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[136] Depths – Henning Mankell

In 1914 Lars Tobiasson-Svartman, commissioned by the Swedish Navy, was on a secret mission to sound the depths of the country’s coastal waters. His goal was to find out if it were possible for ships with a bigger draught than the ones given on the present chart to pass this far into the archipelago, shielded by the surrounding skerries and rocks. Although he had to remain discreet about these navigation channels which were to accommodate military vessels, the surreptitious nature of his job was not the cause of his alienation from his wife, who often spent months on end at home in Stockholm longing for his return.

He was very much in love with his wife, whose scent he could smell whenever he thought of her. But there was a secret inside him of which he was not aware. He was a very solitary man. His love for solitude gave us an impression as if he hated everything else in life. From the start, from as far as he could remember, solitude had been like his own skin. He was a solitary person constantly seeking new distances to measure. But deep inside, his personal navigation channels were unfathomable, deep, and even dangerous. All his life Lars had been keeping things, and people, at a distance and it would not be hyperbole to say that he had been stripped of closeness, if closeness ever existed for him.

On one of his missions, he discovered something on a remote island and dangerous passion, suspicion, and inconceivable violence at once were awakened in him. Entangled in between his wife, the navy bureau, and his new-found self, Lars lived a double life that went downward spiral to very shocking consequences. Mankell’s style—the careful release of details, and the grimness of his writing—matches the mood of the landscape to the subject. A man who set out to measure depths of the sea is also, without his knowing, on a fateful journey to his heart-chord with which he had been out of touch. The novel progresses with a dark style that literally measures the depths as the dark side of his personality grows.

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