Mankell is a Swedish author best known for his crime novels about the world-weary fictional detective, Inspector Kurt Wallander. But the Stockholm-born writer is also known for his activism and humanitarian work, including a longstanding interest in the plight of refugees in Africa and the work of UNHCR.
Born in 1948, he spent much of his childhood with his father, after his parents separated. He loved to read about the great Africa explorers. After leaving school at 16, Mankell worked for two years as a merchant seaman before becoming involved in the late 1960s in political activism in Paris and Stockholm, protesting against the Vietnam War, Portugal's colonial wars in Africa, and the apartheid regime in South Africa. It was at this time that he first met refugees; South Africans fleeing the repression.
After his first novel Bergsprängaren (The Rock Blaster) was published in 1973, Mankell headed off to Africa for the first time. Since that trip to Guinea, he has spent a great part of his life on the African continent - especially Mozambique, where he is the artistic director of the Teatro Avenida in Maputo. He has been a passionate advocate on key development issues affecting Africa. He is especially committed to the promotion of literacy and education and to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Concern about racism in his native Sweden spurred Mankell to write the first novel in the Wallander series, "Faceless Killers," which was published in 1991. Since then, he has written 10 more novels in the series. The Wallander books have been filmed for television as well as the big screen, winning audiences around the world.
In addition to the Wallander series, Mankell has written more than 20 novels and a dozen books for children and teenagers. His books have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. He is also one of Sweden's most popular dramatists.
Mankell's relationship with UNHCR goes back to the 1980s, when he visited camps run by the refugee agency in Mozambique. A decade later he travelled with the then High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata to camps in South Africa. Since 2012, he has been supporting key UNHCR campaigns and events such as World Refugee Day, the Nansen Refugee Award, and UNHCR's Syria emergency appeal.
In October 2013, Mankell visited Congolese refugees in Uganda, seeing UNHCR's operations from the emergency stage to the transfer of refugees to long-term settlements. On his return he wrote articles on the plight of refugees in Africa
In January 2014, Henning Mankell announced that he was battling with cancer.