Henning Mankell in Berlin

Due to WiseMan's good connections to the Swedish embassy (which he intensified, being the only one from the department there and shaking hands with the ambassador, which gets him at least five golden kharma points), we had two seats at the talk Henning Mankell gave last night in Berlin.

For those who live outside of Europe, Mankell (pronounced Man-kell with the emphasis on the first syllable) is a Swedish author, playwright, and theater director who lives part of the year in Mozambique, running a theater in Maputo. One of his best known characters is detective Kurt Wallender from Ystad. The books have been filmed and re-filmed and the books translated into numerous languages.

For the film enthusiasts, he is the son-in-law of Ingmar Bergmann.

He is in Germany because he received the 2009 Erich-Maria-Remarque Peace Prize for his books about Afrika.

He is quite the storyteller - and eavesdropper, as he confessed. He insists the we are not so much homo sapiens, but homo narrans, the tale tellers. And indeed, people learn better when the hear the story, especially one with a dramatic point.

One of the stories he tells during the evening emphasizes the point. He is sharing the shade outside of his theater in Maputo with two elderly gentleman. One is telling the story of a third man, recently deceased. He visited with him one night, and a long involved story was begun. The night turned late, and they went to bed, to continue in the morning. But the friend died in his sleep. "Now I'll never know how the story turns out!" laments the man on the bench.

Mankell tells his stories in Swedish, and is in charge of the entire room. He is aided by a competent simultaneous translator, who retells in German at every pause he makes. He understands German well enough, to repeat what he said when she missed one of the three points he was making.

WiseMan notes that the stories are pretty old - many of them were told when WiseMan first heard him speak 10 years ago in Berlin. But he tells them in a way that keeps them fresh.

And he is very pointed about our responsibility to help those hungering and dying of disease in Africa and elsewhere. In the 20 years since the wall came down, he says, more money has gone from West Germany to the former East Germany than went from all of Europe to all of Africa. The reason often given - corruption - is also a bit false. There are two parties in any corruption, the giver and the taker.

It was very enjoyable listening to him speak. We left as the rest of the room made a mad dash to get his signature in one of his books. WiseMan joked that he might want to go up with another crime writer's book, the one he is currently reading, and see if Mankell would sign that ;)


Anonymous said...

WiseMan didn't??? Chiiiickeeen!! :))

I think I've seen some of Mankell's stuff on German TV. While I can't stand most of the German crime stuff (Tatort, Der Dicke, etc), I've developed quite a liking for Scandinavian productions.

Anonymous said...

.. because I HATE to stand in lines...