Monday, November 12, 2007


Here is an essay about Henning Mankell's fiction from Slovenian social critic/philosopher Slavoj Zizek. I hadn't really though about the books this way, nor had I thought of international crime fiction as an aspect of globalization. I have always enjoyed Mankell (or Camilleri or Van de Wettering) as travel writing that is more suspenseful than Bella Tuscany. I guess that implies a Western "frame."

The tension between Western social issues and more dire third world problems is interesting, and brings things to an ethical level...but the reading of Mankell seems a little wooden in that Wallander's character is reduced to Bergmann-ish depressive "Swedishness," as if that's window-dressing, or something from the props department. I'll absorb the thornier moral dimensions of the books and dope out specialized analytical language in the essay, but only because Wallander isn't hard-boiled at all, and the mood of the writing is so striking, calm, and spacious. Basically he's "good police" (to quote The Wire)--and a vulnerable, anxious character, but somebody who looks out for his people. Hard-boiled detective don't usually worry aloud about social failures during team meetings, or daydream about having a dog and a house in the country. Maybe it's winter in Oregon and my seratonin levels are down but that's stuff I can relate to.

I'm just not sure the essay does the books any service by making them sound less readable than they are. It's a novel, it's for people to read. I'll digest hot stuff academese but I read these things because the character's choices are interesting within the limits of the situation, and mostly believable. The essay has a marvellous quicksilvery point of view but books and people are mostly less aware, less ideal, and more hampered by dilemma than anything you can say about them.

On that note, I am really really tired and am going to put this aside and watch "Planet Terror," in which there is a lady character whose leg is a machine gun.
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