I’ve been reading Wallander again as I’m not supposed to be reading management theory. This time it is ‘The Troubled Man’, a heart-breaking tale of descent into despair and darkness that serves as a totem for what great crime writing can achieve, as the Irish Times put it. This must be the fourth or fifth Henning Mankell book that I have read. I like his style. I like Nordic noir. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s the seemingly endless forest, the dark winter nights or the reserved nature of its inhabitants but there is something that sets Scandinavian crime writing apart.
I’ve also watched Wallander on the television, both the English version (staring Kenneth Branagh) and the Swedish version with subtitles on BBC4. Somehow the Swedish language adds to the atmosphere and provides authenticity. While I enjoyed the Branagh version the others remain, for me, better.
The Swedish version starred two separate actors who played the part in very different ways. Rolf Holger Lassgård starred in a series of films later shown on television and Krister Henrikkson made the role his own on the small screen. As always happens there is a difference between how the characters appear visually compared to how they appear in writing. Lassgård appeared more like how I imagined the Wallander character in the book in both stature and temperament while Henrikkson has a more believable relationship with his daughter and of course has his loveable dog Jussi.
The trouble is that when I read the books I cannot help but notice the differences between the two formats. I keep thinking that he didn’t do that, he didn’t go there or that is not how it looked on television. Both the books and the shows were great but different.
It goes without saying that what works in the written media may not always work visually and vice versa. It is also true that the role of the television producers is to make watchable programmes while the role of the author is to tell good stories (and to sell lots of books). This is why an exact translation from words into images is not possible.
Perhaps this is also true in life. How you appear in writing may be very different from how you come across in the flesh. Perhaps through the written word you can portray different aspects of your character that are more hidden when you speak. Perhaps your body language gives off more of your character than you could ever pass on in the more stylised and controlled written form. Could it be that the thoughts that you put down in reports or presentations and blogs just won’t translate exactly into the physical you and that each medium explores a different facet of what you are made of.
Each of us has different audiences to play to. Each of us has different roles to play that represent the different aspects of who we are and the different circumstance that we find ourselves in. An exact translation from one projection to another may not be possible.