Thursday, July 29, 2010

Swedish gloom goes global

Cursory reading of recent reviews suggests that Henning Mankell's latest novel, "The Man From Beijing", is a disappointment to fans of his long running Wallander series, especially here in the U.S. Reviews in England, Germany , and Scandanavia seem more open to Mankell's latest effort.

"The Man From Beijing" is a stand alone book and the tight and focused crime procedural of the Wallander series is interrupted by travel, geo-politics, and the rise of China. Don't worry, there is still the mystery to be solved, the perverse behavior, the gory crime scenes, and the corruption of old values, just not always happening while overlooking a fertile corn field or a misty fjord or a village in long term decline. Along the way Menkel delivers polemics on global politics, the schism among Chinese leaders, the righteousness of Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and the coming new exploitation of Africa. Without being required to buy into all of the thoughts that Menkel forces on his the reader, the diversions could be seen to make what could have been a standard crime novel more interesting. It's an ambitious but at times stilted effort, but why not go beyond just "Who done it".

One Boston reviewer wrote about an observation that nagged at me as well, without the knowledge here to have an opinion. He suggested that the translation from Swedish to English is flawed, that the English version does not do justice to Mankell's writing style and deft handling of interior nuance. The number of completely American colloquialisms that show up did make me wonder.

Going global is a sign of the times that Menkel wanted to embrace. The usual themes, the dark brooding, and the usual crimes remain on this broader canvas.

"The Man From Beijing" was published in Sweden in 2008 and the English translation arrived in 2010.


Post a Comment

<< Home