04/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Laugh Once a Day, and Other Tips from Henning Mankell

Bestselling crime writer Henning Mankell has a few things his days can't be without.

"I would find it a miserable day if I go to bed without having really, really laughed once," said the author during an appearance at the 86th Street Barnes & Noble in Manhattan on Friday. "I'm searching all day and late at night for the big laugh."

While Mankell's novels, which have sold some 30 million copies worldwide, deal with gruesome murders and the dark side of his native Sweden, the author showcased his whimsical side at Friday's event.


Promoting the English language release of his novel The Man from Beijing, Mankell explained to the overflowing crowd that another of his rules is to learn something new each day. By way of example, he shared with the audience that he had recently learned that as mankind evolved and spread across the globe, they moved at an average rate of 5 kilometers per generation. "I love that idea," he said. "We were born into being patient--we were not born to rush, we were not born to run."

Mankell has become a truly global writer since his earliest works in the late 70s and early 80s, publishing in dozens of languages and dividing his time between Scandinavia and Mozambique, which has been his second home for the past 25 years. As Mankell put it, he lives "with one foot in the snow and one in the sand."

In The Man from Beijing, Mankell expands his borders to include China as well, as its heroine uncovers a web of intrigue that connects 1860s China to present day Africa and England.

Pointing out that the Swedes have English words just as the English have French and German words, Mankell said he fully expects Chinese words to begin infiltrating Western conversation in the years ahead.

While Mankell's most famous creation, the detective Kurt Wallander, does not appear in the new novel, the author discussed the character at length. Describing Wallander as "a man changing all the time," Mankell promised an English translation of the newest Wallander novel and hinted that Kenneth Branagh may be reprising his role as the character for an additional set of episodes on the successful BBC miniseries.

Mankell wrapped up his reading with an African proverb he felt appropriate after he had been speaking for over half an hour: "Human beings are born with two ears and one tongue, obviously because we should listen double what we talk."