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Talking Germany

Blog with Peter Craven

Paul Maar’s happier place

The boy who loved to read and write

Paul Maar 4There was a small boy. He was born in difficult times. His father went away to fight in the war. His hometown, meanwhile, was the center of his country’s production of ball bearings. Ball bearings? Are they so important? They clearly are, because the boy and his mother spent many nights in the cellar of the building his family lived in, shivering with cold and trembling with fear during endless air raids – aimed above all at destroying the factories manufacturing the ball bearings.  

Paul Maar 2The boy’s mother passed away and he was evacuated to the countryside, where he lived with his uncle: an innkeeper. This man was a hypnotic storyteller who attracted large gatherings of listeners to the inn. The boy, too, listened carefully. He was learning the art of storytelling. The boy loved to read and write. His uncle inspired and encouraged him.

Paul Maar 3The boy’s father returned from the war. A troubled man, you would guess. Certainly, a man with no time for books, which were to be cast aside. But the seed has been sown. The boy grew up and moved away from home. He studied the arts, became a stage painter and photographer. Then a teacher. But he always yearned to write. So he broke with teaching. And wrote. Many books, which he also illustrates. Stories that are often, says the man who was the boy, a reinvention, a rewriting, of childhood. Turning it into a happier place. His most famous creation is a curious creature with red hair, a pig’s nose and blue freckles: the Sams. An improbable and lovable anarchist, who turns drabness into a rainbow, transforms narrow-mindedness into heart-warming chaos, and pettiness into sharing and joy.

Paul Maar 4Today the boy is a happy man. That’s what his eyes say. He has a beautiful home in a fairy-tale town. He writes in an idyllic retreat that he discovered while out walking one day: a derelict former ‘orangerie’ that he’s restored to its former glory. It’s awash now with luminosity: so different from that cellar and its horrors. He travels. He gives readings. He delights children and he delighted me. He’s Paul Maar: my latest guest on Talking Germany.


June 2, 2014