Daniel

Daniel

2.6 3
by Henning Mankell
     
 

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In 1878, aspiring entomologist Hans Bengler travels to the Kalahari Desert in hopes of making a name for himself by discovering a previously unknown insect or two. There he encounters a boy named Molo, an orphan whose family has been killed by European colonists. Bengler “civilizes” the boy by rechristening him Daniel, teaching him to pray to the

Overview

In 1878, aspiring entomologist Hans Bengler travels to the Kalahari Desert in hopes of making a name for himself by discovering a previously unknown insect or two. There he encounters a boy named Molo, an orphan whose family has been killed by European colonists. Bengler “civilizes” the boy by rechristening him Daniel, teaching him to pray to the Christian god, and finally bringing him home to Sweden. The boy is bewildered and awed by the new land, cut off from his culture and the spirits of his family, and Bengler finds that raising a child across a great cultural divide is more difficult than he imagined. A psychological drama of one boy’s struggle to find his place in a new land far from home, Daniel is a compelling novel for our modern globalized world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Historical touches mingle with elements of magic realism to convey themes dear to the author’s heart.” —Los Angeles Times

“An engrossing story, with a real sense of pace and adventure, illuminated by empathy with the bewilderment and longing of a clever, lonely child.” —The Independent (London)

“A quiet tragedy.” —The Boston Globe

“Mankell’s fierce instinct for social criticism is admirable.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A writer with the imagination, brains, resources . . . [who] make[s] thoughtful, challenging, exciting, artistic novels.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Mankell is expert at depicting brutal scenes. He’s also adept at getting inside exotic heads like Daniel’s; this book’s greatest strength is imagination. Its second greatest is empathy.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
“Earnest and heartbreaking. . . . Mankell fully understands Daniel's radically different cultural perspective and indelibly captures the boy's longing to return to his homeland and the tragic consequences of his forced exile.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“A haunting and fascinating story of clashes of culture and race in the nineteenth century as well as a touching, sometimes cruel examination of familial and other human ties.” —Booklist

David Anthony Durham
…don't read Daniel for the plot. This is not one of Mankell's popular Wallander mysteries. Read it instead for his ruminations on a cultural divide that Bengler and Daniel cannot cross. Even the supporting characters are trapped by the legacy of race, power and exploitation upon which colonialism was founded. The plucky female journalist who befriends Daniel, the pastor who dreams of missionary work in Africa, the kind husband and wife who attempt to understand the boy, even the king of Sweden in his pleasure yacht: All of them try to help, but most of them end up as unwitting participants in a deepening tragedy. This is, after all, a Swedish novel.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Set in the 1870s, this earnest and heartbreaking story opens with the unsolved murder of a mentally retarded Swedish girl, but this isn't a mystery in the mode of Mankell's international bestselling Kurt Wallander novels (Firewall, etc.). Hans Bengler, a Swedish entomologist, travels across southern Africa in search of undiscovered insects. In the desert, he finds an orphaned native boy, whom he adopts on impulse and calls Daniel. Bengler brings Daniel back to Sweden to exhibit him for money. A link eventually emerges between the girl's murder and Daniel's story, which dramatically illuminates the evils of colonialism (Bengler notes that he "had to make the important decisions for these black people") and the cultural chasm between Europeans and Africans. Mankell fully understands Daniel's radically different cultural perspective and indelibly captures the boy's longing to return to his homeland and the tragic consequences of his forced exile. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Although it opens with the discovery of a corpse, this newly translated stand-alone work by the author of the Kurt Wallander mysteries is a mournful historical novel, not a detective story. In the late 1870s, amateur Swedish entomologist Hans Bengler journeys to the Kalahari Desert to discover an insect he can name after himself. Instead, he encounters an African boy whose family has been massacred. Bengler impetuously adopts the child, whom he calls Daniel, and the two sail to Sweden, where the book shifts primarily to Daniel's perspective. As Bengler exhibits him to ogling whites in cramped lecture halls, Daniel desperately yearns for the desert, a longing sharpened by dreamtime visions of his dead parents. Mired in loneliness, he conceives a fateful plan to learn to walk on water so that he can traverse the seas and return to Africa. VERDICT Glum by even Scandinavian standards, Mankell's narrative radiates a haunting intensity despite measured pacing. The dearth of suspense likely will disappoint Wallander fans; this is strictly for readers unafraid of bleak literary fiction and those who enjoy Mankell's other fiction (e.g., The Man from Beijing).—Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews

A haunting novel by the Swedish mystery master, one that proceeds from the indelible to the inscrutable.

Well before Stieg Larsson became a (posthumous) international sensation with his Millennium Trilogy, his countryman Mankell had already sold millions of books in a series featuring Inspector Kurt Wallander (The Dogs of Riga,2003, etc.). Yet he has also written many other novels, with this one differing significantly from his more popular genre work. Published in its first English translation this year, the 2000 novel takes place in the 1870s, when an aimless former medical student named Hans Bengler travels to the African desert in order to discover an insect that he can name after himself. "Whether all this has been a flight from the thoroughly meaningless life of a student or not, it has certainly been a flight from myself," ponders the displaced Bengler of his existential plight. He begins to consider himself a man without a name, on a journey that can't be mapped, without destination. He stumbles upon some semblance of meaning or purpose in the form of a young African orphan, whom he adopts and names Daniel (after considering a number of other names from the Bible). Where the African chapters evoke Joseph Conrad'sHeart of Darkness,the metaphysics seem more like Ingmar Bergman's after Bengler brings Daniel to Scandinavia, teaching him how to be "human" and intending to exhibit him along with the exotic insects he has collected. The novel initially seems much more effective in getting inside Bengler's head than Daniel's, as the latter appears awfully precocious for a boy who turns out to be only nine or ten. The prologue introduces the novel with a mystery—the corpse of a sexually molested girl found in southern Sweden—but by the end the mystery has deepened rather than resolved itself. Ultimately, Daniel finds a soul mate, but loses himself more completely than his "Father" has.

An ambitious, flawed but compelling addition to the Mankell canon.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307385840
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/04/2011
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,172,657
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Internationally bestselling novelist and playwright Henning Mankell has received the German Tolerance Prize and the U.K.’s Golden Dagger Award and has been nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize three times. His Kurt Wallander mysteries have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the bestseller lists in Europe. He divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he has worked as the director of Teatro Avenida since 1985.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Mozambique, Africa
Date of Birth:
February 3, 1948
Place of Birth:
Stockholm, Sweden
Education:
Folkskolan Elementary Shool, Sveg; Högre Allmäna Läroverket, Borås

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