Swedish crime writer, children’s author, and dramatist Henning Georg Mankell sadly died 5 October 2015. He was born 3 February 1948 in Stockholm, Sweden. His father Ivar was a lawyer who divorced his mother when Mankell was one year old. He and an older sister lived with his father for most of their childhood. Mankell’s grandfather, also named Henning Mankell, lived from 1868 to 1930 and was a composer. The family first lived in Sveg, Härjedalen in northern Sweden, where Mankell’s father was a district judge. In the biography on Mankell’s website, he describes this time when they lived in a flat above the court as one of the happiest in his life and a museum was built In Sveg, in his honour during his lifetime.
Later, when Mankell was thirteen, the family moved to Borås, Västergötland on the Swedish west coast near Gothenburg. After three years he dropped out of school and went to Paris when he was 16. Shortly afterwards he joined the merchant marine, working on a cargo ship and he “loved the ship’s decent hard-working community”. In 1966, he returned to Paris to become a writer. In his youth Mankell was a left-wing political activist and participated in the Protests of 1968 in Sweden, protesting against, among other things, the Vietnam War, the Portuguese Colonial War, and the apartheid regime in South Africa. He took part in the student uprising of 1968. he also got involved with Folket i Bild/Kulturfront which focused on cultural policy studies. In the 1970s, Mankell moved from Sweden to Norway and lived with a Norwegian woman who was a member of the Maoist Workers’ Communist Party. In 2010, Mankell was on board one of the ships in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was boarded by Israeli military forces.
He later returned to work as a stagehand in Stockholm. At the age of 20, he had already started as author at Riksteatern in Stockholm. In the following years he collaborated with several theatres in Sweden. His first play, The Amusement Park dealt with Swedish colonialism in South America. In 1973, he published The Stone Blaster, a novel about the Swedish labour movement. He used the proceeds from the novel to travel to Guinea-Bissau. Africa would later become a second home to him, and he spent a big part of his life there. When his success as a writer made it possible, he founded and ran a theatre in Mozambique. After living in Zambia and other African countries, Mankell was invited from 1986 onward to become the artistic director of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique. He subsequently spent extended periods in Maputo working with the theatre and as a writer. He built his own publishing house, Leopard Förlag, in order to support young talented writers from Africa and Sweden.His novel Chronicler of the Winds, published in Sweden as Comédie infantil in 1995, reflects African problems and is based on African storytelling. His books and plays constantly highlighted social inequality issues and injustices in Sweden and abroad
He is also known for a series of mystery novels featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander and also wrote a number of other plays and screenplays for television. Around 2008, Mankell developed two original stories for the German police series Tatort. Actor Axel Milberg, who portrays Inspector Klaus Borowski, had asked Mankell to contribute to the show when they were promoting The Man from Beijing audiobook, a project that Milberg had worked on. The episodes were scheduled to broadcast in Germany in 2010. In 2010, Mankell was set to work on a screenplay for Sveriges Television about his father-in-law, movie and theatre director Ingmar Bergman, on a series produced in four one-hour episodes. Mankell pitched the project to Sveriges Television and production was planned for 2011.
He made considerable donations to African charity organizations. In2008, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate from the University of St Andrews in Scotland “in recognition of his major contribution to literature and to the practical exercise of conscience”. In 2002, Mankell gave financial support by buying stocks for 50,000 NOK in the Norwegian left-wing newspaper Klassekampen. In 2009, Mankell was a guest at the Palestine Festival of Literature. He said he had seen “repetition of the despicable apartheid system that once treated Africans and coloured as second-class citizens in their own country”. He found a resemblance between the Israeli West Bank barrier and the Berlin Wall. In 2010, Henning Mankell was on board the MS Sofia, one of the boats which took part in the flotilla which tried to break the Israeli embargo of the Gaza strip. Following the Israel Defense Forces’ boarding of the flotilla on the morning of 31 May 2010, Mankell was deported to Sweden. He subsequently called for global sanctions against Israel.
In January 2014, Mankell announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and throat cancer. In May 2014, he reported that treatments had worked well and he was getting better. He wrote a series of articles inspired by his wife Eva, describing his situation, how it felt to be diagnosed, how it felt to be supported, how it felt to wait, and after his first chemotherapy at Sahlgrenska University Hospital about the importance of cancer research. Three weeks before his death he wrote about what happens to people’s identity when they are stricken by a serious illness. Mankell tragically died almost two years after having been diagnosed. At the time of his death, Mankell had written over 40 novels that had sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.