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January, 2004 - Nr. 1


The Editor
To the Editor
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Vienna Connection
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Personal Note
Herwig Wandschneider
German Consulate Closed
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Treatment of Schizophrenia
Bach Festival at the UofT
At a Loss for Words
Events in Germany
Cornelia Funke
Earliest Carvings
Goodbye, Lenin!
German Porcelain Exhibited
Athletes of the Year
Links Eighth Season
World Cup 2006 in Berlin

Cornelia Funke:
Not just the next J.K. Rowling

  TWIG - Since the Harry Potter series ignited the fantasy book market – a genre many publishing experts had pronounced dead – the book market has overflowed with magic-laced narratives for children. One German author is way ahead of the pack.

In her long and prolific career as book author and illustrator, Cornelia Funke has defined herself as the voice of children’s fantasy in Germany. In almost two decades, she has written 41 books, among them the now classic "When Santa Fell from the Sky" ("Als der Weihnachtsmann vom Himmel fiel"), "The Thief Lord," and her most recent, "Inkheart."

Funke came to writing through a career as children’s book illustrator, a job that grew wearisome with what she calls the increasingly mundane subject matter given to her. Thus, she was inspired to write her own stories. "I really wanted to paint a beautiful type of fantasy world," the author said, explaining her impetus to write. While her books have lengthened in scope, she continues to draw graphic elements for her novels that appear at the beginnings and ends of chapters.

While journalists liken her to J.K. Rowling, the comparison is merely one of stature. In Funke’s books, magic enters the world her characters inhabit – a world that is a mirror of our own, not an imagined one. Her heroes are normal children swept up in fantastic circumstances, such as Prosper and Bo of "The Thief Lord," the two young runaways whose cohorts with the young thieves of Venice lead them on an adventure that only partly touches upon a magical world. The most important elements of Funke’s books are the curiosity of children and their loyalty to family and friends.

Funke’s most recent book "Inkheart" tells of the magic of reading out loud and a family whose defining characteristic is a life-long passion for books. The book seems to have everything: A vile villain, the bonds of family, countless secrets that unfold, and a humorous aunt whose meticulousness is misunderstood by her young niece. That niece is Maggie, the young daughter of bookbinder Mortimer. Maggie’s father has something to hide – a fact that is highlighted in a swarthy character from his past who makes a house call in the first chapter. Maggie, Mortimer, and a slew of other colorful characters embark on an adventure to find a magical book, igniting a series of emblazoning events that will answer one question: Why can’t Maggie remember her father reading out loud to her?

And the book is secretly – secretly, because many lists, such as that published by the German weekly "Spiegel," have unwaveringly refused to list young people’s literature that isn’t Harry Potter. Since its publication last autumn, "Inkheart" has sold 140,000 copies in Germany alone.

The English version of her novel is already on the Publisher’s Weekly top ten children’s books, as is her first novel to be translated for an English-speaking audience, "The Thief Lord."
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


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