Monday 17 February 2014

Mankell, Henning "Daniel"

Mankell, Henning "Daniel" (Swedish: Vindens son) - 2000

A non-crime fiction novel by a crime author, well, an almost non-crime novel. But one that doesn't focus on the crime.

This is the story about the South African boy Molo who lives in the late 19th century. When his parents get killed (by white people, of course), a Swedish biologist gives him the name Daniel, takes him back home and tries to "adopt" him which in his case means he takes him to exhibitions and lets other scientists measure him, draw him, use him for their curiosity.

The boy is completely homesick. Nobody really cares for him and he tries to get back home.

Not a bad story but I expected it to be more about Africa than Europe. However, the story captures you, the boy is described in a way that you cannot neglect his wishes. It is easy to understand why he doesn't feel at home in this cold country where everything is forbidden that used to be normal in his old life. A dark story, but seeing how people in 19th century Sweden lived was quite interesting, as well. Let's hope that we all evolved from that.

The various translators didn't seem to agree on the title, as happens very often. While the French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Finnish versions keep the original title (Son of the Wind), the Portuguese call it simply "The Antelopes" and the Germans and Russians choose "The Red Antelope", the English selected the title "Daniel".

From the back cover:

"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."

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