"My child and I"
Interview with Evi Karkiti

A recent award, that of the literary magazine Diavazo, was the occasion for yet another look at the world of Maria Papayanni. In her books, a miracle is always waiting outside the door, to change the life of her young heroes. The same thing happens in the performance Strange isn’t it? whose libretto she signs, and which will be presented from 20 to 30 December at the Athens Megaron Concert Hall.

-In your books, do you present the world to children exactly as it is, or is there always space for dreams?

In the stories I write, I try to tell children the truth. But I don’t record reality as it is. Part of it is paired off with a fantasy, a dream, an expectation, a burning wish or obsession which I wish could come true. For example, that there is a miracle waiting outside our door or that in this life, the good guys win… They say that myths are shared dreams. The Australian Aborigines called creation the Dreamtime and their myths dreaming. I don’t think today’s children have given up on dreaming. My need is to share my dreams with them or to get inside their dreams.

-What made you take up writing for children? Is it easy, in the end, to write a story that can be understood by children?

I love children’s fiction. I’ve never stopped being interested in it. I remember that at university, grown up child that I was, I never missed a book by Georges Sarri or Alki Zei. Later still, when I started to write about things that moved me, the way I approached them was always through the eyes of children.
I like stories that aren’t childish in order for children to like them, precisely because I believe that children do understand an awful lot and, above all, they can tell truth and lies apart. And if they sometimes chose the lie, that’s because they can’t bear the truth.

-What do you believe children look for in a book today?

I believe that good books are for both grownups and children. Selma Laggerlef, the first woman to receive a Nobel prize for literature, used to say that “the children’s book is real when it is liked by both young and old.” When I start to write something, I never think of my readers’ age. According to sales, children in recent years may well favor fantasy fiction but, for me personally, what is really important is that books should help children grow up. As a great storyteller, Tolkien, used to say: “Their books, like their clothes, must allow for room to grow but, books especially, must at all costs encourage growing up.”