I bought this book already during the lockdown. Deprived of a possibility of visiting a physical bookshop, and not really being a fan of buying books on Amazon (the way the books are organized there, and their dumb algorithms make for cumbersome browsing) I ventured to AbeBooks. To my delight and a loud groan from my bookshelves, I discovered at a true treasure trove of used books for few pounds each, and a lot of the bookshops also throw in free delivery (I always make sure to order a few books from one place, so the shipment cost is covered in the margins). Hence I went crazy and basically ordered a full shelf of various books.
When I read M Train by Patti Smith she reminded me of Henning Mankell. I read all Wallander books probably 12-15 years ago and enjoyed them immensely. So when I saw Chronicler of the Winds I thought why not?
Well, there are a few reasons why not. I completely forgot that I did not like a few other Africa-based books by Mankell. But there we were, so I read it. The book is a story of Nelio, a twelve years old child of the street, told to us by Jose Antonio Maria Vaz, a former baker. The book takes a while to catch pace, the first parts of Nelio’s story are truly moving and terrifying. But then we slide back to the initial weepy/philosophical/metaphorical style of Paulo Coelho. Which I really do not take well. He tries to evoke so much of the atmosphere the book loses substance.
It took me a while to figure out that we’re in Mozambique, where technically the war has ended, but really it is still raging, just everyone got used to it. It made me realize how little we know about the history of African states, we usually just leave them to their own devices, because their wars are…well, their wars. So that was one good thing about the book.
Another thing I discovered was that Mankell lived in Africa for years. I probably should have known this, only I am persistently not interested in the lives of the authors of the books I read. I really could not care less, who they are and where they live, as long as they write well. I was never interested in who Elena Ferrante is, I don’t need her to appreciate her writing. So similarly with Mankell, I didn’t know anything about him apart from the fact he’s Swedish.
So if you expect a Wallander type book, stay away. It’s nowhere near that. And even on its own, I’m sure there are better books about Africa. Mankell meant well to bring the tragedy of civil war and child solders to our sate lives, but sadly he failed in the execution.
What’s your favorite of Henning Mankell books?
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