Europe, a dream in pictures?
Cover: Otto: Autobiographie d'un ours en peluche, Tomi Ungerer @ Gallimard
Chi Idrens ' Literature Collection Collection Editor: Jean Foucault
General Editor: Jean Perrot
Europe, a dream in pictures?
Translated from the French by Andrew Hill
L'Harmattan 5-7, rue de l'École-Polytechnique 75005 Paris FRANCE
L'Harmattan Hongrie Hargita u. 3
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cg L'Harmattan, 2001 ISBN: 2-7475-1735-7
Table of contents
Europe - a dream in pictures?
by Jean PelTot
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Poetry, mystery and fantasy:recognised the German picture book
by Barbara Sharioth. 000..0..0...00..00
artists and young talents in
Austria: of protest, language games and pea hunting
by Heidi Leixe
Between seriousness, humour and tenderness: French-speaking Belgian publishing
by Mi ch el Def oumy.
the dynamism of young
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Break with tradition and non-conformism
in the Danish picture book
by Torben Weinreich
Words, colours and drawings in the Spanish picture book
by Raquel Lope Royo
The image of Finland in Finnish children's literature
by Kaisu Râttyâ ..0 0 o
Tender emotions for small children, serious emotions for older children: the vitality of French picture books by Isabelle Nières-Chevrel o 87
Behind the masks: Picture Books in Britain
by Morag Styles
Children's picture books in Greece or the interplay of antitheses: reverie and initiation, tradition and innovation
by Alexandra Zervou
Beyond nostalgia - modernity and tradition in the Irish picture book
by Valerle Coghlan
The Italian picture book: a bouquet of materials, forms, colours and talents
by Antonio Faeti et les membres de la revue LffieR
An opening onto the sea and onto other cultures: the Portuguese album at the time of the European Union.
by Maria da Natividade Pires
Love, nature and the independence
of the child in the Swedish album
by Lena Kareland
Alternative reality and the language of codes: a view of the Swiss picture book by Denise von Stockar-Brldel.
List of albums selected for the exhibition
by Jean Perrot
- a dream
The children's album in the "museographical society" At first glance, it could be thought that a European children's and youth literature is simply a dream made up of juxtaposed dreams; that artists from each nation dream up their own phantasmagoria in a watertight universe, just as toddlers often play side by side without understanding each other and yet still derive a certain shared happiness from being together, or sometimes sadness from fighting. On closer inspection, this continent particularly as it appears in the contemporary children's album can already be characterised by many exchanges.
Firstly there are those intimate exchanges produced by family relationships: is Anne Brouillard, whose mother is Swedish, Belgian or French? Is it not true that Gennan-bom Georg Hellensleben lives in the Place des Vosges, creating along with his French wife Anne Gutman the fine albums that we know and love, whose main target audience and protagonist is their child? Then come exchanges brought about by choice and preference: how many Italian illustrators live in capital cities other than Rome, such as Sara Fanelli in London and Letizia Galli in Paris? Does not Quentin Blake spend much of the year in France? As indeed does Lorenzo Mattotti. Ifwe are to go by the place where bis first editions are published, is Toni Ungerer Gennan, French, American or Alsatian? Finally, who can claim
to represent a national model in the framework of multicultural societies which have become the norm? Who could possibly have a monopoly on such and such an aesthetic current or on any kind of avant garde? In fact, translations of works, trom country to country, or from region to region (in Spain for example) create above all a massive web of national and international relations. Fine albums, tales, narratives and documents spring up trom all horizons. And yet with such differences! No serious study has yet been carried out into the current state of European publishing. It is true that mergers between groups at alllevels, the inclusion of books in larger and larger financial entities which have turned them into common consumables, and which have made profitability an imperative, the worldwide development of the German company Bertelmans, the arrival of Vivendi (englobing les Presses de la Cité, Pocket, Syros etc.) onto the North American communications market, through the take-over of the Canadian company Seagram, for example, limit the degree of autonomy that can be attributed to that privileged instrument of mediation that is the book. It is, however, interesting to go to the Youth Book Fair in Bologna, and see how the transfer of knowledge, of myths and of fiction influences France. There, one cannot help but succumb to the chann of the bright colours and of the wealth of expressive forms. One also notes a fast development of albums for tots, brought about through an earlier and earlier consideration of the statute of the childreader. The publication of picture albums aimed at the teenage and adult readership has also experienced a remarkable upsurge, as what Catherine Millet calls our "museographical society" forms and refines itself the mass reproduction of the digitalised image facilitates the circulation of masterpieces and contributes to the pervasion of aesthetic concerns into everyday lifel. But it
1 Catherine Millet, ContemporaryArt in France, Paris, Flammarion, 1994, p.267.
is not necessary to be a connoisseur to realise that in this space, the balance of cultural exchanges is not the balance of intellectual or aesthetic parities, but that it is governed mainly by the demands of the economy. The consequences of this, exacerbated by the anonymity and standardisation of the globalisation of mass production, tends to crush the expression of creations particular to each country, even if a culture of quality can sometimes be valorised by the new media. Anthony Browne's gorillas are no match for Pokemon, and Anakin Skywalker ftom Star Wars has obliterated The Little Prince in the esteem of the young public. However, one is always pleasantly surprised in Bologna to find unexpected small publishers like the Italians Fatatrac, Thierry Magnier publishing or a Greek publishing house like Patakis, as well as such and such a new talented artist. Several wellestablished publishers are still holding out well and are managing to maintain a policy of quality through a necessary rotation of cultural heritage. These creators stand out for their originality over a production which could be described as average, if not mediocre, and which have all the ingredients of modern best sellers. The recipe which guarantees the success of "middle art" contains a good dose of humour and of tenderness, or of the marvellous and the fantastic, of adventure, or exploring family relationships. As for the illustrations, they follow the laws of a relative, vaguely romanticised realism, in which people are often replaced by animals. The choice of warm colours is also appreciated, as are the respect of perspective and of a nondeconstructed vision of the characters. Another option is based on a distortion of a Disneylike fantasy, allowing for gags and giving unbridled entertainment, but having no ambition to build the young person's character other than in a very general way. In complete contrast with these productions which are
supported by their wide diffusion on big and small screen, in the specialised press, in video games and CD-ROMS (Pokemon is a typical example of this sort of global diffusion), the artists which will receive our consideration in this volume find it harder to establish themselves. This is not, however, because we support an elitist vision, at the expense of well-loved childhood heroes such as Babar, or Lucy Cousins' Maisy among others: our aim is simply to introduce some critical distance into an approach which arouses passions, and to propose a generous portrait of contemporary illustrated books for children. These albums have widened their horizons and are now aimed as much at the vel)' young, who are solicited :from the age of six months with illustrations (or even earlier with cloth books), as at adults who have generally been won over by the imperialism of the image which translates a return in strength of the sensorial aspect in the book culture.
The research network for "the children of the videosphere" Thus, it is important to develop research into a rapidly expanding European sector which is helping to ground tomorrow's citizens in the culture of films and in new technologies. It is necessary to create a space for critical exchanges, which is not governed by strict economic imperatives. By creating a network, firstly in Europe, we shall strive to gain recognition and appreciation for what experts in the field of children's and youth culture (institutes, reviews or research centres) consider to be the best contemporary production (for the time being, our project will be limited to books) in the European Union. Next, we shalllet the power which Jack Goody calls "the pictorial reason" act on the dreams of readers and creators. We
know that in the book of this title2, the English researcher showed the clarifying effect brought by writing compared with the oral tradition. We shall take as a starting point the plastic image, since this is what forms the basis of the culture of today's young readers whom we have called the "children of the
videosphere ,,3 .
Books for children and teenagers make up a true "visual memory" but, like any image, they contain a "pictorial folly", to borrow Anne-Marie Christin's formula4: like projection screens, they implicitly record the tacit judgements that a nation makes about its own people or about a neighbouring people. They convey a set of preconceptions that it is sometimes necessary to express with the rigour brought by writing and analysis, but they abandon to the sensoriality of shapes and colours the part of the "unsaid", which is what creates their appeal. Thus, the recent flfst day of consultation held at the Institut Charles Perrault on 26th June 2000, brought together representatives of identical research or documentation centres ftom 12 countries in Europe; also invited was the Swiss Institute of Children's Literature, represented by Denise von Stockar, with whom we have shared a long collaboration. This meeting enabled us to establish a first representative choice of five significant albums published in the last three years in each country, selected by the representative of the organisation which was participating in the meeting.
Jack Goody, The domesication
of the savage mind, Cambridge
Jean Perrot, see the flfst part of "Les enfants de la vidéosphere, entre virtuel et chocolat", in Jeux et enjeux du livre d'enfance et de jeunesse, Paris: le Cercle de la Librairie, 1999, p.22-48. 4 Anne-Marie Christin, L'image écrite ou La Déraison Graphique,Paris, Flammarion, "Idéees et recherches" collection, 1995.
An exhibition resulted ftom this, which is at the disposal of people or institutes who wish to make it public. The following presentations will make up the brochure, presenting the criteria which governed the exploration of the production. These criteria are not exempt from a certain subjectivity, but they have the advantage of showing the explicit positions of a certain group of experts at a given time in history. It is not, of course, a case of locking these books away in the closed space defined by a handful of political preconceptions, but rather ofworking towards a lifting of the ban-iers which still limit communication between peoples. What we hope to do, to start with, is to contribute to a concrete experience and appreciation of what could later develop into a true European spirit. Far from simply wishing to record old judgements passed down ftom history or tradition, our project, at the risk of repeating ourselves, aims to find common critical instruments able to generate new ones and to consider at their true value, the living creation which distinguishes each country.
Problems of description: methods and critical apprehension The paintings from those "pictures ftom an exhibition" to bon-ow the title of a work by the composer, Mussorgsky which we will later examine, respond to questions concerning the very coherence of any system of classification.
What are the outstanding characteristics which enable us to define the identity of a nation? Should we take into account climate, landscape, costume or traditions? Or the picture individuals have of their relationship to the world or to neighbouring peoples? Are we to oppose the cool light of the
Scandinavian countries to the reputedly more sensual gleam of the Mediterranean countries? We shall refer the reader here to the odd description "European nations" found in a work from the beginning of the XVIllth century, this "Beschreibung und Konterfei der Europaischen Nationen" by the Austrian painter Steinmark, examined by Jack Goody in his previously cited book. Here, nationalities are dermed by "manners", by religions, costumes, illnesses, hobbies etc. We can note, in passing, the strangeness of certain judgements. It may amaze us, for example, to see that at the time, the "manner" of the Greek was to be "as capricious as April", while the Spaniard is considered to be "haughty", the Englishman" distinguished" and the Hungarian "disloyal"s. The crossing of codes (be it psychological, sociological or moral) and of referential criteria qualifies as much as it cancels out a set of sundry oppositions we find about illness. Here, the Greek suffers from anaemia, the Spaniard from constipation, the Hungarian from influenza and the German from gout! This example reveals the tendency to fill empty boxes at any cost at the expense of the well-defined point of view which any table requires. This tendency is even more dangerous than that which consists of neglecting the evolution of mentalities and national images through time. It is obvious that the "spectre" of stereotypes and implicit values which underlies our vision of nationalities, like the production of albums today, is forever changing. As Denise von Stockar was correct to point out, young Swiss illustrators refuse above all, now, to be the mouthpieces of a
S Jack Goody, The domestication p.256-257. of the savage mind, Cambridge university press, 1977,
national tourist office which would aim to praise the green mountains or the lakes which have been extensively used to paint a picture of a idyllic country and have masked a more complex reality. However, we know that the idea of a Europe of nationalities born in the XIXth century is not dead and lives side by side with that of an open, multicultural Europe, which opens out into the new millennium. The contribution of Irish albums, on this theme, seems to us to be a decisive one, in that it represents a quest for autonomy from a powerful neighbour which has for long dominated the national scene. As Marie Nikolajeva notes in Children's literature comes of age6, it is tales which still seem to dominate, because they correspond to a written inventory of a heritage which needs to be celebrated and illustrated. For countries where the tradition goes back further, like Austri~ it is linguistic games and research into the theatricality of writing which dominate. However, these oppositions are tending to vanish under the effect of globalisation and of a generalised diffusion of culture. It seems to us then, that four factors are of crucial importance in the following articles. Firstly, variety: linked to the history of the nations and the conceptions of the child reader which still appear in Europe in the era of the Declaration ofChildren's Rights, ratified in 1989. It will be seen, for example, that the cult of an innocent child who would naturally be linked to nature and would be in possession of a truth lost by adults is not absent from these pages.
Maria Niekolajeva, Children's literature comes of age: towards new aesthetism, York, London, Garland Publishing Inc., 1996.
A second aspect is the very content of the messages addressed to these children growing up: the emphasis here seems to be split between a strict moralising tone which is traditionally linked to the historical origins of children's literature, and a more aesthetic point of view which gives a back seat to questions of learning in favour of the visual demands of representation. Next, as for the critical essay, the greater or lesser sensibility of researchers to the problems posed by the relationship between text and image results in a certain disparity which is interesting in the approach to the corpus. In this case, one is tom between a technical attitude and a more subjective approach based on statement of personal tastes or echoing collective opinions, which do not give rise to a critical distancing ftom national preconceptions. Finally it is the special relationship installed with a specific heritage the wish to preserve it, or the subconscious tendency to ignore it which introduces the differences in approach of the works described in this volume.
Rather than proceeding to a precise analysis of the criteria which have guided the following analyses, we would like, in this introduction, to bring to light a certain number of oppositions which are voiced in the description of the illustrations and which inform us about the positions of the critics themselves. Their reading gives a good idea of what is at stake and of the dynamics implied by the approach.
Revealing oppositions It is obvious that our colleague form the German Sanchez Rupiérez Foundation is more concerned with the reactions of the child reader than Professor Antonio Faeti, who is mainly
interested in situating the talents in Italian illustrating in relation to the major artistic trends in his country and in art in general. Indeed, Raquel Lopez Royo points out that her choice expresses a policy of institutional promotion, which aims to promote "books, which stimulate the reader, which invite them to grow up through reading, as much through the content as through the visual approach" and she says we must reject albums which pander" only to the complacency of the adult" . As for Antonio Faeti, he emphasizes the subtle nuances which oppose two antithetic styles in the domain of illustration, "the most haphazard, most mannerist, the most intensely colourist style to a more subtle fonnalism, which is more attentive to a melodious song". We shall see that this theoretical opposition colours the choice of albums to be studied: the Spanish books are maybe closer to a child readership which it is necessary to train to read albums whereas the Italian books are more difficult to recognise in the dominant system of tastes encouraged by mass child culture, even if the choice relies on the confirmed practical experience of the LiBeR review and of Carla Poesio. An opposition which this time marks the social vision of the critics shows up, for example, in the shape taken by postindustrial society in Spain or in the Scandinavian countries. In the latter case, the release trom the servitude of heavy industry leaves intact the relationship to nature which seems to have been greatly spared and which still benefits trom a respect and an emotional response. This attitude results in the myth of an Eden where the child appears as king, as is shown by Kaisu Râttyâ's analysis of Tomppa goes fishing by Kritiina Louhi. This interest which is apparently just as strong in Sweden is less evident in Lena Kareland's essay, which focuses more on relational problems or metaphysical concerns. These are subtle
cultural nuances that need to be checked, through finer analysis, but which it is not irrelevant to point out immediately. The ideal dream society for children is always situated between two antithetical poles and moves between authoritarianism and liberalism both of which can be traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Emile, as Hans Eino Ewers pointed out on the subject of the history of Gennan children's literature 7. We find consequences of this dilemma in the judgements of Barbara Scharioth, whose selection warns against "stereotyped albums which pursue teaching goals with innocent stories (of animals) or which aim to be entertaining" and which "constitute a large share of the market"; these albums are rejected in her selection to favour albums in which "recognised artists" see the possibility of "translating into pictures the idea they have fonned of the young people of today or of their own concerns about childhood" and so turn into tellers of a "story which they hope will appeal to young people as well as to the not so young" . Raquel Lopez Royo also underlines the polyphonic effects of certain Spanish narratives and the "challenge" they present to the child reader, finally "rewarded" by the pleasure gained on this original reading. Finally, Morag Styles reminds us that the whole success of English albums on an international scale stems from such a challenge addressed to the children of the world particularly through an inimitable use ofhumour. Another opposition which seems worthy of our attention is the emphasis of analyses which is sometimes placed on the
Hans Eino Ewers, inHistory
in the Western World, Paris, Le Seuil, 1998.
content of the albums studied, and other times on narrative techniques or the visual messages used to communicate them. Isabelle Nières-Chevrel and Michel Defourny have attempted to strike a balance between these perspectives for the French and Belgian selections, stressing the European commitments of artists like Georges Lemoine or Anne Brouillard, and the graphic research of Christian Voltz, Cathy Couprie and Antoine Louchard, José Parrondo's work on line drawing or Gabrielle Vincent's work on colour. In both cases, the consideration of artists like Gabrielle Vincent or Elzbieta shows that a point of view dominated by tenderness and a high degree of emotive communication with the child are never neglected. The role of the cultural history of a country is not forgotten by Torbein Weinrich writing about Danish books or by Maria da Nadividade Pires about Portugal. In the first case, the choice of two illustrations of the classic Niels Klim by Ludwig Holberg, a sort of Scandinavian Molière, allows an enlightening comparison to be made on the strategies of national illustration, while at the same time providing a historical basis for the comic dominance which, in the eyes of the critic, characterises the contemporary Danish album marked above all by nonconfonnism and anti-establishmentarianism. The recourse to Salvador Dali's surrealism here again shows the freedom of expression of an art form which has appropriated the main schools of art to make them available to readers. The denounced danger which occasionally threatens all countries, could now be described by what Torbein Weinreich, using Ellaine Moss's formula, calls "an adulteration", an art which is too accommodating to the adult. For Maria da Nadividade Pires, it is less a case of guarding against this shortcoming than of not selling short the cultural
heritage, like that of nursery rhymes, or of not forgetting to commemorate important events in the country's history, such as the Portuguese conquest of Brazil. Is this the effect of a recent celebration? The Portuguese publishing industry, which was long deprived of its freedo~ voices the concern of "historical and literary references" in culture and a wish to broaden its horizons which is shown by Manuela Bacelar's provocative illustration of Perrault's classic tales. The way in which the sea and voyages have moulded the national sensibility is not neglected either, but Maria da Nadividade Pires believes they should not be overestimated. Following on from the remarks we have already made, it will be shown that Irish albums attempt to celebrate the heroes of their heritage, Cuchulain and other characters of Celtic legend. The all-powerful presence of the horse as an indispensable assistant to the "son of the King of Ireland" in Brendan Behan's adaptation, as well as the presence of the young city-dweller Christy, reflect an imaginary rural world based on wide open spaces, on the energy of a spirited nature not yet refined by being enclosed in cities. A special relationship to the body of the animal, good-humoured banter and the delight of storytelling are thus opposed to the linguistic complexities and the more interiorised jousting of the Austrian texts which reflect a more closed world based on a series of relationships marked by a strict observation of the social champ clos. Finally, the consideration of a national heritage which proves to be that of Europe and of the whole worl<L above all characterises Greece, the "mother" of us all. This is a heavy responsibility! It should not overshadow the development of an art which also borrows from other cultures fonn the present time. Thus Alexandra Zervou, has succeeded in showing that Alki Zéi's heroine in Alice in Marbleland is not unaware of the