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French author Jean-Claude Mourlevat receives prestigious Swedish Alma Prize for children’s literature

French author Jean-Claude Mourlevat was awarded the Swedish Alma 2021 – Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award on March 30, the most important international award for children’s literature, endowed with nearly 500,000 euros, the jury announced.

Author of around thirty books since the publication of his first in 1997, the 69-year-old writer is notably known for The Ocean Child (Youth Pocket, 1999), The Winter Fight (Gallimard youth, 2006), The Sorrow of the Dead King (Gallimard jeunesse, 2009) or more recently Jefferson (Gallimard, 2018).

In its motivations, the jury explained that it had chosen from among 262 preselected an author to “the always surprising work” who “brilliantly revisits the tradition of storytelling, tackling the most beautiful as well as the most difficult subjects”.

“His stories abolish time and space and evoke in dreamlike and effective prose eternal questions such as desire and love, vulnerability and war”, wrote the Alma Prize jury in memory of the great children’s novelist Astrid Lindgren, creator among others of Fifi Brindacier.

“It’s absolutely amazing”, reacted Jean-Claude Mourlevat, contacted by phone by the jury. “I was appointed for ten years, I can’t believe it”, he blurted out.

Born in 1952 in Ambert, in Puy-de-Dôme, he grew up on a farm, the penultimate of a family of six children. He spent eight years in a boarding school where life was tough and the teachers were tough. He started his career as a German teacher before changing his path and working as a director, actor and clown. The theater led him to writing, with the publication in 1997 of his first album, History of the child and the egg (Mango).

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A full-time writer since then, he has been awarded numerous prizes and translated into some twenty languages.

The winter fight, a novel for adolescents published in 2006, revolves around four young orphans, students in a boarding school with particularly harsh and oppressive rules. In the tale The grief of the dead king (2009), it is the survival of an entire people that is at stake. The plot is set on a peaceful island, somewhere in the North. When the beloved king dies, peace is threatened. In the latest book by Jean-Claude Mourlevat, Jefferson, published in 2018, the hero is a hedgehog keen on reading. While wrongly accused of murder, he is forced to flee, reading novels is of vital importance to him.

Created by the Swedish government on the death of the Swedish novelist in 2002, the Astrid Lindgren memorial award (Alma) rewards authors of children’s and children’s literature, illustrators, and children’s literature institutions. It is endowed with 5 million Swedish crowns (490,000 euros), one of the largest literary endowments outside the Nobel Prize.

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