Flemish author Bart Moeyaert is the winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2019, the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. The award amounts to 5 million Swedish krona (approx. $613,000 or EUR 500 000) and is given annually to a single laureate or to several.
Bart Moeyaert was born in 1964 and lives in Antwerp, Belgium. He made his debut at age 19 with the award-winning novel Duet met valse noten (1983). His large and diverse body of work includes more than 50 titles, ranging from picture books and YA novels to poetry. His critically acclaimed books have been translated in more than 20 countries. He also writes television screenplays and stage plays, has translated a number of novels, and teaches creative writing.
“When I was nine I read Astrid Lindgren’s books and the world of Astrid Lindgren was like my own family and the real world was like hers. And later I saw that her world was about inclusion. And that was comforting because I was a loner in my big family since I was the youngest. And this influenced my work. I want to broaden the borders of children’s literature,” says Bart Moeyaert when he was informed about the award.
The jury’s citation reads:
Bart Moeyaert’s condensed and musical language vibrates with suppressed emotions and unspoken desires. He portrays relationships at crisis point with a cinematic immediacy, even as his complex narratives suggest new ways forward. Bart Moeyaert’s luminous work underscores the fact that books for children and young people have a self-evident place in world literature.
Body of work: Bart Moeyaert works in shades of grey. He draws no easy lines between good and evil, heroes and villains. Instead, he puts complex relationships under the loupe. We find motives for his characters’ actions in the periphery of the stories: perhaps an absence, or a brokenness, or some lack we sense but never see. Nor does Moeyaert serve up clear-cut happy endings. Instead, the onward path reveals itself in a comprehension of the circumstances and in the characters themselves.
Selected books: His latest novel, Tegenwoordig heet iedereen Sorry (Everybody’s Sorry Nowadays), was published in October 2018 and is a razor-sharp, emotionally charged portrait of twelve-year-old Bianca. The masterpiece Het is de liefde die we niet begrijpen (1999, It’s Love We Don’t Understand) tells the story of a family coming apart at the seams, as seen through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old girl. The pulse-racing drama Blote handen (1995, Bare Hands), winner of the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, describes a boy’s tumultuous feelings and takes place on an eventful New Year’s Eve. In the autobiographical Broere (2002, Brothers), Moeyaert writes with warmth and humor about growing up as the youngest of seven brothers. The book was adapted for the stage (with Moeyaert himself in a role) and received the prestigious Woutertje Pieterse Prijs.
[Based on a press release.]