- Paul MaarGermany ★ Author
“When I write, I do not think about potential readers, instead I write for the child in me.”Paul Maar
Paul Maar was born in Schweinfurt, Germany in 1937, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. His mother died when he was an infant and his father was away, first as a soldier and then as a prisoner of war. As a result, Maar’s early childhood years were spent in the care of housemaids, and his first proper familial relationship was with his step-mother when his father remarried.
Maar’s difficult childhood is evident in his works. Kartoffelkäferzeiten [Colorado Beetle Days], for instance, is set in the small town of Mainfranken shortly after the war. The adults are concerned with the scarcity of products that used to be available before the war: coal, coffee and meat. The children have never known a time without mashed potatoes and regular plagues of Colorado beetles and mice. This is the starting point for a story about conflict between the generations. Not all Maar’s stories are as bleak. Indeed, Maar has admitted that he has invented the childhood he would have liked to experience in many of his works.
Maar rose to early prominence with his first book, Der Tätowierte Hund [The Tattooed Dog] published in 1968 and also illustrated by Marr. This began a long relationship with the publisher Friedrich Oetinger, who has published many of Maar’s later works. A lion discovers the tattooed dog. When the dog explains, “Each of these pictures stands for a story,” the lion begs to hear the stories and even offers the dog a liver-sausage sandwich in exchange. As this plot summary reveals, Maar’s books are primarily aimed at young children who are just learning to read independently. His writing style attempts to mimic oral storytelling. He makes use of simple sentence structures, straightforward plot development, and often pointed brevity, but the results are far from dull, repetitive or predictable. Maar’s writings span a broad spectrum of literary forms and genres. His works include short stories, novels, non-fiction, and plays. He has also illustrated many of his own works as well as illustrating the writing of other people.
His playful use of the German language helps young readers focus on word construction in ways that are particularly valuable for novice readers, as well as being a lot of fun. He is widely acknowledged in Germanspeaking areas outside Germany, for instance he has been nominated for the Austrian State Prize for Children’s Literature.