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The Eye of the Leopard Paperback – April 7, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Best known for his Kurt Wallander mysteries (Firewall, etc.), Mankell alternates between the coming-of-age story of Hans Olofson, a provincial Swede who grows up in a motherless home with an alcoholic father, and Olofson's later experiences in Zambia in this fine, unsentimental exploration of vastly different cultures. Having come to believe that Sweden holds nothing for him, Olofson decides to go to Africa to visit a mission, prompted by the strangest woman in town, Janine, who's shunned because of an operation that left her with no nose. Olofson stays in Zambia for 18 years, running a struggling egg farm and dealing with a culture he never fully understands. Mankell is terrific at sketching the cultural differences between the West and Africa—in particular, the anguish of the independent states. Sweden and the West may be more pragmatic and less superstitious than Africa, but greed and corruption are universal. Still, it's the character of Olofson and his complex, unsettling relationship with the Zambians and Africa that make this disquieting novel so compelling. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* American readers only familiar with Mankell’s Kurt Wallander crime novels are in for a delightful surprise. In The Eye of the Leopard, he creates a beautiful, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful coming-of-age novel set both in Sweden and Zambia. The story of Hans Olafsson opens with him suffering through a bout of malaria, convinced he is about to be attacked. This tense opener is followed by a series of flashbacks to Hans’ lonely childhood in the forests of northern Sweden as well as his eventual arrival in Africa. Mankell’s signature ability to evoke a sense of place is evident in this early work, published in Sweden in 1990, as he takes us from the cold and claustrophobia of a tiny cabin in Sweden to the heat, dust, and violence of postcolonial Africa, each setting brought to life with an immediacy that leaves the reader alternately frozen and overheated—and altogether unable to break away from this engrossing and tense tale. Much of the drama here comes from Hans’ Zambia years, from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, when his stature as a mzungu, or rich man, forced him to come to terms with being a white man in a hostile black country. A powerful exploration of the stresses and challenges of freedom. --Jessica Moyer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030738585X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307385857
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries are global bestsellers and have been adapted for television as a BAFTA Award-winning BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh. Mankell was awarded the Crime Writers' Association's Macallan Gold Dagger and the German Tolerance Prize, among many others. He divides his time between Sweden and Mozambique.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By BARBARA GERSHENABUM on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Once again Henning Mankell offers readers a moving, thought provoking, novel that addresses the human condition as it plays itself out on two continents and in the psyches of the players. The landscape moves from a frozen, rural Swedish town to the smothering heat of Africa. Mankell changes narrators and moves back and forth in time as his hero tries to find a place in the world where he can be his own person.
He is haunted by much childhood trauma and his nightmares are so real and potent, the reader is drawn into them with chilling provocation. Yet somehow, he is both frightened and curious to see what will happen if he doesn't run away. Fate intervenes keeping the main character in a state of semi-stasis which is filled with silence, chaos, introspection, confusion and an constant underlying senes of catastrophe to come. The white landowners that remain in Africa after the freedom given to the black folks creates a dangerous chasm, know that their safety can no longer be taken for granted. They expect that a war with the natives is simmering. How or when it explodes is a daily mystery.
Reading this riveting story leaves readers with a similar feeling one gets reading Joseph Conrad's, HEART OF DARKNESS.
At times in the telling Mankell's characters ask questions like, "why me" or "who am I really"? "What is my purpose?" But unlike Conrad this novel burrows deeper into the minds and hearts of a population of people who hate each other and can barely keep those feelings in control.
Henning Mankell is best know for his police procedurals but here he enters a new terrain with a different direction in his fiction. Written with his accomplished hand THE EYE OF THE LEOPARD is a great read that grabs readers right at the beginning.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Hungate on November 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I finished reading Henning Mankell's The Eye of the Leopard a while ago, but realized I had not posted my review. It is a much more assessable book than his previous Kennedy's Brain or the very dark depressing, Depths. It is, like Kennedy's Brain, a pointed political novel. And like the previous book the "villains" in Africa, are an amorphous, hard to pin-down, but serious cultural/political threat to native stressed Africans. In Kennedy's Brain it was the drug companies and their every unethical abuse of the Africans in testing new "cures" for AIDS and other diseases. In The Eye of the Leopard, the "villains" are the very corrupted nature of the local and national governments, and the desire of two different cultures trying to hang on to what they have, both real and imagined. In both books the connection is the all mighty debasing/corrupting nature of money. In both books the disappearing mores of what it means to be African is scary reality. In both books the main character is discovering things about themselves as we discover how bad the reality is in under-developed Africa, whether it be Zambia or Mozambique or ...
Unfortunely, for me, the novel does suffer from a lot of recycled imagery and characters from some of Mankell's previously published works. The childhood memories of his main character are very much like those the characters in his books Shadows in the Twilight and A Bridge to the Stars. The character without a nose, which is a pivotal guiding figure, is almost the same. The imagery of climbing/mastering the iron bridge over the local river is also drawn from these books. The model boat, the woodcutting father, the mother who left with only a photograph to remember her from, are just some other segments of these two books published in 1990.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ted Feit VINE VOICE on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Before we go any further, this is not a Kurt Wallander mystery. It was written many years ago, and is just appearing here in the US. The novel takes place in the author's native Sweden and in Africa, between which countries he divides his time. It is the story of someone who drifts through life, ending up inheriting by chance an egg farm with 200 native employees and trying to cope with the continent's mystique, superstitions and racial conflicts.

The chapters alternate between past and present, Sweden and Africa, in an attempt to give the reader an understanding of Hans Olofson's development through boyhood and his more mature years, as he attempts to understand what is happening around him and even attempt to do something about the inequities of the indigenous population.

The novel is not for everyone. It is deep in its way of studying Hans as a person, and its depth is far more penetrating in its analysis of the African mind. It is a far cry from the more intriguing Wallander mysteries, but well worth the effort if you so choose to read it. While recommended, bear in mind that it may not be for everyone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn Taylor on February 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eye of the Leopard is the best of the many Mankell novels I've read. I have the feeling this is a book Mankell wrote from the heart - not for money, not because his reading audience constantly clamors for another Wallender mystery, but because (like most novelists) he is working hard to understand himself, and his love for two countries as seemingly opposite as Sweden and Africa. His exploration of racism is brilliant. His ability to show the main character's process of individuation is masterfully done. Highly recommended.
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