Kurt Wallander

Not being enticed by any recently published novels, I have taken advantage of the summer to re-read (for the fourth time) the series of eleven books that have police inspector Kurt Wallander as their main character, created by Swedish writer Henning Mankell, who died in 2015.

Since starting the first book in the series, Faceless Killers, in June of 2006, my fascination with this character and everything that surrounds him has only increased. To the point that in 2016, my partner and I visited Ystad, the little town in southern Sweden where his adventures take place.

More than a fictional character, I think of Wallander as a person full of life, an idol who has on multiple occasions helped me understand, put things into perspective, hope and forge ahead at the right time. In him I have discovered that gleam that is imperceptible at first glance, but which nevertheless contains all the light needed to illuminate our path.

Kurt Wallander is a man in his forties, fifties or sixties, as the series moves forward in time; antisocial, divorced and with a rebellious daughter he adores, and a nutter of a father who drives him to distraction, big-time. He lives consumed by solitude in his little apartment in Mariagatan street, with hardly any friends and quite a few excess pounds on him. He often falls asleep fully dressed; he likes opera; he is taciturn and something of a grouch; his diet consists of frozen food, hot dogs and the odd whisky from time to time.

At the same time, Kurt Wallander is a good man – humble, sensitive, with a heart and a measure of innocence that captivate us. His goals in life are to have a house in the country and a dog, as well as a new record player and a woman who loves him. He is noble, methodical and an excellent professional who gets his reward from a job well done. He constantly asks himself questions about life and the mysteries of humans and society. And he doubts himself – something so often demonized by today’s gurus – precisely because he is a man who sees life as more than the materialistic smokescreen and false spirituality of our times.

The Wallander series has been adapted for television on several occasions, notably the series starring Kenneth Branagh. But as usually occurs in these cases, on screen it is impossible to capture the true essence of the story and the character, that imperceptible gleam I referred to above.

What can I say about Henning Mankell, the creator of Wallander? For me his memoirs, entitled Quicksand, written during the two years of illness that finally led to his death, sum up the essence of what we should all aspire to be, part of a family that is truly “endless, even if we don’t know who some of them were when we met them for an extremely brief moment”.

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