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Authors: Henning Mankell

The Man From Beijing

BOOK: The Man From Beijing
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Table of Contents
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Epub ISBN: 9781409089438
Version 1.0
 
Published by Harvill Secker 2010
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright © Henning Mankell 2008 English translation copyright © Laurie Thompson 2010
Henning Mankell has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published with the title
Kinesen
in 2008
by Leopard Förlag, Stockholm in arrangement with
Leonhardt & Høier Literary Agency, Copenhagen
First published in Great Britain in 2010 by
H
ARVILL
S
ECKER
Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road
London
SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
www.randomhouse.co.uk/offices.htm
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 9781846552571 (hardback)
ISBN 9781846552588 (trade paperback)
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international forest certification organisation. All our titles that are printed
on Greenpeace approved FSC certified paper carry the FSC logo. Our paper
procurement policy can be found at
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Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc
Also by Henning Mankell
Kurt Wallander Series
FACELESS KILLERS
THE DOGS OF RIGA
THE WHITE LIONESS
THE MAN WHO SMILED
SIDETRACKED
THE FIFTH WOMAN
ONE STEP BEHIND
FIREWALL
BEFORE THE FROST
THE PYRAMID
Fiction
THE RETURN OF THE DANCING MASTER
CHRONICLER OF THE WINDS
DEPTHS
KENNEDY'S BRAIN
THE EYE OF THE LEOPARD
ITALIAN SHOES
Non-fiction
I DIE, BUT THE MEMORY LIVES ON
Young Adult Fiction
A BRIDGE TO THE STARS
SHADOWS IN THE TWILIGHT
WHEN THE SNOW FELL
THE JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE WORLD
Children’s Fiction
THE CAT WHO LIKED RAIN
Contents
THE MAN FROM BEIJING
Translated from the Swedish by
Laurie Thompson
Henning Mankell
PART 1
The Silence (2006)
I, Birgitta Roslin, do solemnly declare that I shall endeavour to the best of my knowledge and in accordance with my conscience to pass judgement without fear or favour, be the accused rich or poor, and according to the laws and statutes of Sweden; never to pervert the law nor to promote wrongdoing on grounds of family connections, friendship, jealousy, malevolence, or fear, nor in response to bribes or gifts or for any other reason of no matter what nature; never to impute guilt where there is innocence, nor innocence where there is guilt. I shall never reveal to those who appear in court, neither before nor after judgement is passed, deliberations that have taken place behind closed doors. As an honest and sincere judge I shall endeavour always to adhere to this solemn oath.
Code of Judicial Procedure, Ch. 4, §11, Judicial Oath
The Epitaph
1
Frozen snow, severe frost. Midwinter.
Early in January 2006 a lone wolf crosses the unmarked border and enters Sweden from Vauldalen in Norway. A man on a snowmobile thinks he might have glimpsed it just outside Fjällnäs, but the wolf vanishes into the trees heading east before he is able to pinpoint it. In the remote Norwegian Österdalarna Mountains it had discovered a lump of frozen moose carcass, with remnants of meat still clinging to the bones. But that was more than two days ago. It is beginning to feel the pain of hunger and is desperately searching for food.
The wolf is a young male that has set out to find a territory of his own. He continues his way eastward. At Nävjarna, north of Linsell, he finds another moose carcass. For a whole day he stays and eats his fill before resuming his trek east. When he comes to Kårböle he trots over the frozen Ljusnan and then follows the river along its winding route towards the sea. One moonless night he lopes silently over the bridge at Järvsö, then heads into the vast forests that stretch to the coast.
In the early morning of 13 January the wolf reaches Hesjövallen, a tiny village south of Hansesjön Lake in Hälsingland. He pauses and sniffs the air. He detects the smell of blood. He looks around. There are people living in the houses but no smoke rising from the chimneys. His sharp ears can’t detect the slightest sound.
But the wolf is in no doubt about the blood. He skulks at the edge of the forest, nose in the air. Then he moves forward, silently, through the snow. The smell comes from one of the houses at the far end of the hamlet. He is vigilant now – with humans around it’s essential to be both careful and patient. He pauses again. The smell originates from the back of the house. He waits. Then eventually starts moving once more. When he gets there he finds another carcass. He drags his large meal back to the trees. He has not been discovered, not even the village dogs have stirred. The silence is total this freezing cold morning.
The wolf starts eating when he comes to the edge of the trees. It is easy, as the flesh has not yet frozen. He is very hungry now. Having pulled off a leather shoe, he starts gnawing away at an ankle.
It snowed during the night but stopped before dawn. As the wolf eats his fill, snowflakes once again start dancing down towards the frozen ground.
2
When Karsten Höglin woke up he remembered dreaming about a photograph. He lay motionless in bed and felt the image returning slowly, as if the negative of his dream were sending a copy into his conscious mind. He recognised the picture. It was black and white and depicted a man sitting on an old iron bed, with a hunting rifle hanging on the wall and a chamber pot at his feet. When he saw it for the first time, he had been gripped by the old man’s wistful smile. There was something timorous and evasive about him. Much later Karsten had discovered the background. A few years earlier the man had accidentally shot and killed his only son while hunting seabirds. From then on the rifle had never come down from the wall, and the man had become a hermit.
Höglin thought that of all the thousands of photographs and negatives he had seen, this was the one he would never forget. He wished he had taken it himself.
The clock on his bedside table read half past seven. Höglin usually woke up very early, but he had slept badly that night, the bed and its mattress were uncomfortable. He made up his mind to complain about them when he checked out of the hotel.
It was the ninth and final day of his journey. It had been made possible by a scholarship enabling him to study deserted villages and other small settlements that were being depopulated. He had come as far as Hudiksvall and had one hamlet left to photograph. He had chosen this particular one because an old man who lived there had read about his project and sent him a letter. Höglin had been impressed by the letter and decided that this was the place for him to conclude his study.
He got up and opened the curtains. It had snowed during the night and was still grey, the sun not yet risen. A bundled-up woman was cycling past in the street below. Karsten considered her and wondered how cold it was. Minus five degrees Celsius, possibly minus seven.
He dressed and took the slow-moving lift down to reception. He had parked his car in the enclosed courtyard behind the hotel. It was safe there. Even so, he had taken all his photographic equipment up to his room, as was his practice. His worst nightmare was to come to his car one day and find that all his cameras had vanished.
The receptionist was a young girl, barely out of her teens. He noticed that her make-up was slapdash and gave up on the idea of complaining about the bed. After all, he had no intention of ever returning to the hotel.
In the breakfast room a few guests were absorbed in their morning papers. For a fleeting moment he was tempted to get a camera and take a shot. It gave him the feeling that Sweden had always been exactly like this. Silent people, poring over their newspapers with a cup of coffee, absorbed in their own thoughts, their own fates.
But he resisted the temptation, served himself coffee, buttered two slices of bread and tucked into a soft-boiled egg. Without a newspaper, he ate quickly. He hated being at a meal on his own without anything to read.
It was colder than he expected when he emerged from the hotel. He stood on tiptoe to read the thermometer in the reception window. Minus eleven degrees. And falling, he suspected. This winter has been far too warm. Here comes the cold spell we’ve been expecting. He put his cases on the back seat, started the engine and began scraping ice off the windscreen. There was a map on the passenger seat. The previous day, after taking pictures of a village not far from Lake Hassela, he had worked out how to get to his final port of call: take the main road southward, turn off towards Sörforsa near Iggesund, then follow either the east or the west shore of the lake called Storsjön in some parts and Långsjön in others. The guy at the petrol station on the way into Hudiksvall had warned him that the east road was bad, but he decided to take it anyway. It would be quicker. And the light was so lovely this winter morning. He could already envisage the smoke rising straight up to the sky from the chimneys.
BOOK: The Man From Beijing
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