The Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize was awarded for the first time during the Nordic Council Session in 2013 together with the other Nordic Council prizes. The award is the result of the Nordic Culture Ministers long-standing desire to strengthen and elevate literature for children and young people in the Region.
Þórarinn Leifsson: Maðurinn sem hataði börn. Novel, Mál og menning, 2014.
Maðurinn sem hataði börn (“The man who hated children”, not translated into English) is Þórarinn Leifsson’s third children’s book. His earlier books, Leyndarmál pabba (“Father’s big secret”, not translated into English) and Bókasafn ömmu Huldar (“Grandma Hulda’s Library”, not translated into English) are original, exciting, witty, and sinister. The first is about a father who is no ordinary father but a man-eater. The second portrays a future world in which all books are systematically eradicated. This latest book has the same literary qualities as the first two: it is witty, exciting, enlightening, and disturbing, but intense and original above all.
The book’s protagonist is Sylvek Kaminski Arias, a Spanish immigrant of Polish origin who lives in Reykjavik with his grandmother. His mother is dead, and as the story begins we find out that his sister has disappeared and that they’re just about to spend the last euro that they brought with them from Barcelona two years before. The family itself feeds the novel with material, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, for the most heinous of murderers has the city trembling in fear. The new tenant in Sylvek’s home turns out to hate children and Sylvek is convinced that he’s the murderer. The story that follows is thrilling and exciting, and moves in fantastic fashion down into Reykjavik’s underworld. The novel is a story of the secret police, a social critique, and a novel about poetry and mass culture, but most of all it portrays the development of Sylvek, a newcomer in the strange, foreign society that the novel describes.
Readers are likely to ask themselves whether a book like Maðurinn sem hataði börn is suitable for children. Although the book deals with very serious, complex, and controversial subjects, Leifsson uses humour and irony to turn reality on its head and show it in a new light. The book has been nominated for several awards in Iceland.
Born in Reykjavik in 1966, Leifsson is an author, artist, and illustrator. He has worked as a street artist, graphic designer, and author of books for children and young people. His works, which include illustrations for a number of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, have been published throughout the Nordic countries.