Faro Island, The Baltic
By Henning MankellSunday 15 August 2004 01.10 BST
I have always been on the move like a Scandinavian nomad in an unknown tribe, doing serious writing wherever I happened to be. When I was very young, I remember once living clandestinely in an empty apartment in Stockholm. There were no lamps in the flat. The only light I could find was when I opened the oven. Fine by me. I used the oven as a table, put my typewriter there and had all the light I needed.
Everything is possible. I still remember in 1992, writing The White Lioness in Maputo, east Africa. I lived in a small room where I was surrounded by other small rooms, and - I counted them - seven radios, playing loudly, but tuned into different music stations. It happened that I, maybe once a week, lost my temper and asked them if they at least not could choose one programme to listen to. Everyone was very understanding; they turned off the radios completely for 15 minutes and then it started all over again.
I loved my neighbours. And I wrote the novel. So I think I can write almost anywhere. I can never excuse myself for failing in my work by blaming the room, wherever or whatever it may be.
But perhaps this is not completely true. There is an exception to this rule. There is a sacred spot somewhere in the world. I spend time in this sacred spot and I must admit that I sometimes long to go there. On the other hand, I am always afraid to lose my independence. I can not fall in love too much with that little house.
North of the island of Gotland, this very rare and magic island in the Baltic, some 35 minutes' flying time from Stockholm, there is another island, even smaller. Its name is Fårö - meaning Sheep Island, and it is separated from Gotland by a firth where there is a ferry. This island has a magical landscape - it could be Ireland, the Hebrides or even the bush in north-eastern South Africa. All by itself on the eastern rocky beach is a small wooden cabin. It was originally built in the 1930s by a man who used to hunt during the winter season. Today, I can occasionally use it to live and work in. The cabin is situated some 30 metres from the sea. When the wind is strong, the salty waves almost reach the windows.
In this cabin, there is a kind of emptiness that is strange, rather impossible to explain. When I enter, I have a feeling that someone has just left, even though the house may have been abandoned for months. I am not talking about 'ghosts'; it is more the feeling that this cabin is breathing. But what is really magical about this cabin is that the mostly fictional characters I write about seem to like the cabin as much as I do. In just a couple of days, they fill the room with their voices. They share my bed, my food and they walk with me on the beach.
It took me some years to realise that this cabin is good when I have something really difficult to write. The house is a masterly servant. So I am happy that this cabin exists. And that I occasionally can use it. Among all the various rooms where I write, this little cabin is the centre that does not move, that is always there.
By the way, the owner of the cabin is Ingmar Bergman, who happens to be my father-in-law. As far as I know, he has never done any writing there.
· Henning Mankell's prize-winning Inspector Wallander thrillers consistently top European bestseller lists