Speech by Alice Bah Kuhnke at the ALMA Award ceremony 2017
Stockholm, 29 May 2017.
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Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Erlbruch,
Everyone who has children close to them or works with children knows that they have to try and keep up with them.
Hunger and thirst, tiredness and excess energy. As an adult, you have to be there with a helping hand, a slice of bread, a glass of water. Stroke their back to settle them.
You also have to be prepared for the deepest existential questions.
Lingonberry jam or tomato ketchup on meatballs leads to a discussion about why people actually like different things. Tying shoelaces leads to a discussion about why most people have two legs but some of us don´t. Why and how? And why do we even exist? I often think with gratitude of all the teaching staff who work with our children and young people. Who, while cutting apples into slices, are asked questions that philosophers have devoted thousands of years to finding answers to, or who quickly have to change the plans for a maths lesson because a question has come up that cannot be set aside.
In my work as Minister for Culture, one of the most important issues is ensuring that these teachers and children have books, libraries and, not least, librarians close at hand. We all know that books are a fantastic source of knowledge, but also that literature can help us get to grips with concepts. Books are there when we adults do not have the energy, do not have any answers, or perhaps do not dare to answer. Every child must have the opportunity to find their way to books, and librarians are invaluable in this regard. Mr Erlbruch – you dare to write and draw! You are brave in many ways, and in this respect your writing is reminiscent of Astrid Lindgren’s. Your work reflects what children’s lives are like – they contain the light-hearted and the deeply existential, side by side. We are in awe of the incomprehensible, we find happiness in small pleasures and we become angry over injustices.
In one of your books – Duck, Death and the Tulip – you speak to the reader about that thing called death, which follows us everywhere, however hard we try to push it away. That thing called death – which we adults often find so difficult to talk about especially to children. Without offering any answers, you tell it like it is: even when we are no longer alive, the lake is still there.
Everything is the same, but completely different, because we are not there. We feel deep sadness when thinking about this. But you, Mr Erlbruch, have managed with your story to give every individual a feeling of immeasurable importance. Being able to do this without hiding the truth is nothing but great art. I hope and believe that more and more people will read your book when questions about sadness, longing and our very existence need to be discussed.
Today, Mr Erlbruch, I would like to congratulate you on receiving this important prize, and to thank you on behalf of children and adults alike.