May 20, 2014

Auckland Writers Festival 2014: "Mirrorworlds" with Cornelia Funke

Guest post by Claire Gummer, Readers Services, Central City Library.

I came to the Auckland Writers Festival session with fantasy writer Cornelia Funke prepared for anything – and in particular for taking notes. Yet on pulling my writing equipment out of my backpack I found that the lead of not just one but both my shiny red pencils had broken. Funke could surely create some otherworldly explanation or solution; I simply had to hope my memory would serve me when I wrote about her “Mirrorworlds” session for Books in the City.


Funke, a vibrant 55-year-old, is German. While she can definitely be described as funky, she pronounces the ‘u’ in her name like the ‘oo’ in ‘book’ (rather than the ‘u’ in ‘fun’) and the ‘e’ like ‘er’ in ‘booker’. Her English is better than most native speakers’, though she still writes – handwrites, actually – in her first language. She describes her English translator as a little old lady who lives in Cambridge, England, and who is wonderful at suggesting words that capture the essence of characters more effectively than a direct translation, which might sound clunky in our language. So in the German edition of her novel Dragon Rider, for instance, her characters Sorrel, Twigleg and Firedrake have completely different names.

Funke’s readers are mainly children and young adults. As she says, however, grown-ups are permitted to enjoy her books as well, and more than a sprinkling of these were present at the session I attended. Interestingly, though, her questioners at the end – when audience members were invited to take a turn at the microphone – were a succession of school students whose communication skills would shame most adults. (Perhaps they had come better prepared than I.) Funke’s interviewer at the festival was also very articulate and perceptive. She was Dr Anna Smith, who teaches children’s literature, adolescent fiction and contemporary ‘supernatural’ texts at the University of Canterbury. Never again let it be said that children’s lit is for writers and readers who are less than intellectually adept!

Some people will have heard of Funke through the film adaptation of Inkheart, the first novel in her ‘Inkworld’ series. But please don’t judge her books on the basis of the movie, which she found very disappointing despite the sincerity and creative energy of its makers. The author is willing to engage with technology – she has recently released an iPad app relating to Mirrorworlds – but it seems she won’t fall for Hollywood again, and neither should we: it’s better to explore the books.

Years ago I read Funke’s first novel to be translated into English, The Thief Lord, and loved it. It’s taken me a long time to come back for seconds but now I’m reading her second ‘Reckless’ novel, Fearless, in which “Jacob Reckless faces death in the world on the other side of the mirror” (I can’t put it better than the blurb). The story and the language crackle and fizz with energy, and in person Cornelia Funke is similar. She is quite the dynamo, appropriately so, as in English ‘Funke’ means ‘Spark’. It’s a brilliant name … I wonder if, like lots of other clever things, she made it up?

Funke’s books are available at Auckland Libraries, when they’re not out on loan to her substantial number of local followers. Library members can also check out some interesting reviews and other information by signing into and searching the Literature Resource Center in our Digital Library.

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 21:00
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