Jean-Claude Mourlevat 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.
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 children.
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