Paul Maar

Portrait Paul Maar
© Hartwig Klappert

Paul Maar was born in Schweinfurt in 1937 and spent his childhood in rural Lower Franconia. After studying Painting and Art History in Stuttgart he worked as an independent painter, set designer, theatre photographer and art teacher.  He has been a writer and freelance illustrator since 1976.  The storyteller and inventor of verses, riddles, letter and word games started out by illustrating books and is one of the most distinguished German author of children’s and young adults’ literature. His work embraces various genres and different forms of children’s literature, including picture stories, books for very young readers, audio plays and theatre scripts, as well as more than forty novels.  He has written over fifteen plays, a children’s opera and two musicals and is one of the most popular contemporary German playwrights.  Paul Maar has influenced children’s and young adults’ literature in an unparalleled way.  He has created unforgettable characters such as Lippel the dreamer (»Lippels Traum«, 1984; Engl: Lippel’s Dream) and the little kangaroo (»Das kleine Känguruh und seine Freunde«, 1991; Engl: Little Kangaroo and his Friends). Maar made his literary debut in 1968 with »Der tätowierte Hund« (Engl: The Tatooed Dog), in which a dog tells stories to an inquisitive lion in exchange for a sausage sandwich, and as he does so the pictures on his colourful body come to life.

Paul Maar understands the daily lives of children as well as their hopes and dreams.  In his stories he creates curious situations and strange happenings. In rendering them he has developed a unique »symbolic language of the daily routine’s fantastical confusions«, in the words of the jury of the German Children’s and Young People’s Literary Award 1996.  He supports his young readers’ need to live their own lives, offering discreet advice on how to meet the large and small challenges of life, for example in his autobiographical children’s novel »Andere Kinder wohnen auch bei ihren Eltern« (1976; Engl: Other Children Live with their Parents, too).  »When I write I do not think about potential readers, instead I write for the child in me«, he replied when asked where his knowledge of children’s desires and needs comes from.

One of Maar’s most well known characters is Sams (»Eine Woche voller Samstage«, 1973; Engl: A Week of Saturdays) who is a main character in many of his books. The stories tell of anxious Mr. Taschenbier and the fearless Sams, who is able to grant wishes in a mysterious way.  »Das Sams« (2001; Engl: »The Slurb«, 2002) and »Sams in Gefahr« (2003; Engl: »My Magical Friend Sams«, 2003) were successfully adapted as films with scripts written by the author himself.  2005 saw the release of »Herr Bello und das blaue Wunder« (Engl: Mr Bello and the Magic Blue Potion), a turbulent story of transformation.  The film version was also directed by Ben Verbong and appeared in cinemas in 2007.  Max, a chemist’s son, experiences a true miracle when his dog drinks a magic blue potion, which turns him into a person. Paul Maar enthralls children »by indulging their pleasure of unreasonable behaviour, making them laugh and worry, and does not stop until he has brought his story to a plausible end.  Despite all the fantasy tricks which ring through his stories, his characters come from and return to everyday life«, wrote the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«.  In August 2006 the second volume »Neues von Herrn Bello« (Engl: More from Mr Bello) came out. In this tale of adventure and surprise, Max and Mr Bello go on a search for the recipe of a special magic potion, which prevents Mr Bello from turning back into a dog.

Paul Maar’s works have been translated into more than twenty languages and have been honoured with – among others – the Grand Prize by the German Academy for Children’s and Young Adults’ Literature in 1987, and the Special Award of the German Young People’s Literature Prize. In 1998 he received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.  His most recent book, the oriental story »Der verborgene Schatz« (Engl: The Hidden Treasure) appeared in 2005.  Maar has three children and lives with his wife in Bamberg.

© international literature festival berlin