Jonathan Stroud

Portrait Jonathan Stroud
© Rolf Marriott

Jonathan Stroud was born in Bedford, Great Britain in 1970. After completing his degree in English Literature at the University of York, he was employed as a children’s book editor by numerous publishing houses, writing his own children’s books at the same time. After his debut in 1999 with the fantasy-tale ‘Buried Fire’, he decided to make writing his profession in 2001.  ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’, the first book in the Bartimaeus trilogy was published in 2003. This fantasy novel, over 500 pages in length, has been translated into 25 languages and became a worldwide success, staying at the top of the children’s bestseller lists for weeks.

Stroud uses humour, irony and an accelerated pace to tell the fast and furious tale of the apprentice magician Nathaniel and his demonic companion, the eccentric but loveable djinni Bartimaeus.  Upon reluctantly teaming up, the pair end up in a whirlpool of intrigues.  The author sends his heroes into a world in which magicians rule in parliament and contracted assassins are monsters with numerous arms.  “The action is thrillingly cinematic, but what is wonderful about this novel is the way that it subtly satirises the spin of New Labour. Not since ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ has a children’s writer managed to combine a thrilling tale of magic and adventure with such pointed comedy”, commented ‘The Times’.

Stroud manages to captivate the reader through outstanding storytelling. His writing is at once multilayered and enthralling.  He uses language to create the unmistakable personalities of his main characters: Bartimaeus is sarcastic and reckless, Nathaniel is insecure, ambitious, and power-hungry; both are vain and arrogant.  The story gets its poetic appeal from the asymmetry of the narrative perspectives: the 5000 year-old djinni confronts the reader as first-person narrator, while the other passages are told out of Nathaniel’s perspective.  The story is brilliantly supported with footnotes, which Bartimaeus uses mainly to announce his involvement in various historical events and to comment smugly and ironically on the world of the magicians.

Stroud has succeeded in arranging familiar fantasy patterns in new ways, so that the story ends up being refreshingly different from the everlasting heroic battle between good and evil.  “The key thing I wanted was lightness. A lot of fantasy books tend to be very heavy because you have these big good-versus-evil battles going on […] Bartimaeus was my vehicle for avoiding that trap.  Also, both he and Nathaniel are quite morally ambivalent: they’re not goody-goody heroes and inky-black villains.”

The German translation of the second volume of the trilogy, ‘The Golem’s Eye’ (2004), was published in July 2005.  ‘Ptolemy’s Gate’ is the title of the final book, which will be published in English in October 2005 and in German translation in June 2006.  Jonathan Stroud received numerous awards for ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’, including the Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor (2004) and the Lancashire Children’s Book Award (2005). Furthermore, the novel has been nominated for the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis 2005.  The film rights were sold before the first book was even published.  The final volume of the Bartimaeus trilogy was awarded the international 2006 CORINE Prize for Youth Literature. For the three-part fantasy-work, Stroud also received the Grand Prix de l’imaginaire, an important French award for fantasy and science fiction writing, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s and Youth Literature.  Stroud lives in St. Albans.

© international literature festival berlin