The Swedish author and playwright Henning Mankell died in his sleep early this morning in Gothenburg. He was 67 years old. He revealed that he was suffering from cancer in a newspaper column last year and described the experience in the book “Quicksand: What It Means To Be A Human Being.”
A spokesperson at Mankell’s UK publisher Harvill Secker said: “Beloved by readers across the world, especially for his Kurt Wallander series, it was a privilege to have worked with a man of such talent and passion, and to have been his UK publisher for so many years. He was an inspiration not just as a writer, but as someone who always stood up for the rights of others. He will be so very sorely missed. The world is a sadder place for having lost such a charismatic and honourable man.”
Henning Mankell was one of the greatest authors of our time, beloved by readers in Sweden and all over the world. His work includes around fifty novels and numerous plays. His books have sold more than forty million copies and are translated into more than forty languages. Beyond Swedish TV and film adaptations, his Wallander series even gave rise to an English language version starring Kenneth Branagh which first aired on the BBC in 2008, and went on to win six BAFTA TV awards, including Best Drama. The fourth and final season has yet to air.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Branagh said that he had talked to Mankell about finishing Wallander, and that the writer was “tremendously unsentimental” about it coming to an end: “He gives it a finish as only he could – one that is both perfectly in the spirit of what he’s done before but also a dark, bracing Swedish ending.” Today he said, “I will miss his provocative intelligence and his great personal generosity.”
Solidarity with those in need run through his entire work and manifested itself in action until the very end. Mankell divided his time between Sweden and Mozambique where he was the artistic director of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, and set his young adult novel Secrets in the Fire in the country, basing it on the true story of the land mine survivor Sofia Alface.
As a prominent and long-standing activist, Mankell had also been an outspoken opponent of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and had been aboard one of the boats in the flotilla when it was boarded by Israeli troops whilst trying to break the siege of Gaza in 2010. He was also involved in a project in Uganda in which parents dying of AIDS were encouraged to record their life stories for the children they were to leave behind.
“My driving force is, I guess, the same as all artists and authors,” Mankell told The Associated Press. “To try to understand the time and the world one lives in. Like most other people, I want to know why I have lived by the time I die.”
He is mourned by his wife Eva Bergman and his son Jon Mankell.