It occurs to me that if a random person stumbled across Inconsiderate Prick for the first two posts this week they would think that this is some world literature blog. How wrong they would be...
|Judging by the cover art, you'd think Belva Plain wrote it|
My decision to read The Eye of the Leopard was based solely on the fact that I wanted to read some Mankell, and it was shorter than Depths, which I also have sitting on the bookshelf. Neither are Wallander books, but I wanted to see what else was out there.
What I got was a novel saddled with turgid pacing with its setting split between inland northern Sweden in the 1960s and Zambia in the 1970s and 1980s. Structurally, the novel opens with Hans Olofson, the protagonist, in the throes of malaria-driven delerium in the late 1980s, and then it splits into two narratives that run in alternating chapters. The first storyline starts with Hans's youth in Sweden and progresses through adolescence and into young adulthood. Running concurrently, there is a storyline starting with Hans's arrival in Lusaka, Zambia, that moves on to his eventual overseeing of an egg farm in remote Northern Zambia.
Mankell uses the dual storylines to work towards two ends: what drives Hans to leave Sweden, and what drives Hans to leave. While what happens in his youth is formative, it does tend to drag on, with each chapter of his origin laying the groundwork for the character but lacking in the gravity that is inherent in the sections that take place in Africa. There is a foreboding looming over all of the Africa portions, and while the action may not be coming quickly, there is at least a tension in these chapters that is not present in the Sweden sections, as we know that the protagonist makes it to Africa.
Largely, the book is focused on Hans's inability to fully understand Africans because of his whiteness. The chasm between whites and blacks proves to be insurmountable, with even the whites with good intentions ultimately being unable to achieve what they set out to do.
Sadly the book is paced just a little too slowly. The fits of violence come just a little to infrequently. The spaces between these outbursts of action is just a little too far. The book isn't so long that this is insurmountable, but it doesn't help things.
But don't take my word for it...