Thursday, 13 August 2009

Nostalgic trip

In 1981, the International Research Society for Children's Literature (IRSCL) had its biennial conference in Moscow. I was employed as an interpreter, and I was the only one among the interpreters that was interested in children's literature. The others saw no difference between literature, finance or chemistry. At that conference, I met all the big stars in world child lit research, but they were all - like stars - distant and inaccessible. Yet two years later, in 1983, I participated in the next conference, in Bordeaux, as a full-fledged member. Another ten years, and I was the President.

I have just returned from the IRSCL conference in Frankfurt. For various reasons, I hadn't been to these conferences for ten years, and it was 40 years since the organisation was founded, so everybody was there. People from the many, many periods of my professional life. People I met in Moscow when I was jack-of-all-trades. People I met in Bordeaux when I was a little intimidated student who gave her worthless paper at the very last session of the very last day. People with whom I served on the Board and shared many a cherished memory. People whom I'd encouraged to join the organisation and attend the conferences. People I have visited as a guest lecturer, and people who came to visit me. People whom I had met regularly for the past twenty-five years. People I hadn't met for twenty-five years.

They have all become slightly older. I guess I have also become slightly older.

The conference organisers had, among many other instructions, told us not to kiss or hug because of swine flu. Nobody cared. It was one big hug all over. Introducing people to each other. Being introduced. My usual fear that people don't remember me. At one point I saw the Scholar, the Keynote Speaker, in the crowd. There were so many people and so many parallel sessions that you could easily miss people you really wanted to meet. I was sure the Scholar didn't remember me, so I decided to approach her when the current speech was over, saying: "You may not remember me but we met at..." As soon as the speech was over, she threw herself in my arms: "I am SO GLAD to see you".

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