Monday, May 4, 2009

PBS to Air Kurt Wallander Episodes

Starting Sunday, May 10th, PBS will air three Kurt Wallander mysteries on Masterpiece Mystery. The Kurt Wallander series, by Swedish author Henning Mankell, began with the book Faceless Killers, published in 1991. The PBS episodes, in which Kurt Wallander is portrayed by Kenneth Branaugh, will be based on three of Mankell's books: Sidetracked (May 10th), Firewall (May 17th), and One Step Behind (May 31st).

Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm in 1948, raised in a village in northern Sweden and now divdes his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he works as the director of a theater, Teatro Avenida. Kurt Wallander remains one of the most impressive and credible creations of crime fiction today. The first Wallander book was written in response to the social chaos Mankell encountered on his return to Sweden from Africa in early 1989. Neo-fascist attacks on immigrants had increased during his two years in Mozambique. "Racism is a crime, and I thought: okay, I'll use the crime story. Then I realized I needed a police officer." He plucked the name "Wallander" out of the telephone directory. "It was May 20 1989 (I looked it up in an old diary) when Kurt was born."

Readers like the Wallander books for their edgy, convincing police work and coverage of social concerns. Mankell makes you reflect on society. Questions of responsibility and morality - of justice and democracy - are explicitly raised, which is unusual in detective fiction. "I work in an old tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks," Mankell says. "You hold a mirror to crime to see what's happening in society. I could never write a crime story just for the sake of it, because I always want to talk about certain things in society." He says the best crime story he has ever read is Macbeth - "a terrible allegory about the corrupting tendency of power that could equally be about President Nixon."

Mankell cites John le Carré as a key influence and admires the way he develops the character George Smiley with each subsequent book. "If you can call le Carré a crime writer, he investigates the contradictions inside man, between men, and between man and society; and I hope to do the same." In addition to his thrillers, he has written children's books and novels on African themes. In Sweden one of his most faithful admirers is Ingmar Bergman; Mankell is married to the film director's daughter, Eva. In Africa, Mankell is passionately committed to the fight against AIDS and devotes much of his spare time to his "memory books" project, which aims to raise awareness of the catastrophe. Parents with AIDS are encouraged to record their life stories not just for their children, but as a human chronicle as well.

1 comment:

  1. Saw 'Firewall' last night and I can see why one of your customers thinks Mankell is the 'best' crime mystery writer. Kurt Wallander is the quintessential detective: he doesn't have time to shave, sleep, or buy a gift for his father, he only has time to solve the crime! The shots of the characters and the scenery were wonderful.


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