Henning Mankell is a Swedish crime writer, children’s author, activist and dramatist, best known for his series of mystery novels involving the character Inspector Kurt Wallander. He is married to Eva Bergman, daughter of Ingmar Bergman.
Listen to Henning Mankell’s 2011 BBC World Book Club interview here.
Why I write
I think I was meant to tell stories. I write to better understand the world we live in, either my social and political views are personified through my characters and their environment or not. I often try to speak for the cause of Africa. I want to show another reality, or the same reality through another perspective, and trigger the reader to raise questions and to reflect on other people’s situations and conditions.
Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
Yes, I do write every day. I believe in hard work. I am very dedicated to my work and I am extremely disciplined when I write.
Best source of inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. From my own experiences, and the experiences of others. I also read a lot. I find reading incredibly important not only for finding inspiration as a writer, but for what can be learned outside our own reality. Books are messengers telling us about worlds we cannot experience ourselves and if they are good they teach us something new and encourage us to think critically. I try to live as simple as possible but if there is something I allow my self to spend money and time on, it is books. As a creative person, I drain myself all the time, so collecting impressions becomes my rest. It is as if I fill the boat with water instead of emptying it, and when the boat starts sinking it’s time to empty it again.
How often do you get writers’ block / doubt your own ability?
I don’t really get writers’ block. But it’s a hard thing, working with your creativity. It would be strange if it was easy. You have to overcome the difficulties!
Favorite book? Favorite writer?
I have steadily read John Le Carré, always from The Spy Came in From the Cold in 1963. Le Carré is the author who has inspired me the most, because he is interested, as I am, in the mental landscape of things. I mean, what is Wallander doing? He is going around, thinking, page after page after page. And that is what interests me. The thinking. I admire the way he develops George Smiley with each subsequent book. If you 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. I also think that Shakespeare’s Macbeth is one of the best crime novels ever written.
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
My first novel, The Stone Blaster, was released in 1972, shortly after my father died. It tells the story of the workers’ union movement and is still in print in Sweden. It is about an old man looking back on his life and on Swedish society and the need for solidarity. Although my father passed away before my first novel was published I knew he believed in me and was confident that I would have success as a writer.