Det tog tid för Henning Mankell att slå igenom i den engelskspråkiga världen på samma sätt som i den tyskspråkiga där han sedan lång tid tillbaka ofta legat på bestsellerlistorna. Jag minns när min gamle vän Laurie Thompson i Lampeter höll på med översättningen av Den vita lejoninnan som kom ut i England 1998. Den sålde inledningsvis ganska dåligt och inte heller de följande böckerna blev några bokhandelssuccéer.
BBC:s filmade version av några Wallanderböcker – med Kenneth Branagh i huvudrollen – har förstås bidragit till de senaste årens framgång. I USA har just The Man from Beijing mottagits av entusiastiska recensenter. I Los Angeles Times skriver Jonathan Shapiro:
Fans of Mankell’s earlier Kurt Wallander mystery series will enjoy the intellectual provocations of the new book. Part police procedural, part political manifesto, Mankell manages to wrap an erudite analysis of imperialism around an entertaining whodunit.
Not even fellow Swede Stieg Larsson has managed to pull that off…
All of which raises the question: Who is the better writer? The answer, of course, depends on your taste and mood.
Like the songs of ABBA, Larsson is sometimes insipid but never boring; like the plays of August Strindberg, Mankell is often dull but never stupid. Larsson’s books are immediately addictive and impossible to put down. Mankell’s books are an acquired taste, as catchy as a cello sonata, but filled with the kind of deep, ruminative writing that rewards concentration and patience…
Enligt Shapiro är The Man from Beijing en bok som verkligen stannar i läsarens minne:
It raises important questions about modern China and its role in the world; about the responsibility of the West, especially toward its former colonies; about the meaning of revenge. Even with its flaws, the book cements Mankell’s reputation as Sweden’s greatest living mystery writer.
And, no, that’s not just because Larsson is dead.
Mr Wallander – a.k.a. Kenneth Branagh
Även i Wall Street Journal är recensenten Tom Nolan entusiastisk:
As unlikely as the scenario might seem, Mr. Mankell—who has been well served by translator Laurie Thompson—succeeds in transfixing the reader with a masterly balance of character sketches and pell-mell storytelling. He is entirely convincing in his depiction of ordinary people, ”absorbed in their own thoughts, their own fates,” becoming enmeshed in geopolitical intrigue.
I dagens nummer av The Guardian publiceras en lång intervju med Henning Mankell som på webbplatsens förstasida får epitetet Mr Wallander. Intervjuaren Nicholas Wroe noterar att Mankell har uppskattande läsare också utanför den vanliga kretsen av deckarentusiaster:
Michael Ondaatje claimed his works ”transcend their chosen genre to become thrilling and moral literature”. John Pilger speaks admiringly of his ”principled political life” and recalls talking enthusiastically about Mankell to Martha Gellhorn, another ”huge fan”. Not that Mankell’s worldview is to everyone’s taste. The acclaimed Scottish writer Val McDermid ”loves Nordic crime, but I find Mankell just too bloody bleak.” And it took some time, even after the Wallander books were translated into English, before he attracted a large anglophone audience. Ian Rankin remembers interviewing Mankell, who was a late addition to the Edinburgh Book Festival, after he had published just a couple of Wallander books in English. ”Only a handful of fans turned up to the event, but interestingly most of them seemed to be fellow authors. For me the baton of Swedish crime fiction was passed from Sjöwal and Wahlöö to Mankell. They charted changes in Swedish society in the 60s and 70s. Mankell does the same for more recent decades. And his own biography makes him every bit as interesting as any of his characters. It will be fascinating to see what he does post-Wallander. I’ll be looking for tips regarding my own post-Rebus writing career.”
Forstättning följer säkert. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Kolla bara på sajten Inspector-Wallander.org där den engelskspråkiga världens fans har ett forum.