Poetic Beauty and Social Critique

Lygia Bojunga dissolves the boundaries between fantasy and reality with all the exhilarating ease of a child at play. In her dramatic and word of mouth-style narratives the reader is always enabled to enter directly into the dreams and fantasies that her principal characters draw on for survival. In a deeply original way she fuses playfulness, poetic beauty and absurd humour with social critique, a love of freedom and a strong empathy with the vulnerable child.
The citation of the jury

Brazilian author, better known as Lygia Bojunga Nunes. Born in Pelotas, 1932.

Bojunga is part of the tradition of magical realism and fantasy-filled storytelling of South America, a tradition she has developed and perfected. In her word of mouth-style narratives, characterised by a strongly dramatic presence, anything can happen. In a deeply original way she fuses playfulness, poetic beauty and absurd humour with social critique, a love of freedom and a strong empathy with the vulnerable child. Fantasy often functions as a way of dealing with distressing personal experiences, or as an escape from harsh reality. Bojunga enables the reader to enter directly into the dreams of her principal characters and to share in their experiences.

Having begun her career as an actress (she has also written a number of plays), she published her first children's book, Os Colegas, in 1972 (The Companions, 1989). Here, as in Angélica (1975), the main characters are animals endowed with human characteristics, a device that highlights the comic elements in the narrative. These early works already reveal a psychological focus: Angélica is about a pig that wants to be a swallow, but gradually learns to accept its own identity. A Bolsa Amarela (1976), highlights a similar theme, this time with a young girl in the leading role, whereas A Casa da Madrinha (1978) presents the utopian dreams and fantasies of an abandoned street child. Two of her books deal with mourning and grief: her masterpiece, Corda Bamba (1979), is about a young girl who manages to come to terms with the death of her parents through her fantasies, and in O Meu Amigo Pintor, 1987 (My Friend the Painter, 1991), a young boy reflects on the inexplicable suicide of an adult friend.

In books such as Seis Vezez Lucas (1995), Bojunga writes in an altogether more realistic style. In her work Retratos de Carolina (2002), her continual experimentation as a writer has led her in a new direction: she allows us to follow the main character from childhood through to adulthood in a narrative partly written in the form of a meta-novel. Bojunga uses this device to extend the boundaries of literature for children and young people in an attempt, as she herself puts it, to make room both for herself and the characters she has created in one single house, "a house of my own invention".

Bojunga's work has been translated into a number of languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Bulgarian, Czech and Hebrew. She has received a number of awards, including the Jabuti Award (1973), the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award (1982), and the Rattenfänger Literaturpreis (1986).