“The frozen winter landscape in Härjedalen and the arrid landscape in Mozambique can sometimes resemble each other, and similarly the dry heat in Africa reminds me of Sweden’s biting cold. Both places are my home, but I will always be European.”
Sveg, Ystad and Mozambique – all places that have influenced and inspired Henning Mankell in his work. Brought up in Sveg, Henning Mankell let the boy Joel do the same thing and the youth books A Bridge to the Stars, Shadows in the Twilight, When the Snow Fell and The Journey to the End of the World, all take place in the small Northern Swedish village.
The Scanian seaside town of Ystad is today perhaps most famous as the décor of the books about inspector Kurt Wallander. Henning Mankell himself lived in Ystad during the 1980s and chose the town as background for the Wallander novels since it is a border city.
– Scania [Skåne in Swedish] is the place where Sweden ends, it almost compares to some sort of Baltic Texas. Borderlands have a special sort of dynamics. They create some sort of unrest.
“I don’t know why, but when I stepped out of the plane in Africa I had the odd feeling of coming home.”
The first time Henning Mankell went to Africa was in 1973 – the same year his debut novel Bergsprängaren (The Rock Blaster) was published.
After that Henning Mankell spent a great deal of his life on the African continent. After living in Zambia and other countries, he was offered to work as artistic leader at Teatro Avenida in Mozambique’s capital Maputo in 1986. Since beginning his work at the theatre, Henning Mankell spent at least six months a year in Maputo, where he directed in parallel with his writing. Life and work in Africa gave Henning a new perspective on Sweden and Europe.
– I am like an artist who has to stand close to the canvas in order to paint, and afterwards take a step back to be able to see what I have painted. Africa has enriched my life with that movement. Some things can only be perceived from a certain distance.
Since Mankell settled part-time in Mozambique during the eighties, the African continent helped him view the West from a different perspective. Several of Mankell’s novels, among others A Treacherous Paradise, The Eye of the Leopard, Chronicler of the Winds and the books about Sofia takes part completely or partly in Africa.
Some 40 million people are today estimated to be infected with the HIV-virus. Of those 40 million a majority live in Sub Saharan Africa.
Plan’s work with HIV/AIDS issues focuses on children and tries to attack the problems at a grass root level. Plan works with prevention, and also tries to put a stop to the stigmatization of people infected. Moreover, Plan works hard with securing orphans a chance to lead a normal life as well as increasing the possibilities of receiving health care for adults infected with the disease and their children. Furthermore, Plan tries to build networks with other aid organizations in order to maximize their efforts in their work against HIV/AIDS.
In Uganda Plan has initiated a project where parents infected with HIV get help to write and put together Memory Books for their children. One of the aims of the project is also to help the parents gain knowledge of how to provide for a safe future for their children. Among many other things the parents are encouraged to appoint a guardian for their child as well as writing a last will.
– The memory books mean a great deal for both the parents and the children. The books help them put words to their feelings, their thoughts and their experiences. This is a tough process for many Africans since they rarely talk about death until it actually happens. The memory books help the children cope with the process of mourning and it often becomes their most precious possession, says Beatrice Muwa who works as a health counsellor for Olan Uganda in the province of Tororo.
Henning Mankell’s book I Die, But My Memory Lives On is a great contribution to the project. After Henning Mankell travelled to Uganda he decided to write the book to talk about his impressions. The book is published by Leopard Förlag and part of the proceeds goes directly to fund Plan Sweden’s Memory Books project.
To learn more about Plan International visit their website: www.plan-international.org
Sveg is located in the forests of Härjedalen, a north western province in Sweden. This is where a young Henning Mankell lived until he was thirteen years old. As a child, Henning used to watch the Ljusnan river, fantasizing about Africa. His father worked as a district judge and Henning often listened in on his father’s conversations about crime. Little did he know then that the conversations would become a source of inspiration for numerous detective stories many years later.
Sveg is the scenery for many of Mankell’s stories. All the books about Joel take place in the northern village. An example is the railway bridge in Sveg that appears many times in the books. Certain parts of The Return of the Dancing Master also take place in Sveg.
The Mankell Cultural Centre was inaugurated in 2007. Here visitors can enjoy the Mankell exhibition portraying the life of an author standing with one foot in the deep forests of Sweden and with the other in the hot sand of Africa. Scenes from Mankell’s life as well as clips from his films and books can also be seen here. The library contains Mankell’s collected works, and each Mankell novel is represented in every published language. Here you can also find books that inspired the author in his work, read articles and fan mail and take a closer look at many of the original manuscripts.
The Mankell Cultural Centre’s ambition is to become a meeting point for various forms of writing. When the centre opened Mankell founded a scholarship for authors from the north of Sweden. At a farm located 60 kilometres from Sveg, authors can apply for a month of free stay in the house.
Sveg is the capital of Härjedalen, a province in the north west of Sweden. The city is situated 180 km south of Östersund and people have been living there since the 13th century. The name ”Sveg” comes from the sharp turn Ljusnan river makes just where the city is located. Originally Sveg was not much more than a small farmers hamlet, but as the railway proceeded through the village in 1909 Sveg evolved into a market town. Today Sveg hosts the only airport in the province, as well as the only folk high-school, Bäckedal. Many national parks are situated in the surroundings of Sveg.
During the past 20 years, Ystad has become a town known for cruel crimes and terrible murders. Kurt Wallander, Mankell’s fictive detective that lives and works in Ystad, is the one to blame. In the wake of numerous Wallander novels, screen versions and tv-series, the small town of Ystad has become internationally famous.
The pittoresque village of Ystad in the south of Sweden is known for its half-timbered houses and the monastery from the thirteenth century. But it is also famous for brutal criminality. Thanks to Kurt Wallander, Ystad has become a popular destination for Wallander fans and people interested in film from all over the world. The town of Ystad recently launched an Iphone application to guide visitors through Wallander’s home town. One of the most important adresses is Mariagatan 10, where the fictive Wallander lived just until a short time ago (today Wallander lives in Svarte, 80 kilometres west of Ystad). This is where Wallander ponders about gruesome deeds and mysterious murders, accompanied by the tones of an opera aria. Meanwhile, the blue Peugeot is parked outside. Obviously, the Wallander apartement in the series cannot be found at Mariagatan, but is a scene built in the movie studio Ystad Studios.
Other places connected to Wallander is Nybrostrand, host of the Ystad policemen’s annual crayfish party, Lilla Norregatan, the street where Wallander’s colleague Svedberg gets murdered in One Step Behind, and Stortorget, the location of Wallanders favourite bookshop. Wallander’s father lives just outside of Löderup in a white stone house, characteristic for the south of Sweden.
All of the books in the Wallander series, as well as Before The Frost, the crime novel about Wallander’s daughter Linda, takes place in or around Ystad. Although, Ystad is not only known for Wallander, it is also one of Sweden’s best preserved cities from the Middle Ages. The city is filled with half-timbered houses, some of them being the oldest in Scandinavia.