Catching Up with Cornelia Funke at the Jaipur Lit Fest - Here's What She Has to Say
Cornelia Funke is the author of Inkheart, Inkspell, Inkdeath, Thief Lord, and Dragon Rider among others. More than twenty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide, and this German author has been one of the most successful children's writers in the world! At JLF, we talked to her about her magical life, both in fiction and outside it!
I first read your book when I was in class 7! How does it feel to have your books in libraries of far-off countries, appealing to children across the world?
It still feels every single day as if I have found a flying carpet in my closet! I come to countries I have never been to but all my characters have arrived already! As you say, to meet somebody who has read my books as a child and to imagine that you were a little girl and sitting there with my books, there is no greater magic imaginable!
When did you first feel that reading books changed your life?
I was raised in a small town, and I thought as a child, that the world cannot be this small and so boring! The books at that time were my only promise that the world is a more adventurous place. They were my doors and my windows to the world. And of course the TV too! People always think that authors don’t watch TV but I watch it obsessively!
Which are the German tales that you read as a child that influenced you?
I am of the generation where you read the Grimm's Fairy Tales and you read them without the Disney version so they were pretty dark and so I found them very haunting. I didn’t like them as a child, but I read them nevertheless.
They are timeless in so many ways, and have such impressive images. Fairytales work with images. A dragon can be a thousand things and to explain those with words is often very hard to do. We have to get back to telling stories through symbols and images because they hold so much more meaning!
Images are in fact inherited in a culture...do you think so?
Yes absolutely! They mean so many things, but we must always question what they mean too. For so long in the western civilization, the dragon was always an evil thing. But in Asia, you have a different concept of the dragon, who is benevolent here. I think it’s a very western attitude to think we have to break it, and that we have to kill the dragon. I think it’s much wiser to think that the dragon is benevolent and you can use its energy.
What are the things that you consciously have to keep in mind as you write for children? There must be a difference between writing for children and writing for adults?
You know, I don’t think so. The interesting thing is when you write for children, you also write for adults, because the parents will read the books aloud, the grandmother will read it and sometimes four generations read the stories together!
You have to be a storyteller for all ages and you have to try your best to make the story work for every generation. So you weave different layers into the story, and of course, as I am a grown-up, I will always have that perspective in there, but ultimately I do write for children. I cannot imagine writing any differently!
That’s amazing! So do you find writing for children limiting or liberating, and in what way?
Well, it’s interesting because I never find it to be limiting, I find it to be liberating because children so often so much believe in hope, and in light. And when you write for them, you remember that, and that’s a very beautiful thing. For the sequel to Dragon Rider, I went back to a younger mind.
For Mirrorworld, I do have my own age in mind and I do more complex themes like what does love do to you when you are grown up. So there are these differences in terms of themes and about going into a different skin but I think I’m one of the people who does remember what it feels like to be eight. But I can’t imagine what it feels to be eighty! Maybe if I make it to eighty, I will think oh you knew nothing at all!
As it turns out, Cornelia Funke is not just a super creative writer with an imagination that carries you afar, she’s also amazingly fun to talk to! We were glad for a chance to have a chat with her and hope she bases her next fantasy tale on Delhi!
This interview was conducted by Srishti Chaudhary. A graduate of literature from Lady Shri Ram College, Srishti's interests vary from writing on film, travel, politics and society. She takes life lessons every day, and her favorite subject to write on are people, as she believes that the world is going one way, and the people another!