Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mankell's The Man From Beijing

I used to be a big fan of Mankell, based on his marvellous Kurt Wallander series (recently on TV with Kenneth Branagh as Wallander).

But not any more. His latest, non-Wallander, novel is simply atrocious.

It's an exercise in political grandstanding rather than a traditional tightly plotted piece of crime fiction that Mankell fans have come to expect. Not only that, it is poorly constructed and meanders all over the place, introducing real and fictional characters at whim to advance an absurd story that Mankell presumably considers has contemporary political heft.

Long passages set in Beijing jossle with equally long and tedious passages set in Africa, mainly Zimbabwe. Mankell is obviously a tired and bitter old lefty, romanticising Mao and the old communist party and demonising Deng and the new, more liberal and neo-capitalist forces unleashed in recent decades.

He also favors Robert Mugabe's rule in Zimbabwe, for god's sake, not even mentioning, let along favorably, the popular democratic movement over the last decade, the awful violence unleashed on it by the regime, and the electoral process that's been corrupted at every turn. Then there's the economy! Echoing Mugabe's absurd claims, Mankell wants us to believe it's the continuing legacy of British colonial rule that's the real problem.

A thorough-going whitewash, this book is truly a disgrace.

Don't be seen with it.

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