This past weekend Swedish author Henning Mankell made a rare Canadian appearance at the Toronto Reference Library’s Bram and Bluma Appel Salon. There were nearly 400 people in attendance, which was pretty amazing considering the beautiful weather. I think Mankell’s draw is a testament to his amazing storytelling.
After an introduction by the CBC’s Michael Enright, Henning Mankell took the stage for a rather honest interview in which he shared with us many stories from his life, including his personal philosophy that he should do two things everyday – learn something new, and have a good laugh.
Here are some of the things I learned that day:
1) Mankell has been involved with the Memory Book Project in Uganda.
For him, this project is especially important due to the extremely high death rate in Africa. Malaria and AIDS kill thousands annually and many children never know their parents. However, illiteracy is just as rampant, making the creation of a memory book difficult.
He told us a heartbreaking story about a young girl who had hovered on the periphery of the group Mankell was working with. Eventually, she came closer and held out her memory book for him to see. Inside was a blue butterfly. “My mother liked blue butterflies.” She told him. That was her only connection to her mother. Mankell said it was the best book he had ever read.
3) Mankell is working on a new Wallander novel after almost 10 years! It will be the last one in the Wallander series. We should see it next year in Canada.
4) Mankell writes every day. Once, while in Stockholm, he had to stay in a place with no lights or furniture. To get in his daily writing, he opened the oven, turned on the oven light, and set up his typewriter. That is dedication!
5) He also reads 2-3 books per week.
Want to watch the interview? The Toronto Public Library will post the interview here next week.