011.

In his review, Laurie Thompson writes that although it is about Wallander, the novel is not a police procedural - although plenty of skullduggery is going on, the investigation is the responsibility of the Stockholm police, so nothing to do with Wallander officially, as he works in Ystaad. However, Wallander is affected by the events because of a very personal relationship involving his daughter Linda. Thompson explains that the plot of the novel, though fascinating, is not really what it is about. It's about Wallander the man: interfering, breaking promises, lying and ignoring procedure, but, of course, getting results. Not only is the book about Wallander's coming to terms with his age, but there are confrontations with his divorced wife Mona and an encounter with Baiba, the woman with whom he has a relationship in The Dogs of Riga, a very early book in the series. "Throughout the book, he is preoccupied by a deep love for his daughter, and his admiration of her qualities….the real subject matter – the troubled man of the title – is Wallander as a person rather than as a police officer." This is a really lovely review by Laurie Thompson, a superb translator who empathises with his author. Reading the review made me remember how much more I enjoyed the Wallander novels, despite their imperfections, than either the Swedish or the English TV versions. The Swedish version is far superior to the English, but even so it veers into melodrama and soapishness too often to be on a par with the novels. (This probably will not stop me watching the upcoming new series while I do the ironing.) If I manage to live to an old age, I shall read all the Wallander novels again, in order this time 😉 .

From Wikipedia: Henning Mankell had originally planned to write no more Wallander stories after the publication of the short story collection The Pyramid in 1999. In 2002, he released Before the Frost, a novel that shifted the focus of the stories to Wallander's daughter Linda, who joins the police force. Mankell planned more novels focusing on Linda's police career but subsequently abandoned them after the death of Johanna Sällström, the actress who portrayed Linda. Several years passed before Mankell decided there was one more Kurt Wallander story to tell. The naval aspect of the Troubled Man plot was inspired by the submarine incursions into Swedish territorial waters that occurred from 1982–83. Mankell considered these to be the worst scandals in Swedish political history.