Children's Books: A Week in Books Philip Pullman Children's Books Must Join the Euro Zone
Pullman, Philip, The Independent (London, England)
WHEN I was a boy, one of my favourite books was Erich Kastner's Emil and the Detectives, known to English readers since the 1930s. I also loved Tove Jansson's delightful fantasies about the Moomin family, who lived in a weird but believable Finland. And I well remember Paul Berna's A Hundred Million Francs, set in the sort of shabby Parisian banlieue that turns up so often in the films of the nouvelle vague. Emil's Berlin, and the Baltic resort of its sequel Emil and the Three Twins, were as vivid to me as Arthur Ransome's English Lakeland. I hadn't been there either, but what did that matter when I could read all about it?
Publishers in those days found it possible to sell us books in translation. It can still happen now: Gudrun Pausewang's powerful novel of the Nazi Holocaust, The Final Journey, has been well received. Its translator, Patricia Crampton, has recently won the Marsh Award for her work. Nor is there a lack of people with genuine commitment to European books. Author Aidan Chambers, for example, has just chaired a panel of Dutch-language writers for young people. As a publisher, Chambers has put out translations from the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and elsewhere. And, of course, there was Sophie's World.
So the Continent is not entirely cut off. But it was only recently that I really became aware of how ignorant we now are. I was at a children's literature conference in Stavanger, talking to an audience of Norwegian teachers, librarians and other book people. …