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.

6 thoughts on “Swedish book review: Mankell’s The Troubled Man

  1. Maxine – Thanks for this really interesting review. I know what you mean, too, about books being far superior to televised versions of stories. I’ve found that quite frequently, actually. But then, it’s hard to live up to the high quality of some books : ).

  2. Alas I didn’t get a copy of SBR at the do though a friend has sent me some back issues. It wasn’t the crime issue being given out?
    Fascinating insight into the next “wallander” book.

  3. Oh Karen, I thought Sarah gave us each the same issue, so sorry. I will send you mine when I have finished it, but I am afraid you have alread got most of the crime that is in it! No, the crime fiction one is out in 2010, but the issue she gave me is the second in 2009. The issue on the website is the one before that, the first in 2009, so they are running a bit behind. Given the economics of magazine publishing, I am not surprised it is a bit late.

  4. I normally wouldn’t have started such a long series from scratch but I bought the first 8 Wallander books on sale in a set one day about 18 months and now will have to slowly make my way through them (I’ve read 2 so far). I don’t like reading series books one after the other and usually leave at least six months between each book so I’ll probably get to this one in about 2017 but I’ll look forward to it 🙂

  5. I agree, Bernadette, I have had series almost ruined for me by buying all the “back numbers” and reading them too quickly. Good to hear about Awakening – it is on my shelf to read, too.

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