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A fascinating memoir-of-sorts from the legendary writer & campaigner for human rights: Quicksand is a collection of micro-essays exploring what it is to be human, covering topics as varied as Henning's cancer diagnosis, art, jealousy, Ice Ages past and present, and the future of our planet

In January 2014 Henning Mankell was informed that he had cancer.

However, Quicksand is not a book about death, but about what it means to be human. Mankell writes about love and jealousy, courage and fear, about what it is like to live with a fatal illness.

This book is also about why the cave painters 40,000 years ago chose the very darkest places for their fascinating pictures. And about the dreadful troll that we are trying to lock away inside the bedrock of a Swedish mountain for the next 100,000 years.

It is a book about how humanity has lived and continues to live, and about how Henning lived his own life.

And, not least, about the great zest for life, which came back when he managed to drag himself out of the quicksand that threatened to suck him down into the abyss.


An extraordinarily moving book… The chief strength of this book – and what makes it such a beautiful, moving document – is in the descriptions that Mankell gives of the joy and suffering he has seen, especially in Africa… Throughout Quicksand, there are scenes [of] joy and triumph in the midst of suffering and loss. This grave book, intensely beautiful in spirit, takes us to these places in the thoughtful company of a great soul

Alexander McCall Smith, New Statesman

An honourable, courageous piece of work… A work of considerable scope… A remarkable man

Sean Oâ??Brien

An extraordinary book, mixing the intimate detail of memoir (the incidents from his childhood and early life are told beautifully, and with wonderful economy) with the moral beliefs of a man whose concern with social justice has dictated the pattern of his mature years. At times Mankell can sound like a latter-day Seneca, and he brings the same gravitas and moral authority to bear on his arguments… A deeply serious, and highly uplifting book…profoundly moving.

John Burnside, Guardian

Potent and evocative

Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times

Quicksand, a hybrid of essay and memoir, reflects knowledgeably on art, religion, childhood and the “final insensibility” that is our dying. Rarely has a writer contemplated the mystery of the end of life with such a wide-ranging curiosity

Ian Thomson, Evening Standard

Quicksand…defines life not by its ending but by the creative and humanitarian content that filled — and fulfilled — Mankell’s life

Financial Times

Quicksand, Mankell’s final book, is his most excoriating indictment of human folly… An extremely moving swansong

Jake Kerridge, Sunday Telegraph

A deeply sombre book… Fans of Mankell’s magnificently gloomy fiction will have no difficulty in recognising the blueprint for his literary alter ego, Kurt Wallander… Compelling

Daisy Goodwin, The Times

Although written in the final year of his life…the result is uplifting and, as a memoir, as unusual a creation as his Nordic detective, Kurt Wallander

Olivia Cole

A collection of essays that are not limited to his illness, but enriched by it.

Radio Times

Mankell confronts his own mortality with moving intelligence and honesty, meditating on vast spans of time that cannot be fully apprehended by intellect or imagination, from the last ice age to the ones to come, and from the earliest civilisations to modern society.

Lettie Kennedy, Observer

Delivered in a no-nonsense style, never striving for melodrama or controversy…making us think deeply about what it means to live, and to die, as a result.

The Big Issue

In calm, limpid writing [Mankell] contemplates his illness – cancer – but is determined to hold on to the good things in life.


The effect is more like poetry than prose, as we are transported from cave paintings to motorways, seedy hotels to dazzling cathedrals, hospital wards to the Louvre, the Prado, the Thassos ampitheatre.

Sheena Joughin, Times Literary Supplement

Although written in the final year of his life, after his diagnosis with cancer, the result is uplifting and, as a memoir, as unusual a creation as his Nordic detective, Kurt Wallander.

Olivia Cole, GQ Magazine

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    January 30, 2017


    320 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    February 4, 2016

    Vintage Digital

    320 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
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    • eBooks
    • Google Play
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Also by Henning Mankell

After the Fire
An Event in Autumn
Wallander's First Case
A Treacherous Paradise
The Shadow Girls
The Troubled Man
The Man From Beijing
Italian Shoes
Kennedy's Brain
The Cat Who Liked Rain
The Pyramid
Before The Frost
The Return Of The Dancing Master
The Journey to the End of the World
The Eye Of The Leopard
When the Snow Fell
Chronicler Of The Winds
The Man Who Smiled
The White Lioness
I Die, But The Memory Lives On
One Step Behind


Rather His Own Man
Finding My Virginity
The Prisoner
The Boy Behind the Curtain
Out of the Forest
When Breath Becomes Air
In Order To Live
The Year Everything Changed
The Motherhood
Miss Ex-Yugoslavia
There Is More
Lion: A Long Way Home
The First Casualty
The Sun Does Shine
The Language of Kindness
A Zero Waste Life