Moni Nilsson

Moni Nilsson, author of children’s books and screenwriter, was born in Bandhagen in 1955 and spent her childhood in the Stockholm district of Kungsholmen. She grew up in an unconventional family where tolerance and trust were cherished. Her mother was a Jewish refugee who fled to Sweden as a child during World War II, and to the Jewish community’s dismay she married a non-Jew. The conflicts between Jewish and non-Jewish relatives and friends led to Moni Nilsson receiving a free upbringing; the family travelled a great deal and artists came and went in her parents’ house. This childhood was to lend Moni Nilsson’s later texts a special tone. Following a baffling time at school she graduated and met her future husband. When the eldest of her three sons started kindergarten, Moni Nilsson’s first book for children came into being. It was years before the five-part »Tsatsiki« series made her one of the most important authors of children’s books in her native country. To this point she was, in her own words, »the most frequently spurned author« in Sweden and worked as an airplane cleaning woman, supply teacher, kindergarten teacher, translator and editor of a radio station for children. In 1995 »Tsatsiki och morsan« (t: Tsatsiki and mother) came out, the prelude to one of the most successful series of children’s books in the nineties, widely translated and also extremely effective in its film versions.

From book to book, Nilsson narrates episodes in the life of eight-year-old Tsatsiki-Tsatsiki Johansson who lives in Stockholm with his mother, an over-the-top rock musician, while his father lives in Greece. Jaunty and full of wit, Nilsson plumbs the depths of the mother-child relationship and the aspects of adolescence. In ridiculous scenes she depicts Tsatsiki’s first trip to Greece where his father, a calamari fisherman, immediately faints and how Tsatsiki and his friend Per cause a furore with their band »The Blaring Tailcoats«. Through loving detail and unspoken messages the »Tsatsiki« novels mirror Moni Nilsson’s desire to awaken an understanding of different cultures and lifestyles, grasping the wonder of childhood in all its magic and seriousness. »Reading should be an adventure«, the author says. »I want to shatter all prejudices. I want to inspire children and adults, encouraging them to think in new ways.« Tsatsiki grows up in a modern patchwork family caught between two cultures. In »Tsatsiki och Retzina« (2001; t: Tsatsiki and Retzina) the idea of the fragility of democracy is put forward when Tsatsiki’s mother receives threat letters when planning to take part in a concert against racism.

With »Hoppet« (2007; t: The Jump), a story about two young Kurdish refugees in Stockholm, Nilsson presented an imposing project as scriptwriter and author of books for young adults. Moni Nilsson has been awarded the Nils Holgersson Plaque (1998) and continues to live in Kungsholmen.

© international literature festival berlin