Tuesday, 29 March 2011

From a former jury member

This afternoon I watched the announcement of this year's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner on my computer. I am not supposed to reveal how the jury works - it's just as top secret as the Nobel Prize - but I can share the excitement of the moment when a year of hard work focuses on one sentence: "The winner of this year's award is..." And the people in the room, and people out there watching and listening, either say, disappointed: "Who's that?" or yell ecstatically: "YES!". I yelled "YES!" in the empty house today, because  Shaun Tan was my favourite.

I am a bit sad about not being part of the jury any more, but it wouldn't have worked when we moved to Cambridge, and at that point I also felt that six years was enough. It was a lot more work than we all realised when we were asked to be on the jury ten years ago. It was however so gratifying that it was worth all the trouble. Reading books from all over the world, books I would probably not have read otherwise. Meeting regularly to talk about books. Meeting to ARGUE about books. We child lit people are normally very kind and well-behaved, but in a jury you have to be able to argue, even quarrel, to come up with a good winner. The statutes of the award specify "literature of highest literary quality in the spirit of Astrid Lindgren". What is highest quality? What does "in the spirit" mean? And how often do we have the privilege of talking to colleagues on these matters?

So back to that moment, after all the reading and discussing and arguments, when the jury has made a decision, we call the winner, perhaps waking them up at dawn or catching them at the last moment before they go out to walk the dog; the voice in the loudspeaker as the Chair of the jury says: "You are the winner", and hearing sometimes: "Is it a joke?" or "I didn't know I was nominated" or "Now I can repair the roof". And then the lunch just before the announcement, the press outside, the tension. Then - interviews, champagne and the long coach ride back to Stockholm, listening to news and comments. And looking forward to the award ceremony.

I hope the jury are still having fun.


Cornelia said...

If I had not been sitting in the library when I found out about Shaun Tan winning the ALMA, I would have shouted a long yodelling "YEeEeESSS!" and jumped to the ceiling.

Maria Nikolajeva said...

I guess this is the first ALMA winner when many people all over the world shouted YES, outloud or silent.