is one of France’s leading children and young adult authors. Since his
publishing debut in 1997, he has written more than 30 books which have been
translated into nearly 20 languages. With a particular love for fairy tale,
fable and fantasy, he draws on literary traditions to create worlds that
resemble no other. He writes for young children, teens and adults alike.
photo courtesy of Catherine Hélie/ Gallimard
Citation of the Jury: Jean-Claude
Mourlevat is a brilliant renewer of fairy tale traditions, open to both hardship
and beauty. Time and space are suspended in his fictional worlds, and eternal
themes of love and longing, vulnerability and war are portrayed in precise and
dreamlike prose. Mourlevat’s ever-surprising work pins the fabric of ancient
epic onto a contemporary reality.
Born in 1952 in Ambert, a village in the French region of Auvergne, Jean-Claude
Mourlevat began his working life as a German teacher before changing paths and
working as a director, actor and clown in France and Germany. It was the theater
that led him to begin writing, and in 1997 he made his authorial debut with the
picture book Histoire de l’enfant et de l’oeuf. Since then, Mourlevat has worked
as a writer full-time. He lives near Saint-Étienne with his wife and two
Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s writing is wide-ranging and diverse. He writes novels of
social critique, but has a particular fondness for the fairy tale, fable and
fantasy genres. He surprises readers with each new book, assuming new guises and
using unexpected narrative devices. References to classic works, metaphor and
simile link his stories to the present day. A love of books and literature flows
through all his writing. This may be because he spent his childhood in a home
without books. Jean-Claude Mourlevat grew up on a farm as the fifth of six
siblings. He spent eight years at a boarding school where the rules were harsh,
the teachers strict and he felt constantly homesick and unhappy. He has said in
interviews that literature became his salvation.
L’Enfant océan (The Pull of the Ocean), published in 1999, garnered acclaim and
introduced Jean-Claude Mourlevat to a wider international audience. In this
episodic work we follow seven siblings, two of whom are twins, on their journey
away from a threatening home.
The award-winning young adult novel Le combat d’hiver (Winter Song) from 2006
has been translated into 20 languages. It centers around four parentless
students at a boarding school with extremely harsh and repressive rules.
Le chagrin du roi mort (2009) is a fairy tale in which the survival of an entire
people is at stake. The story unfolds on a peaceful island somewhere in the
north. When the beloved king dies, the peace is threatened. Courage,
self-sacrifice and solidarity are put to the test when confronted with evil,
barbarism and war.
In Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s most recent book, Jefferson(2018), the main character
is a hedgehog who loves to read. When he is wrongfully accused of murder, he
goes on the run, and his novel-reading habit takes on critical importance.
Release: Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, ALMA, Stockholm