Thursday, December 16, 2010

Daniel | Henning Mankell

What a remarkable story. It's the sort of novel that takes your breath away because of its intensity and depth of perception into someone's life and suffering. Mankell is a Swedish author who has written the Wallander crime novels which are now portrayed in a tv series so this is a bit of a departure from his usual stories but a very powerful one none the less.

Daniel is the story of a Swedish collector who is in the Kalahari desert when he comes across an orphaned black child whom he adopts and renames Daniel. He takes him back to Sweden where he tries to make a living out of showing his collection of insects and his black son. It's set in the 1800's at a time when many people had never seen a black human being and it causes a huge sensation.

The first part of the book is narrated by the collector, and the second part by Daniel. I think Mankell has captured Daniel's voice beautifully and there is such agony and longing in his childish desire to find his way back to the desert. He is only about 9 or 10 years old and he tries to understand the Swedish culture he lives in but his an interior dialogue is with his parents and the desert he wants to go back to. He tries to learn to walk on water, then decides a ship will have to carry him back and makes a few attempts to run away to a sea port. He grows more and more desperate and eventually the novel comes to a close with the only possible outcome to his desires.

It's a beautiful story told very well and I enjoyed reading this novel, hoping against hope that Daniel would find his way home.

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