It’s fascinating to see how the darkest experiences can bring out the lightest, most joyful stories.
Just look at Judith Kerr, an escapee from Nazi Germany and author of the fabulously popular children’s book The Tiger Who Came To Tea. This is a lady whose family fled Hitler and who went on to live through the Blitz. Whose father suffered a stroke on his return to Germany, and as a result took his own life. And yet her stories are full of joy and light, even when, in a moment Michael Rosen has compared to the Nazis regime, a tiger bursts in and turns the house upside down.
Having survived darkness, Kerr turned towards the light. Whereas I, with a privileged middle class British upbringing, find myself constantly turning towards the disturbing and the hidden when I write. I wonder if it’s just natural curiosity, wanting to make the unknown known, or some part of ourselves that seeks out balance. But as impulses go it intrigues me. After all, heroic fantasy has arisen in an era of peace and prosperity for its biggest audiences, so I don’t think it’s just me.
They say write what you know. But don’t we all want to write about something unknown?
How about you? When you’re reading or writing, do you find yourself drawn to works that reflect your own life, or that are its opposite? Do you want peace and light, or to peer into the dark corners?
And please, go read the BBC article on Judith Kerr. She’s a fascinating lady, and the absolute perfect picture of what a 90 year old children’s author should look like.