Philip Pullman fæddist í Norwich 19. október 1946, sonur Alfred Outram (flugmanns) and Audrey Evelyn (áður Merrifield) Pullman.
Hann gekk fyrst í skóla í Ysgol Ardudwy, Harlech og Gwynedd, og loks háskólann í Oxford, en útskrifaðist þaðan 1968. Hann kvæntist Judith Speller árið 1970 og þau eiga tvo syni, Jamie, sem er atvinnuvíóluleikari og Tom, sem er enn í skóla. Hann kenndi á miðstigum grunnskóla í nokkur ár og skrifaði um leið skólaleikrit fyrir börnin.
Frá 1988-96 vann hann í hlutastarfi sem bókmenntakennari við Westminster College í Oxford, þar sem hann kenndi viktoríubókmenntir, frásagnahefð og skapandi skrif. Eitt af því sem hann sérhæfði sig í var munnleg sagnahefð. Hann hefur skrifað mikið um samband texta og ímynda, og flutt marga fyrirlestra um það efni.
Philip Pullman er einn af forsvarsmönnum the Centre for the Children's Book og sat í dómnefnd Guardian barnabókaverðlaunanna 1994 og 1996. Hann er hættur að kenna og vinnur við skriftir í litlum kofa í bakgarðinum heima hjá sér í Oxford. Önnur áhugamál hans eru m.a. teikning og tónlist.
Frá eigin brjósti segi ég (þýðandinn Anna Heiða) að hann er frábær maður, ekki bara góður rithöfundur. Ég hef hlustað á hann halda fyrirlestur um THE AMBER SPYGLASS og spjallað við hann, bæði á ráðstefnum og eins í gegnum tölvupóst. Hann útskýrði svo skemmtilega í ofannefndum fyrirlestri hvernig hann fann upp fólk á hjólum sem kemur fyrir í þriðju bókinni! Ég sendi honum eitt sinn tölvupóst vegna þess að ég rakst í þýðingunni á hvítan sendiferðabíl. Þar sem menn ferðast með gufulestum og loftbelgjum fannst mér svo ótrúlegt að þar væru bílar! Hann svaraði mér í tölvupósti í janúar 2000, eins og sjá má:
Komdu sæl og gleðilega nýja öld!
Þetta með sendiferðabílinn var eitt af þeim skiptum þegar ég blanda saman þróaðri og vanþróaðri (ef svo má segja) tækni. Það er líka til kjarnorka í heimi Lýru, og þau vita um frumeindir; og þar sem gufuvélar eru of þungar til að nota í loftför, verður að nota sprengirýmisvélar (internal combustion engines) til að knýja þau. Þess vegna eru vélknúnir bílar ekki óhugsandi.
Ein af þeim ákvörðunum sem maður verður að taka þegar saga eins og þessi er skrifuð er hversu miklar upplýsingar á að láta í té. Of miklar upplýsingar og það tefur frásögnina og flækist fyrir; of litlar og fólk situr og veit ekki hvað er að gerast. Dæmi úr THE AMBER SPYGLASS: Ég er að útskýra uppruna fylgna - hvernig fá menn þær? Það væri til einskis að fara út í fæðingartækni, ef svo má segja, það er hvernig fylgjur fæðast. FÆÐAST þær? Verða þær bara allt í einu til? Fæðir kvenfylgja föðursins fylgjubarn um leið og móðir barnsins fæðir hið mannlega barn? Höfðu þá fylgjurnar mök um leið og . . .? Og svo framvegis.
Það væru einstök merki um heimsku rithöfundar að eyða tíma í þess háttar útskýringar, svo ég sleppi því bara. Ef lesendur vilja ímynda sér það sjálfir, er ekkert sem stöðvar þá. Þannig var það með tæknina: ég vildi ekki eyða tíma lesandans með útskýringum. Ef þetta háttalag mitt leiðir stundum til ráðgátu, þá er mitt mottó - þá það!
Gangi þér vel með þýðinguna. Ég er upp með mér og ánægður að þú skulir taka hlutverk þitt svo alvarlega!
Með bestu kveðju,
Þannig að ég, þýðandinn, setti hvíta sendiferðabílinn inn í bókina!
Bækur Philips Pullman hafa fengið ýmsar viðurkenningar, þ.á.m.
The Ruby in the Smoke:
The International Reading Association Children's Book Award 1988
Preis der Leseratten, þýzka sjónvarpið, 1988
The Lancashire Libraries Children's Book Award, 1988
Shadow in the North:
Útnefnd til The Edgar Allan Poe Award af The Mystery Writers of America
The Tiger in the Well:
Útnefnd til Guardian Children's Book Award in 1992
The Guardian Children's Fiction Award, 1996
The Carnegie Medal, 1996
Children's Book of the Year in the British Book Awards, 1996
The Firework-Maker's Daughter
Smarties Gold Award, 1996
Smarties Silver Award, 1997
Útnefnd til Whitbread Children's Book of the Year 1997
Útnefnd til Carnegie Medal, 1997.
Pullman hefur skrifað ótal skáldsögur, allt frá samtímasögum og fantasíum til hryllingssagna í 19. aldar-stíl. Hann hefur auk skáldsagna skrifað bæði leikrit og myndabækur. Útgefnar bækur Pullmans eru m.a.
Ancient Civilisations (1978)
Count Karlstein, or the Ride of the Demon Huntsman (1982)
How to be Cool (1987) - (gert að sjónvarpsþætti hjá Granada TV 1988)
Detective Stories (1998)
Sally Lockhart sögulegar skáldsögur:
The Ruby in the Smoke (1987)
The Shadow in the North (1987)
The Tiger in the Well (1990)
The Tin Princess (1994)
Spring-Heeled Jack: A Story of Bravery and Evil (1989)
The Broken Bridge (1990)
The White Mercedes (1992)
The Firework Maker's Daughter (1995)
Clockwork: Or All Wound Up (1998), Count Karlstein (1998)
His Dark Materials þríleikurinn:
Northern Lights (1996)
The Subtle Knife (1997)
The Amber Spyglass (2000)
Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Limehouse Horror (1993)
The Three Musketeers (1985)
Philip Pullman hefur komið á framfæri mjög ákveðnum skoðunum á hinum ýmsu hlutum í viðtölum og fyrirlestrum, og fer ekki leynt með gagnrýni sína. Honum finnst til dæmis að rithöfundar leggi of litla áherslu á að segja söguna, þ.e. frásögnina sjálfa, og velti sér of mikið upp úr öðrum hlutum. Hann gagnrýnir Narnia-bækurnar og segir að C.S. Lewis leggi allt of mikla áherslu á það að prédika yfir lesandanum - hann sitji á hástól og segi lesandanum hvernig hann (og aðrir) eigi að hegða sér.
Pullman segir í viðtali við netbókaverslunina amazon.com að HIS DARK MATERIALS bækurnar séu ekki fantasíur, heldur mjög raunsæjar sögur - sálfræðilega séð. Hann segist takast á við mál sem yfirleitt sé tekist á við í raunsæisbókmenntum fyrir börn, t.d. unglingsárin, kynþroska, o.s.frv., og það sé megininntak sögunnar. Fantasían sé þarna til að styðja við bakið á raunsæinu, en ekki sjálfrar hennar vegna. Annars væru fylgjur til dæmis tilgangslaust skraut, sem hefðu ekkert að segja í sögunni. Hann notar fylgjurnar til að sýna fram á alls konar staðreyndir í sambandi við mannlegan breyskleika, sem ekki væri svo auðvelt að sýna án þeirra.
Pullman segir að með ritun Gyllta áttavitans hafi hann reynt að skrifa bók um það hvað það ER að vera mannlegur, að þjást og læra eitthvað. Hann segir að mikið af fantasíubókmenntum hafi heila verkfæratösku til að vinna með og nýti hana oft ekki nema til að búa til einfalda stríðsleiki. Af hverju ættu fantasíur ekki að kenna manni jafnmikið um hvernig það er að verða fullorðinn eins og verk George Eliot eða Jane Austen? segir hann. Fáar fantasíur gera það, að hans sögn. Ein af þeim er PARADÍSARMISSIR (Paradise Lost) eftir John Milton, en Pullman notar einmitt tilvitnun úr því ljóði í upphafi GYLLTA ÁTTAVITANS .
VIÐTAL (sem ég er að þýða)
1 Your name is one of 20 on the longlist for Children's Laureate. Do we take it that this means you are happy for your name to go forward to the shortlisting stage and that you feel positively about the envisaged role of a Children's Laureate?
The Children's Laureate is too new for anyone to have a grip on what it will turn out to mean. I have let my name go forward not in the expectation of making the short-list, but simply because if someone offers you something, it seems rather churlish to turn it down. My own feeling, already publicly and privately expressed, is that the conception of the thing is an awkward blend of honour and job. It's all very well to honour someone for a lifetime's achievement – and there are several people on the shortlist who deserve that much more than I do – but some of them might be old and/or unwell, and in any case not prepared to give up precious time to go round doing a public relations job. I think it's a mistake to blend the two things together. Anyway, there are some people still alive but no longer working, like C.Walter Hodges, who deserve all kinds of gratitude and praise for their contribution to children's literature, who won't feature on a list like this because they've dropped out of the public eye. What we really need is something like an Academy of Children's Literature to do this sort of thing properly, and represent all of us who work in the field.
2 Your outspokenness about C. S. Lewis and the Narnia books, first aired at a conference in Cambridge during August, and more recently printed in a prominent article in The Guardian, took the children's books world aback. Do you feel, in general, there is insufficient astringency in chidlren's books commentary and criticism?
1. C.S.Lewis … When you criticise Narnia, what you're doing, I've discovered, is not what you think. You think you're offering an opinion about the literary or moral qualities of a work of fiction. In fact, unless you offer unqualified and unstinting praise, you're blaspheming. His followers are unhinged. I got two kinds of responses to my Guardian piece: half of them said Hoorah, you've said exactly what I've been feeling for years but never dared say; and the other half accused me of mean-mindedness, spite, and every kind of twisted malevolence. A correspondent in Canada forwarded to me some of the Internet stuff (this was before I knew how to subscribe to discussions groups, so I hadn't seen it for myself). I was amazed by the frothing swivel-eyed barminess of some of it. Apparently one of my motivations was envy, because Lewis's books have sold more than mine. Well, they would, with a fifty-year start, wouldn't you think? But that was the quality of the response. So you can't criticise C.S.Lewis with any hope of a rational discussion coming out of it. But in general, in the reviews I get asked to do, I avoid putting the boot in: there isn't room, in the limited space children's books have, for condemnation as well as praise. Far better to use the little opportunity the papers give you to talk about children's books to praise something readers might not otherwise come across.
3 Did you read the Narnia books when you were a boy, and if so were you as uneasy about them then as you are now?
No, I didn't read the whole of Narnia as a boy: I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and felt slightly queasy, as if I were being pressured to agree to something I wasn't sure of. Now I can see what that was, and why I felt odd. Reading the whole sequence for the first time as an adult, I was angered and nauseated by the sneakiness of that powerful seductive narrative voice, that favourite-uncle stance, assuming my assent to his sneering attitude to anything remotely progressive in social terms, or to people with brown faces, or to children who don't seem like his own favourites. No-one has expressed this better than John Goldthwaite, in his marvellous A Natural History of Make-Believe (OUP, 1996), when he compares Lewis to that sort of teacher who seeks to curry favour with the bullies in his class by mocking the children they would be picking on anyway: the "little girls with fat legs" in Prince Caspian, for example.
4 Your comments on fantasy in another interview with the American internet bookshop Amazon, recently posted on the Amazon.co.uk site, and your efforts to disassociate yourself with the mainstream of children's fantasy, have surprised and confused many of your adult readers. An American on an e-mail mailing list commented recently: "Is it true he claims his books aren't fantasy? And where does he get off being so stupid?" Do you have an answer to that?
They do take things seriously, don't they. We need a special sort of typeface to signify irony: not italic but ironic. (Not my own idea, but I forget whose). I have said that HIS DARK MATERIALS is not fantasy but stark realism, and my reason for this is to emphasise what I think is an important aspect of the story, namely the fact that it is realistic, in psychological terms. I deal with matters that might normally be encountered in works of realism, such as adolescence, sexuality, and so on; and they are the main subject matter of the story – the fantasy (which, of course, is there: no-one but a fool would think I meant there is no fantasy in the books at all) is there to support and embody them, not for its own sake. Daemons, for example, might otherwise be only a meaningless decoration, adding nothing to the story: but I use them to embody and picture some truths about human personality which I couldn't picture so easily without them. I'm trying to write a book about what it means to be human, to grow up, to suffer and learn. My quarrel with much (not all) fantasy is it has this marvellous toolbox and does nothing with it except construct shoot-em-up games. Why shouldn't a work of fantasy be as truthful and profound about becoming an adult human being as the work of George Eliot or Jane Austen? Well, there are a few fantasies that are. One of them is PARADISE LOST. That's where I get off being so stupid, in the words of that irony-free reader.
5 The first volume of His Dark Materials included an announcement saying that the second volume would be set "in the universe we know" and "The third will move between the universes". In the event The Subtle Knife, the second part, moves between three worlds, with helpful marginal motifs for the reader. What casued this change of plan?
My little announcement at the beginning of NORTHERN LIGHTS was overtaken by the need, when I got to Book Two, to let the reader know what was happening in Lyra's world. I had to go back and forth: hence the little motifs in the margin – the idea, I happily admit, of my editor Liz Cross.
6 The Subtle Knife does gain from the congruence of contemporary Oxford and the other worlds. The new paperback editions of the first two volumes contain as impressive an array of review quotes as any leading adult novel. Why do you think that this work has been so enthusiastically received?
I don't know. I can only be very grateful. I guess that it probably does have something to do with this fantasy/realism thing: the most frequent comment I get from adult readers is something along the lines of "I never normally read fantasy, but I was hooked at once …" and so forth. I'm giving them something they normally expect to get from realist fiction, which most readers probably prefer.
7 The reissue of The White Mercedes as The Butterfly Tattoo (also set in Oxford) earlier this year confirmed what a powerful realist writer you are. I liked the original title best, because the white Mercedes is such a sinister and imposing image at the book's conclusion. Who decided on the change?
The Macmillan editors, Marion Lloyd in particular, thought that THE WHITE MERCEDES was a title that would appeal more to boys, and be off-putting to girls. I wasn't sure, and I'm still not. The problem with changing titles is that someone is bound to buy it, thinking it's new, and be disappointed.
8 Coming back to the fantasy/other-world theme for a moment.When I reviewed The Subtle Knife in Literary Review, I wrote: "Where other writers of fantasy often merely pinch features from predecessors' visions, Pullman has created a unique otherworld, made all the more vivid by the frequent returns to Oxford." I had in mind, when writing this sentence, the phenomenal commercial success of the first Harry Potter book, which I have made no secret of being perplexed by. My perplexity has increased tenfold with the even greater success of the second book, and the spectacle of the first, in paperback now, being marketed for adults. Why any adult should want to read such derivative stuff, laced with juvenile jokes about bogeys of the nasal variety, rather than (or, even more puzzlingly, alongside) the literate, densely allusive writing of His Dark Materials I cannot fathom. My question is: were you at any stage concerned that the uncondescending references to Church lore and Milton might alienate some children?
No. I knew I was telling a story that would be gripping enough to take readers with it, and I have a high enough opinion of my readers to expect them to take a little difficulty in their stride. My readers are intelligent: I don't write for stupid people. Now mark this carefully, because otherwise I shall be misquoted and vilified again – we are all stupid, and we are all intelligent. The line dividing the stupid from the intelligent goes right down the middle of our heads. Others may find their readership on the stupid side: I don't. I pay my readers the compliment of assuming that they are intellectually adventurous.
I started telling stories as soon as I knew what stories were. I was fascinated by them: that something could happen and be connected to another thing, and that someone could put the two things together and show how the first thing caused the second thing, which then caused a third thing. I loved it. I love it still. I grew up at a time when TV wasn't as important as it is now. In fact, part of my childhood was spent in Australia at a time when that country didn't even have TV. So a lot of my early experience of stories came from the radio, which is a wonderful medium. I remember listening to gangster serials, and cowboy serials, and best of all: "Faster than a speeding bullet--more powerful than a locomotive--able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's SUPERMAN!" Superman on the radio was exciting enough, but when I first saw a Superman comic, it changed my life. Soon afterward I discovered Batman, too, whom I loved even more. I had to argue with my parents about them, though, because they weren't "proper" reading. I suppose that what persuaded them to let me carry on reading comics was the fact that I was also reading books just as greedily, and that I was good at spelling; so obviously the comics weren't harming me too much.
My favorite stories for a long time were ghost stories. I used to enjoy frightening myself and my friends with the tales I read, and making up stories about the tree in the woods we used to call the Hanging Tree, creeping past it in the dark and shivering as we looked at the bare, sinister outline against the sky. I still enjoy ghost stories, even though I don't think I believe in ghosts anymore. I was sure that I was going to write stories myself when I grew up. It's important to put it like that: not "I am a writer," but rather "I write stories." If you put the emphasis on yourself rather than your work, you're in danger of thinking that you're the most important thing. But you're not. The story is what matters, and you're only the servant, and your job is to get it out on time and in good order.
The most valuable thing I've learned about writing is to keep going, even when it's not coming easily. You sometimes hear people talk about something called "writer's block." Did you ever hear a plumber talk about plumber's block? Do doctors get doctor's block? Of course they don't. They work even when they don't want to. There are times when writing is very hard, too, when you can't think what to put next, and when staring at the empty page is miserable toil. Tough. Your job is to sit there and make things up, so do it.
As well as keeping going, there are many other things I've learned about this craft, and some of them came to me when I was teaching. What I enjoyed most in that difficult and valuable profession was telling stories, telling folk tales and ghost stories and Greek myths, over and over, until I knew them as well as I knew my own life. And in doing so, I learned some of the laws of a story. Not rules: rules can be changed. "Smoking Permitted Here" can become "No Smoking" overnight, if people decide smoking is a bad thing. But laws such as the law of gravity can't be changed: gravity is there whether we approve of it or not. And so are the laws of a story. A story that is unresolved will not satisfy: That's a law. If a scene does not advance the story, it will get in the way: That's another law. You must know exactly where your story begins: Thetis a third. And so on.
One strange thing about stories is that you sometimes know how long they're going to be, even before you've begun thinking about them. With His Dark Materials, the trilogy of which the first part is The Golden Compass, I knew from the very start--even before I had a main character in mind, and long before I knew what might happen to her--that this story would be 1,200 pages long. That was the size of it. I knew, too, that I was going to enter a world I hadn't known before: a world of fantasy. Previously, all of my books had been realistic. When I began writing it, I discovered a kind of freedom and excitement I'd never quite felt before. And that is one of the joys of writing: you constantly encounter new experiences.
I live in Oxford now, and I do my writing in a shed at the bottom of the garden. If the young boy I used to be could have looked ahead in time and seen the man I am today, writing stories in his shed, would he have been pleased? I wonder. Would that child who loved Batman comics and ghost stories approve of the novels I earn my living with now? I hope so. I hope he's still with me. I'm writing them for him.