Christine NÃ¶stlinger, award-winning children's writer from Austria, dies at 81
Austrian writer Christine NÃ¶stlinger won two of the highest prizes in childrenâs literature. (Ronald Zak/AP) July 16 at 7:57 PM Email the author
Christine NÃ¶stlinger, an Austrian childrenâs writer whose more than 150 books â" including works about an oppressive âcucumber kingâ who lords over a cellar and a âfactory-made boyâ who always goes to bed on time â" earned her some of the highest honors in childrenâs literature, died June 28 in Vienna. She was 81.
Her publisher, Residenz Verlag, announced the death but did not give a cause. She had recently told News, an Austrian magazine, that she was struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but was ânot allo wed to complain about it after smoking for 60 years.â
If less known in the United States, Ms. NÃ¶stlinger was a major literary force in Europe, where she acquired a reputation as a champion for disadvantaged children and racial equality. Her books, which included collections of poetry and journalism for adults, sold millions of copies and were translated into 30 languages.
In a statement, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen wrote that the country had âlost one of its most important international literary voicesâ as well as âa loud and clear voice against all forms of injustice and oppression.â
A onetime art school student, Ms. NÃ¶stlinger thought she was about to launch her career as an illustrator when she drew a plump, red-haired girl with an impish personality. Writing a childrenâs story to accompany her sketches, she published âFiery Fredericaâ in 1970 â" a German-language book that was more acclaimed for its prose than its pictures.
âAs I was very keen on approval at the time, I took to writing,â Ms. NÃ¶stlinger later quipped.
The story of Frederica, like nearly all of Ms. NÃ¶stlingerâs tales for children, was fantastical but not escapist, with serious themes but a dash of silliness that drew comparisons to British writer E. Nesbit. At its center was a girl who is bullied because of her brightly colored hair, which has magical powers that enable her to flee her tormentors.
While the bookâs protagonist escaped into a new and better world, Ms. NÃ¶stlinger said she sought to encourage children to create such a world here on Earth.
âSince children live in an environment which offers them no encouragement to develop Utopias for themselves, we have to take them by the arm and show them how beautiful, cheerful, just and humane this world could be,â she said in 1984, accepting the Hans Christian Andersen Award for childrenâs literature.
âRightly done,â she continued , âthis will make children long for that better world, and their longing will make them willing to think about what must be initiated in order to produce the world they long for.â
Among Ms. NÃ¶stlingerâs best-known books was the young-adult novel âFly Away Homeâ (1973), which was based on her childhood in Vienna during World War II, when the city was occupied by Nazi forces and then the Soviet Red Army. (The book was adapted into an Austrian film of the same name in 2016.)Full Screen Autoplay Close Skip Ad Ã Notable deaths so far this year View Photos Caption Remembering those who have died in 2018. Buy Photo Wait 1 second to continue.
She also wrote books including âThe Cucumber Kingâ (1 972), about an autocratic vegetable, and âConrad: The Factory-Made Boyâ (1975), about a divorcÃ©e â" Mrs. Bertie Bartolotti â" who receives a mechanical child in the mail. Heâs been delivered by mistake and, to avoid being returned, must learn how to be like the other algebra-hating, junk-food-eating ârealâ boys at school.
In 2003, Ms. NÃ¶stlinger shared the inaugural Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award with writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak. The 5 million kroner prize, then worth about $580,000, is the worldâs largest prize for childrenâs and young-adult literature.
In its citation, the Lindgren jury praised Ms. NÃ¶stlingerâs âdisrespectful humor, clearsighted solemnity and inconspicuous warmth.â She was, they added, âa reliably bad child-rearing influence of the same caliber as Astrid Lindgren,â the Swedish creator of Pippi Longstocking.
Christine NÃ¶stlinger was born in Vienna on Oct. 13, 1936, to a family of politically active social ists. Her father was a watchmaker and her mother ran a nursery school, and the family was made homeless after Allied forces bombed Vienna during World War II.
Ms. NÃ¶stlinger, who was reportedly twice married, dropped out of art school in the late 1950s to raise her two daughters, Christiane NÃ¶stlinger and Barbara WaldschÃ¼tz. They later contributed illustrations to her books.
A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
Ms. NÃ¶stlinger received one of Austriaâs highest national honors, the Grand Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic, and in recent years published books including âBeing a Woman Isnât a Sportâ (2011), a collection of her newspaper columns, and âHappiness Is a Momentâ (2013), a memoir.
She had stopped writing for children altogether, she told the magazine News shortly before death, in part because she found herself out of touch with todayâs young readers.
âHow am I supposed to know what make s kids move when they sit on their smartphone for half a day and do something with two thumbs on it?â she said. âBesides, if I hear what todayâs kids like to read, itâs mostly fantasy, and itâs so far from me. .â.â. I understand that they have a longing to flee this complicated world and to go to another, where other rules, different laws prevail and ultimately good always triumphs. But thatâs not what I could write.â
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