© The Financial Times Ltd 2016
FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
The Financial Times and its journalism are subject to a self-regulation regime under the FT Editorial Code of Practice.
August 26, 2011 9:56 pm
Twenty-seven-year-old Hans Bengler abandons his medical studies and weekly prostitute in 1870s Sweden to hunt insects in southern Africa. The Kalahari desert yields few undiscovered bugs, much pain, near-madness – and a mute boy, orphaned by white hunters. In a snap decision, Bengler adopts “Daniel”, shipping him back to Sweden for a civilising education and a pseudo-scientific curiosity tour he hopes will make his name.
Bengler’s bland personality and stolid travails form a weak picaresque that mostly leaves the reader sorrowful for the traumatised and lonely Daniel, whose lack of language hampers the novel’s attempts to get under his skin. Bengler also offers little introspection, robbing the tale of moral purchase.
Mankell’s previous historical fiction, such as Depths, a moribund tale of maritime espionage, have also lacked tension, which is frustrating given the pace and emotional depth of his Kurt Wallander procedurals.
Daniel, by Henning Mankell, translated by Steven T. Murray, Vintage, RRP£7.99, 352 pages
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.