Guus Kuijer and the Dutch edition of The Book of Everything.

‘Guus is on TV!’ yelled Mevrouw T. She watches the Dutch language news on the multicultural SBS channel each morning at 8.04 a.m. Indeed, there was Guus Kuijer, shyly rising to his feet to acknowledge the announcement of the winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.

I couldn’t be more delighted if I’d won it myself.

One of the first books I managed to read in Dutch was Guus Kuijer’s Op je kop in de prullenbak (‘On your head in the wastepaper basket’). His books about Madelief were favourites in our family in the 1970s. The compelling stories and clear, elegant language were perfect for a young Australian beginning to learn Dutch.

It was exciting to be commissioned to write a stage adaptation of The Book of Everything, though it was with great trepidation that I sent my draft script off to publishers Querido for his approval. I received a one line response from Mr Kuijer, in Dutch, to the effect of ‘Let Mr Tulloch continue on his merry way.’ Phew!

Mevrouw T and I have since got to know the Kuijers and we’ve continued to read Guus’ books. He’s moved away from children’s literature recently, writing entertaining, thought-provoking and challenging books about history, religion and philosophy. He’s also doing his best to turn the 140-character tweet into an art form – usually in Dutch, unfortunately for 99% of the world’s Twitter followers.

I admire him enormously, find his writing inspirational and much enjoy his company.

So you can imagine that I will be thoroughly nervous sitting in the New Victory Theater in New York next month as Guus Kuijer sees our production on stage for the first time.

He, on the other hand, is entitled to be perfectly relaxed. He can start getting nervous as the Astrid Lindgren* award ceremony in Stockholm approaches in May.

*Astrid Lindgren was a Swedish author, the creator of Pippi Longstocking.


Filed under Art

8 responses to “CONGRATULATIONS, GUUS KUIJER – Astrid Lindgren award

  1. Mike

    Hear, hear! Very exciting indeed.

    • For me, this is just as exciting as the years when Australians Sonya Hartnett and Shaun Tan won.

      Guus Kuijer has the disadvantage of writing in Dutch, though of course many of his books have been translated. But he deserves a much wider audience and I hope this will help to bring it to him.

      • Mike

        The Book of Everything is a tantalising glimpse of a writer. He creates such a complete world in this slim book, and with such mastery, that I really wondered what else he might be capable of doing. I will probably never learn Dutch, so we can only hope that this award will encourage more of his books into English.

  2. shawjonathan

    Richard, I just saw this somewhere else and immediately sent you an excited email. Obviously I should always read your blog first!

  3. Richard, I’m excited for both of you! I remember when you first spoke of writing the script for The Book of Everything. Will you be attending the ceremony in Stockholm?

    • It’s wonderful recognition for Guus Kuijer, Antonina, but of course no credit to me – I did nothing but agree to adapt a great novel. So no, we won’t be in Stockholm. In the unlikely event of them giving him a ticker-tape homecoming parade along the Amsterdam canals, we’ll stand by the water’s edge and clap.

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