Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Otfried Preussler 1923-2013

Otfried Preussler

Otfried Preussler, the great German children's author, who has died at the age of 89, wrote one book that left an indelible mark on me as a child.

I also have him to thank for helping me to win my first (and only) literary prize.

I've never forgotten his classic The Robber Hotzenplotz since I read it when I was about nine.

One night, my grandfather appeared with a pile of children's books. I'm not sure where he got them from - I've a feeling he won them in a raffle at the working men's club where he used to drink.

A modern classic
Among them was The Robber Hotzenplotz. I loved it from the moment I dipped my nose in between the pages.

It had the same magical, picaresque quality that Pinocchio has and I raved about it so much I made my brother read it. Yet nobody else seemed to have heard of it. And I don't ever recall seeing it in a bookshop.

It made such an impact on me, however, that I took some of the elements of the story and incorporated them in a tale of my own creation. The characters were different but the hallmark of Preussler was definitely there.

When we had a writing competition at school, I put my Preussler-inspired tale forward. And it won. I was delighted. I won an encyclopaedia.

By rights, I should have shared it with Mr Preussler!

That was 1978. My debt is way, way overdue.

So, Mr Preussler, I salute you.