Kurt Wallander

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Kurt Wallander is a by Swedish writer Henning Mankell created fictional character , in a twelve-part series of novels as police commissioner in the southern Swedish town of Ystad determined.

The figure of Kurt Wallander

Mariagatan in Ystad

The brooding, solitary, choleric Kurt Wallander, who, like his creator, was born in 1948, begins his career as a simple police officer in Malmö before he is transferred to the small town of Ystad in southern Sweden, where he works as a detective inspector. There he lives in the Mariagatan and in the penultimate episode Murder in the autumn moves to a house near Löderup . The character, an opera lover, especially of recordings with Maria Callas , chronically sleepy, goes through a development in the novels, beginning with Murderer Without a Face - in search of a new identity. In this way, Mankell closely connects the resolution of the crimes with the biography of the protagonist. It shows a man whose life has been showing typical signs of a midlife crisis since his divorce : loneliness, the growing up of his daughter Linda Wallander (who also becomes a police officer), the shock over the death of his father (with whom he had a long bad relationship, under partly because he could never accept his choice of profession), temporary alcohol addiction , later confronted with the diagnosis of diabetes , with temporary sleep and weight problems and despite decreasing attractiveness in the permanent battle with the still strong libido . Despite a determined, fearless, often unauthorized, daring effort, the commissioner is portrayed in the novels not as a classic hero, but as a normal person who is just as troubled by his personal problems as the solution of the cases entrusted to him and who is driven into a depression when he shoots someone in self-defense, even if it is a criminal. In the last book in the series, The Enemy in the Shadow , Wallander fell ill with Alzheimer's disease, just like his father did .

Literary template

The character Wallander has certain similarities with Commissioner Martin Beck from the series Roman about a crime by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö from the 1960s / 1970s . They have a similar appearance and personality traits. In addition, some facets of their private life are similar: Like Martin Beck in the later novels in the series, Wallander is divorced and has a grown daughter, with whom he has a good, although not always unproblematic relationship. Both commissioners also suffer from self-doubt and severe mood swings. In both series of novels, investigative activity is also presented as an interplay between many participants. Even some cases show clear parallels in the “dramaturgy”. Both crime series also show the limits and the decline of the Swedish welfare state, contain critical remarks on modern Swedish society and its development and at the same time demonstrate the expulsion from paradise.

The survivor of the author duo Sjöwall / Wahlöö, Maj Sjöwall, stated in 2005: “Henning Mankell is someone who has orientated himself to our characters. He sent me his first book with a dedication; 'Thanks for the inspirations'. ”In doing so, however, she distances herself decidedly from Mankell's Wallander novels:“ Mankell's books only describe the state of society. The grievances he points out are so clear that everyone can see them. He also pretends to portray realistically. But he is overbearing, very brutal and writes without a sense of humor. "

Jan Feddersen also emphasizes the increased brutality compared to the novels of the Martin Beck series : “Second, the Wallander stories have in common the bestial and insidious way in which the victims are brought down. It was different with Mankell's Swedish colleagues Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Often enough it was just one shot that killed a person; a scramble that ended a victim drowning. Mankell, on the other hand, does not skimp on the murderous detail. "

It remains to be seen whether Henning Mankell's choice of the name Kurt Wallander refers to Sten Wall, detective inspector of a series by Björn Hellberg (“The Other Wall”) that began in 1981 and is also very popular in Sweden . This also takes place in Skåne in the fictional southern Swedish town of Stad, which is north of Ystad, the location of the Wallander series.

The Wallander novels

Background and characterization

Henning Mankell started the Wallander series after a long stay in Africa under the impression that violence and racism had increased sharply in Sweden during his absence and thus undermined Sweden's comfortable social democratic system. “It is said that Sweden slowly and insidiously changed faces,” says Kurt Wallander in The Man Who Smiled , the fourth novel in the series, about this change. The shock caused by the murder of the popular Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme on the street across Sweden on February 28, 1986 also played an important role . This is referred to directly in the fourth and last episodes of the series of novels ( The Man Who Smiled and The Enemy In The Shadow ). In all cases in which Wallander investigates, the country's social problems or the increasingly obvious effects of international events on Sweden play a role. Most of the novels deal with a specific social problem in Sweden, such as xenophobia , human, organ and drug trafficking, forced prostitution , violence against women, cybercrime , religious fanaticism, etc. To express the rule of law, democracy and morality ”.

The unusual brutality with which most of the murders in Wallander crime novels are carried out form a conscious contrast to Swedish comfort and are an expression of growing tensions, which are also felt in supposedly tranquil Sweden. "In this respect, his thrillers are impossible to read as otherworldly horror: Behind every cozy door there can be a humiliated person who seeks revenge." Thus, according to the author, the Kurt Wallander series is always about the question: "What is the point To be a police officer in such a society in which violence and harshness are increasing, and where will this society develop? ”The fact that this insecurity does not stop at one's own four walls is expressed in the fact that the perpetrators in penetrate Kurt Wallander's apartment several times.

Many of the perpetrators identified in the Kurt Wallander novels cannot simply be turned over to justice because they are shot while trying to arrest, accidentally killed while fleeing, or killing themselves. Some of the perpetrators are also victims or see themselves as their avenger. It is typical of the entire Wallander book series that Wallander - and thus also the reader - remains mostly unsatisfied at the end of the novel, despite the investigation of the crime.

From the second novel onwards, there are always flashbacks to earlier books in the series, but each novel is an independent book in which one case (sometimes several cases) is dealt with without knowledge of the earlier novels in the series being assumed. As a whole, the series with the subsequent prologue of Wallander's first case and other narratives almost has the character of a development novel in which the personal development of the protagonist is continuously presented in his confrontation with himself and his environment. However, this development does not end in a “harmonious state of balance” with the environment as in the classic Bildungsroman , but on the contrary in increasing disillusionment, resignation and - in the last episode - creeping amnesia .

One of the peculiarities of several of Wallander's novels is that, in the course of the investigation, the closest connections become apparent between cases that seem to have nothing to do with one another. Most of Wallander's novels also have a similar dramaturgy: At the end of a novel there is often a “duel” between Wallander and the main culprit or an accomplice of the same, either by chance, or due to the inspector's carelessness or recklessness. This escalation contradicts the overall structure of the crime series, in which the investigative work is described as teamwork. In the course of the investigation, Wallander constantly draws conclusions that are based on both the available material and assumptions. These often turn out to be incorrect or incomplete, which is why Wallander has to constantly revise his conclusions until he finally gets on the right track. This sets him apart from the almost infallible investigators in the early detective novels ( e.g. Sherlock Holmes ).

Everyday life plays an important role in all of Wallander's novels. They are interspersed with information about the weather, the furnishing of apartments or the eating habits of the protagonist, which make up an essential part of the characteristic atmosphere of the whole series.

Most of the novels are based on a personal narrative situation : the reader mostly perceives the events from the point of view of the protagonist Kurt Wallander, who thus becomes a reflector figure and from whom even the nightly dreams, i.e. the reflection in the subconscious, are communicated. (In the volume Before the Frost , Wallander's daughter Linda takes on this role.) In individual scenes, however, the events are portrayed from the optics of a victim or a perpetrator, with the novel The White Lioness even switching briefly to the first-person narrative situation three times. As a result, the reader sometimes knows more than Wallander - a narrative trick also popular in television thrillers. Several novels are therefore - from the reader's point of view - not about who the perpetrator is, but about whether the perpetrator can be hunted down before he commits another crime. Most of the Kurt Wallander novels can therefore also be assigned to the thriller genre. Consequently, the last volume in the series, The Enemy in the Shadow , was awarded the Crimezone Thriller Award (Best International Thriller) in 2010 .

In the first two episodes the story is told linearly from Wallander's perspective - and at the beginning of the first episode from the perspective of a witness. From the third episode onwards, the narrative structure is usually more complicated with several narrative threads, flashbacks and flashbacks.

The language is very simple and mostly consists of short, paratactic sentences . Many sentences like "Suddenly something occurred to Wallander", "He drove to the police headquarters" or "The silence was deafening" are repeated countless times in the course of the series in identical or similar form and convey the impression of routine. In addition, there are motto of Wallander such as “Life has its time and death has its time”, some of which are taken up several times. Dialogues are always woven into the narrative flow. The narrative passages are all written in the past tense, but with the exception of the volume Wallander's first case and other narratives , they take place only a few months before the novels were published.

The majority of the twelve novels in the series were written in Africa. The series was originally designed for eight episodes and should end with The Fire Wall, with the prevention of a crime that would have rocked the entire world economy. Mankell then followed up with three more episodes, on the one hand describing Wallander's career before the first published case based on cases that were told in different detail, and on the other hand three later episodes: one - Murder in the Fall - was created as a competition entry in the Netherlands, as it were off the line, a second - Before the Frost - with Linda Wallander as the protagonist and Kurt Wallander only in a supporting role, and the last episode, The Enemy in the Shadow, as a swan song for the popular Swedish crime heroes.


tape Publishing year Original title German title ISBN
Swedish original German translation
1 1991 1993 Mördare utan ansikts Faceless murderer ISBN 3-423-20232-7
2 1992 1993 Hundarna i Riga Dogs from Riga ISBN 3-423-20294-7
3 1993 1995 The vita lejoninnan The white lioness ISBN 3-423-20150-9
4th 1994 2001 Men som log The man who smiled ISBN 3-423-20590-3
5 1995 1999 Villospår The wrong track ISBN 3-423-20420-6
6th 1996 1998 Den femte kvinnan The fifth woman ISBN 3-423-20366-8
7th 1997 2000 Stege efter Midsummer murder ISBN 3-423-20520-2
8th 1998 2001 Brandvägg The firewall ISBN 3-423-20661-6
9 1999 2002 Pyramids Wallander's first case and other stories ISBN 3-423-20700-0
2004 (Pyramids) The pyramid * ISBN 3-423-25216-2
2004 (Photographer död) The death of the photographer * ISBN 3-423-25254-5
10 2002 2003 Freeze inside Before the frost ISBN 3-423-20831-7
11 2013 2013 Hands Fall Murder ** ISBN 978-3-552-05642-8
12 2009 2010 The orolige mannen The enemy in the shadows ISBN 978-3-552-05496-7

* Separate prints from the volume of Wallander's First Case and other stories

** First published in 2004 in the Netherlands

Novel adaptations and adaptations

Films with Rolf Lassgård

Nine Wallander novels were filmed by Swedish Television (SVT) between 1994 and 2007 . The Swedish actor Rolf Lassgård has the main role of Commissioner Wallander . Some of the films deviate from the novel in essential points, e.g. B. in relation to the motive of the murderer. The series with Rolf Lassgård came to an end with the film Wallander's Last Case , based on Mankell's short story The Pyramid . The films were broadcast in Germany on ZDF , with the exception of the film The White Lion , which was shown on Erste .

No. German film title (first broadcast) Original Swedish title (first broadcast) Director script Novel
1 Faceless Murderer
Mördare utan ansikt
(03.09.1995, SVT)
Pelle Berglund Lars Bjorkman Faceless murderer
2 Dogs of Riga
Hundarna i Riga
(11/10/1995, cinema)
Pelle Berglund Lars Bjorkman Dogs from Riga
3 The White Lioness
Den vita lejoninnan
(November 1, 1996, cinema)
Pelle Berglund Lars Björkman & Henning Mankell The white lioness
4th The wrong track
( October 19, 2001 , SVT)
Leif Magnusson Leif Magnusson & Henning Mankell The wrong track
5 The fifth woman
The 5: e kvinnan
(03/08/2002, SVT)
Birger Larsen Birger Larsen & Klas Abrahamsson The fifth woman
6th The Man Who Smiled
Mannen som log
(December 26, 2003, SVT)
Leif Lindblom Tomas Tivemark, Michael Hjorth & Klas Abrahamsson The man who smiled
7th Midsummer Murder
Steget efter
(June 26, 2005, cinema)
Birger Larsen Birger Larsen, Klas Abrahamsson, Tomas Tivemark & ​​Michael Hjorth Midsummer murder
8th The Firewall
(November 26, 2006, DVD; January 19, 2007, SVT)
Lisa Siwe Michael Hjorth The firewall
9 Wallander's last case
(11/28/2007, DVD)
Daniel Lind Lagerlöf Michael Hjorth, Hans Rosenfeldt & Henning Mankell Wallander's first case / The Pyramid (from: Wallander's first case and other stories)

TV adaptation by Mankell Wallander

The 32-part international co-production Mankells Wallander has existed since 2005 , in which the Swedish actor Krister Henriksson has taken on the role of the commissioner. Only the first film is based on a novel by Mankell, all others on scripts specially designed by Mankell for the filming. In Germany these films can be seen in the first and third programs .

Films with Kenneth Branagh

The British BBC produced its own Wallander series (German title: Commissioner Wallander ) with Kenneth Branagh in the lead role from 2008 to 2015 . The four seasons of three episodes each were partly filmed on original locations in Ystad / Sweden. These are the following films:

No. German film title (first broadcast) English original title (first broadcast) Director script Novel
1 The wrong track
(May 29, 2009)
(November 10, 2008)
Philip Martin Richard Cottan The wrong track
2 The firewall
(May 31, 2009)
(December 7, 2008)
Niall MacCormick Richard McBrien, Richard Cottan The firewall
3 Midsummer Murder
(June 1, 2009)
One Step Behind
(December 14, 2008)
Philip Martin Richard Cottan Midsummer murder
4th Faceless Murderer
(December 26, 2010)
Faceless Killers
(January 3, 2010)
Hettie Macdonald Richard Cottan Faceless murderer
5 The Man Who Smiled
( Jan 1, 2011)
The Man Who Smiled
(January 10, 2010)
Andy Wilson Simon Donald, Richard Cottan The man who smiled
6th The fifth wife
(January 4, 2011)
The Fifth Woman
(January 17, 2010)
Aisling Walsh Richard Cottan The fifth woman
7th A Murder in the Fall
(December 28, 2012)
An Event in Autumn
(July 8, 2012)
Toby Haynes Peter Harness Murder in the fall
8th Dogs of Riga
(December 30, 2012)
The Dogs of Riga
(July 15, 2012)
Esther May Campbell Peter Harness Dogs from Riga
9 Before the Frost
(January 6, 2013)
Before the Frost
(July 22, 2012)
Charles Martin Peter Harness Before the frost
10 The white lioness
(December 25, 2015)
The White Lioness
(May 22, 2016)
Benjamin Caron James Dormer The white lioness
11 Lessons of Love
(December 26, 2015)
A Lesson in Love
(May 29, 2016)
Benjamin Caron Peter Harness Lessons of love
12 The Enemy in the Shadows
(December 27, 2015)
The Troubled Man
(June 5, 2016)
Benjamin Caron Peter Harness The enemy in the shadows

These films were broadcast in Germany on the first and repeated in loose succession in the third programs .


Kurt Wallander made an appearance in the novel Beyond Suspicion , the last volume in the Coq Rouge series by Jan Guillou .

The detailed description of Wallander's homeland - street names and restaurants in the novels are all authentic - has given Ystad and Schonen a tourist boom in Wallander, especially from German-speaking countries, in recent years . Accordingly, numerous travel companies have special offers for Wallander fans.

Kurt Wallander, a passionate opera fan, has also become the main character in an opera that Henning Mankell had given his consent to create. The opera by the composer Fredrik Sixten is entitled W - The Truth Beyond and had its world premiere on July 15, 2016 in the ballroom of the Neue Aula Tübingen under the direction of Philipp Amelung . Other performances were also held in the Ystad Theater.


  • Stefanie Abt: Social Enquête in the current crime novel. Using the example of Henning Mankell, Ulrich Ritzel and Pieke Biermann. Wiesbaden 2004.
  • Kevin Kejo Kutani: The detective novel as a medium for (general) social criticism. Using the example of the Swedish author Henning Mankell. Diplomica Verlag GmbH, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-8428-9526-3 .
  • Jeanette Schröter: Religion in the Swedish detective novel. The Swedish thrillers by Larsson, Mankell and Nesser (Diss. Hannover). Tectum-Verlag, Marburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-8288-3528-3 .
  • Klaus Peter Walter: “One foot in the sand, the other in the snow”: Henning Mankell between Sweden and Africa. In: Jost Hindersmann (ed.): Fjords, Elche Murderers. The Scandinavian detective novel. Wuppertal 2006, pp. 215-237.
  • Wallander's world . Translated from Swedish, with a foreword by Henning Mankell. Hanser, 2014, ISBN 978-3-446-24813-7 .

Web links

  • www.wallander-web.de (Kommissar-Wallander-Fan-Homepage) with contents and reviews of all novels as well as overviews of films, radio plays and audio books.

Individual evidence

  1. See spiegel.de .
  2. welt.de .
  3. Cf. Lena Kornyeyeva: The Single Trap: Women and Men in Times of Self-Realization , Munich 2015, p. 34. ( digitized version ).
  4. Luzia Stettler: Why the best crime novels come from Sweden , Swiss Radio and Television (SRF), April 7, 2015, accessed on July 20, 2017.
  5. Jost Hindersmann (ed.): Fjords, Elche, Murderers: the Scandinavian detective novel . NordPark, Wuppertal 2006, ISBN 978-3-935421-16-4 , p. 95 ( online ).
  6. www.volksfreund.de .
  7. spiegel.de .
  8. Jan Feddersen: Tödliches Heimweh, in: taz-archiv .
  9. Luzia Stettler: Why the best crime novels come from Sweden , Swiss Radio and Television (SRF), April 7, 2015, accessed on July 20, 2017.
  10. Kerstin Schneider : Before the Frost , in: Spiegel online, July 17, 2003.
  11. ^ A b Jan Feddersen : Deadly homesickness . In: taz . January 20, 2001.
  12. Interview with Henning Mankell in Spiegel, December 4, 2000 .
  13. Jürgen Jacobs : Wilhelm Meister and his brothers. Studies on the German Bildungsroman. Munich 1972, p. 14.
  14. ^ Ian S. Bolton: Branagh's Wallander. Retrieved February 25, 2018 .
  15. The last three episodes were produced in cooperation with ARD and broadcast in German dubbing before the original English versions. See Karina Krawczyk: Kurt Wallander - A Scandinavian investigates in Cape Town. Berliner Morgenpost , December 23, 2015, accessed on February 25, 2018 .
  16. ^ Website of the opera production
  17. ^ Dpa : Mankell's Wallander premiered as an opera. In: Focus . July 16, 2016, accessed April 21, 2018 .