Wallander: an Ageing Man

I like Detective stories in books or screen and followed assiduously the Wallander series on TV in all its interpretations. The Troubled Man is Henning Mankell’s last book about Wallander. I loved its mixture of political background, and suspense but above all I appreciated the way the author presents us with what it is like to be an ageing detective.

Wallander is supposed to be 60 and perceives himself as an ageing man.  He shows the subtle changes of normal ageing. He becomes a grandfather, he often thinks of his father and tries to integrate his past and present, he gradually looses responsibilities in his work. His sight is less acute, he worries about the future, he fears death. His daughter worries about him ageing on his own.  Throughout the book  Wallander’s ageing is integrated in the narrative in the most natural way. One perceives that Mankell about the same age as his character is living these changes.

The suspense as in all good detective stories is maintained until the last pages. But  under the suspense of the spy story lies another suspense. At one point Wallander suffers an acute chest pain and he thinks he is having a heart attack. But this episode resolves itself. He, more often, experiences memory lapses. These are not the usual incidents of  forgetting names, or losing objects. These are worrying lapses of losing understanding situations for a chunk of time, not knowing where he is, and why.  For example he does not recognise his house or his dog for a while and in one episode  his  granddaughter as she runs towards him. These symptoms added to Wallander’s health problems i.e .diabetes add to the suspense about his fate. It is in the last pages of the book that there is closure and Mankell writes that after a few years Wallander “slowly descended into a darkness that some years later transported him into the empty universe known as Alzheimer’s disease”.

I do not know the literature of old age, but I found Mankell’s Wallander most interesting as his ageing is put in a general context of the genre. I do not feel  qualified to write about Stewart O’Nan Emily Alone but I must say that I found the novel an incredible accurate and sensitive portrayal of an older woman.


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