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The Eye of the Leopard (Vintage) by Henning…

The Eye of the Leopard (Vintage) (1990)

by Henning Mankell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 5 of 5
The book was catching. Not in the sense of "who-dunnit", but more like how will this end, what will Hans do, will he survive.
I find it amazing how the author succeeds to describe a life full of failure of a man of very good intentions without being boring. He put his finger right on the sour spot. But, I cannot tell exactly WHY Hans always fails, for me it is a combination of upbringing, making the wrong decisions and circumstances. ( )
1 vote BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
I'd wanted to read Mankell since seeing a Wallander adaptation of Masterpiece Mystery. Our local library had only one Mankell - "The Eye of the Leopard." Pretty disappointing. It's a Swedish smorgasbord of guilt, high-minded intentions, stasis, racism, loathing of racism, loathing of self, loathing of family, loathing of Sweden (only the late Olof Palme comes out with reputation intact), African stereotypes, rage, and - really - a woman without a nose who plays jazz trombone. I had to force myself to slog through this self-conscious mess to the end, which has no satisfying payoff. Can't recommend this one. ( )
  fromkin | Sep 29, 2011 |
Mankell is an excellent writer, not just a mystery writer. I may not have liked the content of this book (the chasm between black and white in Africa), but the writing is a joy to read. ( )
  love2laf | Sep 8, 2010 |
Set in Africa.Main Character Hans Olofsen wonders why he stayed in Africa. He is Swedish. Again the brutality of Africa seems to have roots in the past. Interesting book but not a real mystery more a book about the main character development and past. ( )
  agathanaylor | Jan 17, 2009 |
The Eye of the Leopard, by Henning Menkell, Random House.

Detective story enthusiasts will be familiar with Mankell's best known creation, the morose police inspector Kurt Wallander, who catches serial killers in the smaller towns and villages of Sweden. In this book, Menkell wears another hat.

The writer spends much of his time in Africa, specifically in Maputo, Mozambique, where he is involved not only in AIDS charities but also in the theatre.

As in his thrillers, Mankell uses the alternating narrative technique, changing between protagenist Hans Olofson's youth in Sweden, and his adult life in Africa, where he first managed and then owned a successful egg-farm.

Although the story is not autobiographic, the author obviously draws on his own experiences as a white European in Africa: Olofson's reactions have an authentic ring to them, and make fascinating reading for Africans of every race.

Set in post-independent Zambia of the 1970s and 1980s, the book is peopled with character types who, unfortunately, are still familiar, even in the 21st Century, and many South Africans will recognise friends, family, or even themselves in these pages.

Scandinavians have the reputation of being a melancholy lot [blame it all on Hamlet] and, like Inspector Kurt Wallander, Hans Olofson is a flawed hero - a good man, but not someone to whom the reader necessarily warms.

A week's pilgrimage in Africa becomes a 20 year residence, but when he leaves, he is as lonely and uncomfortable as when he arrived, and the onl;y understanding he has gained is this:

"The future for Africa depends on the plight of Africa's women... While the men out in the villages sit under the shade of a tree, the women are working in the fields, having children, carrying 50-kilo sacks of maize for miles on their heads... Africa's women carry the continent on their heads... Afeica is a woman pounding maize, he thinks. From this starting point, all ideas for the future of this continent must be derived."

Politics, racism, superstition, corruption and the environment form a large part of the story and yet - in an unconventional way - it is a literary thriller, a convincing portrayal of the fears afflivitng s stranger in a strange land.

Olofson's initial taxi ride from the airport into Lusaka is so unbelievably awful it must be based on fact. He decides in the flea-pit hotel that 'Africa is a place where everything is just about to run out', and is generally shocked by the levels of poverty he observes.

Hans boards a train where he shares a compartment with an ex-South African farmer and his English wife: they take him under their wing and he learns one of the carfinal ruules of post-Colonial Africa.

"If the mzunguz don't help each other, no one will. Do you think that any of the blacks climbing on the roof of this train car would help you?"

In a land ruled by political corruption, racial hatred, superstition, and huge social and economic inequities, Hans tries vainly to make a difference by rewarding hard work, appointing black managers, setting up a school and a clinic, and giving his farm labourers the equipment to build themselves proper houses.

Yet theft increases, less work is done, he feels watched by hostile eyes, and the provisions and equipment he supplied are sold. His attempt at European equity fails and all around him - despite the so-called peace after indepedence - bandits rule.

White farmers live in fortified residences, surrounded by alarms, high walls, guns and guard dogs: Hans barricades the doors of his farm every night and sleeps fully armed. He can trust no-one, certainly not his workers, and the bandits could attack at any time.

Principled and puritanical, Hans has difficulty accepting the truth of the cliché 'Life is Cheap', but his friends both black and white are murdered, and nothing is done about it.

A Swedish aid worker whom he befriends proves corrupt and when Hans confronts him, he is told "I hold an immunity that is more secure than if I had been the swedish ambassador... as long as the Swedish state gives out its millions and as long as I'm responsible for it, I'm invulnerable."

The Eye of the Leopard is a thrilling tragedy, and bleak yet non-judgemental view of the Africa we have all inherited and, at the heart of the story, is the symbolic mother who, though raped and battered, continues to nurture her children with ineffible dignity and strength. ( )
  adpaton | Jun 23, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henning Mankellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Luijten, ClementineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Han vaknar i den afrikanska natten och tror plötsligt att hans kropp har rämnat.
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Disambiguation notice
English translation = The Eyes of the Leopard
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Arriving in newly independent Zambia in the hopes of fulfilling a friend's missionary dream, Hans Olofson endeavors to make Africa his home while struggling with such past demons as his father's alcoholism and a friend's accident.

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