Speech by Sweden's Prime Minister Göran Persson

Your Royal Highness,
Honoured Award Winner,

One word that virtually everyone in Sweden knows, although it's not really a Swedish word at all, is "pluttifikation".

"Pluttifikation" for those of you who may be wondering, is Pippi Longstocking's word for the things they teach you in school, multiplication and the like. The fact that Pippi is so well known in Sweden and around the world by old and young alike tells us much about Astrid Lindgren as a writer, but also about the power of children's literature when it is held in the respect it deserves.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child acknowledges that childhood has its own special worth. That children have the same basic rights as adults. Yet it is we adults who bear the responsibility.

Together we bear the responsibility of ensuring that all the world's children can grow up in liberty and safety. It is we who must ensure that children's rights are respected and that children's views are heard when we come to make decisions. It is we who must make certain that nobody misses out on the knowledge ("pluttifikation") to which he or she has the right.

The need for culture is common to us all, regardless of our age. We all need relaxation and diversion, new impressions and different points of view, words for things that seem dangerous, and sometimes words of comfort. You don't need to be over five feet six inches tall to need the stimulation of reading.

Quite the contrary: the need for literature is greatest of all when you are small, at a time when you are developing your language. At the very time when you are most exposed and vulnerable.

Children's literature in Sweden enjoys a strong position, but even here it is a struggle to extend reading to a wider audience. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award bears witness to our ambitions and aspirations.

When they first appeared, the Pippi Longstocking stories were revolutionary. With Pippi, Astrid Lindgren in many ways set children and children's literature free from the conventions, from the belief in authority and the moralism of which Pippi possessed so little. Pippi became the symbol for personal liberty.

By good fortune there are more writers in the world with the same desire for liberty and the same deeply-rooted social commitment.

By good fortune, new literary role models are being born for new generations of children in our new age of globalisation.

Her name today is Rachel, a girl with a yellow bag for her dreams: or Maria, perhaps, a tightrope walker.

She enters our consciousness through the books of today's illustrious award-winner, Lygia Bojunga.

It is a source of joy to me that more children will be able to encounter your wonderful stories, and the occasionally extreme magical realism to which we in our country are somewhat unaccustomed.

A source of great joy indeed.

I congratulate you and say: thank you so much, muito obrigado.

Sweden's Prime Minister Göran Persson
Sweden's Prime Minister Göran Persson