Interview

Mr Pullman, how do you value being selected the 2005 laureate of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award together with Mr Ryôji Arai?

It is a great honour, and a great surprise. Of course I had heard of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, but I never thought I would ever win it. I am astonished!

Many of your main characters are girls - brave, intelligent, independent girls. Why is that?

I don't know - except that I think that many girls ARE brave, intelligent, independent and so on. But then, so are many boys. I certainly don't write about girls for any political reason; and I certainly don't think that in order to make girls look strong, you have to make boys look weak. The girls in my stories are attracted to boys who are as strong and independent as they are. Maybe one reason I find myself writing about girls is that I've never been a girl myself! I always write in the third person - never AS one
of my characters - so I can see them from the outside.

You write books in many different genres, for readers of different ages. Could you comment on the different difficulities - for example in the use of language - in writing for example a picture book compared to a work like His dark materials?

Each new story brings a fresh set of problems. The biggest problem for me is always finding the right voice to tell the story in. But the problems belong to the story, not to the audience, because in truth I don't know who my audience will be, and (as I shall be explaining in my lecture to the Royal Library) we should never assume we are going to have an audience at all. When I write, I'm only concerned with the way the story itself wants to be
told.

You have written quite a few historical novels and on your home page you tell us there will probably be more. Why are you so interested in writing in this genre?

Several reasons. I shall write more about the characters who are already established: I like them and I think there are more stories in them. And I think it's interesting to compare the world of the recent past (100-120 years ago) with the present day. Besides, I've done a lot of research into that period and I don't want to waste it!

You have said that all your books have come out of the background of your own reading. Which is your relation to the fantasy genre - from Tolkien and C S Lewis to the literature of today?

Not very close, in fact. I don't read fantasy; I don't much like The Lord of the Rings or the Narnia books, for different reasons which are too complicated to go into here. I accept (reluctantly) that His Dark Materials has to be called a fantasy, but I prefer to think of it as stark realism.

Some people talk about "anti-religious overtones" in His dark materials? What´s your comment on that?

Anti-clerical, I think. It would be silly to be anti-religion, because human beings ARE religious; it would be like being anti-emotion. But I think that religion provides people with a very good excuse to do very bad things. As soon as we hear a politician claiming to be doing the work of God, it's time to beware. Wicked things are going to happen when those words are spoken.

Which one of Astrid Lindgren's characters is your favourite?

Pippi!