23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Robert Williams
© Ali Ghandtschi

Robert Williams

Robert Williams was born in 1977 and grew up in Clitheroe/Lancashire. The son of two librarians made the local library in the town where he grew up in northern England his second home. He read his way through the inventory on the shelves with great enthusiasm and later became a librarian himself. After several years working in a school, he embarked on a bookseller’s career. He also wrote songs and released an album under the name of »The Library Trust«.
For a long time Robert Williams kept his work on his debut »Luke and Jon« (2010) a secret. In 2007 he won the National Book Tokens’ Not Yet Published Competition, an award bestowed upon the author of the first 10,000 words of an unpublished first book by a bookseller from the UK or Ireland. This prize was not only an advance for Williams, but also gained him a contract with London-based publishers Faber & Faber. »Luke and Jon« became a bestseller in England, and was included in the literary canon for schools. The coming-of-age novel tells the story of Luke, an outsider who suffers from depression, loss, poverty and addiction. After his bipolar mother dies in a road accident − and maybe it was suicide − the 13-year-old protagonist tries to find a way back into his old life. Father and son move to an industrial town in the middle of nowhere. This move, however, does not bring the new beginning Luke has hoped for, but rather aggravates the conflict. A victim of drinking, Luke’s father tries to escape by means of the vision of a huge sculpture, a wooden horse, while Luke creates a parallel world in artistic drawings. Jon, another pupil, is a permanent guest in the marriage of convenience that ought to be a family. The relationship between father and son is marked increasingly by alienation. Luke also tries to escape everyday life, the details of which he tries to hide from the outer world. He is afraid, since the way he dresses, usually »old people’s clothes«, already make him an odd sort and a victim of the sometimes violent mobbing attacks of his peers. Suddenly Jon disappears. Luke tries to find his friend, and discovers his family secret.
It is less the typical motif of a youth novel that makes Robert Williams’ book a youth novel, but rather its narrative style. »In his drama Williams foregoes theatrical moments. He tells the story carefully, sensitively, and slowly. The reader unwraps it as if it was an exciting gift. In elaborate sentences he illuminates the manifold shades of life: There is not always an ideal solution, but sometimes a surprising beginning«, praises Maren Schürmann in »Der Westen« in 2011.
In spite of the fact that he would rather live in a town by the sea, Robert Williams is based in Manchester today.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


Luke und Jon
Berliner Taschenbuch Verlag
Berlin, 2010
[Ü: Brigitte Jakobeit]