22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Valérie Dayre

Portrait Valérie Dayre
© Hartwig Klappert

Valérie Dayre was born in France in 1958. In 1989 she published her first book, entitled »Miranda s’en va« (t: Miranda goes away). Since then she has written over fifteen highly-acclaimed children’s novels and picture books, which have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch.

In her challenging stories, Valérie Dayre illuminates the unfathomable world of the imagination of children and examines the dynamic relationship ties that exist between children and adults. As her central themes, she explores the anxieties of young minds, the fear of being deserted, and loneliness. When asked if her books could appear »ruthless«, she remarked that »one can interpret many things from this adjective. Let us say that my books are deeply distressing and violent, even though they end positively. For me, that is how literature should be. When I read a book, I need it to change me, make me more intelligent, more sensitive.« Dayre presents the world from the perspective of her young characters, with the result that her readers perceive the plot as if through a distorted prism and lose themselves in a play of dreams, fantasies and realities. Her novels, composed with sophistication and ingenuity, appear to be picture-puzzles, in which the author has set traps and leads the reader along a false trail.

Her children’s novel »C’est la vie, Lili« (1991; t: That’s life, Lili) tells the story of twelve-year-old Lili, left behind by her parents at a motorway service station en route to their summer holiday. The plot unfolds in the form of diary entries, in which the (first person) narrator – in a tone near void of all emotion – reports on her life, her parents and her »residence« for weeks on end at the service station. Lili’s diary shows the crisis of a child who sees that the end of her childhood is nigh. All her sorrow and fury flows into the aggressively over-intense portrayal of her parents. She becomes more and more entangled in a web of truth and lies, and it thus becomes the reader’s responsibility to unravel the different levels of perception. One of Valérie Dayre’s best-known works is »L’Ogresse en pleurs« (1996; t: The ogre), the disturbing story of a deranged and lonely mother who develops an overwhelming appetite for children. Consumed by this craving, she roams the country only to devour her own offspring in the end. In this captivatingly dark picture book, suitably illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch, the author writes a seemingly cruel modern fairytale of human greed and wickedness. »L’Ogresse en pleurs« is a picture book about the dangerous attachment between children and adults; a cautionary tale about love in moderation. It is »a picture book that makes the stranger within us apparent, that gets under the skin and cuts to the quick«, wrote the »Süddeutsche Zeitung«.

In 1992 Valérie Dayre was awarded the Prix Sorcière for »C’est la vie, Lili«. In German translation the novel was awarded the 2006 German Youth Literature Prize as winner of the children’s book category. Dayre’s most recent publication is her novel for adults »Tous les hommes qui sont ici« (2006; t: Everybody here present). She has translated various works for young readers written in English, including one by Australian author John Marsden. Valérie Dayre lives in Berry in central France.

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