Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Secret Life: Anthony Browne, Children's Laureate, 63
Interview by Charlotte Philby in The Independent ,
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Author photo by Dan Burn-Forti

Browne says: 'I always see the bits that went wrong, the things that didn't turn out as well as they could have'

My parents were ... My dad never decided what he wanted to do; at times he fought in the army, was a teacher, a boxer, a light engineer and a then a publican. My mum was a traditional housewife and mother. They showed my brother and I unconditional love.
The home I grew up in ... was upstairs at the rough pub my dad ran in Yorkshire. I used to stand on tables in the bar and tell stories to customers about Big Dumb Tackle, my alter ego. He was a great Yorkshire superhero and he could do anything that he wanted.
When I was a child I wanted to be ... a cartoonist, a journalist, or a boxer, like dad.
At night I dream of ... my dead parents more than anything else, and of everyday life.
I ride ... a bicycle and drive a Fiat 500. It's the first car I've ever had which I've actually liked. Before that, it was a car to carry the children around in, but now they've grown up and left I can choose for my pleasure.

If I could change one thing about myself ... It sounds a bit self-satisfied but I wouldn't change one thing; if I made myself a bit taller or better-looking, it wouldn't really change anything.
What I see when I look in the mirror ... It's a bit like looking back at a picture I've just finished drawing: all I can see are the things that went wrong and the bits which didn't turn out as well as they could.
A book that changed me ... was John Berger's 'Ways of Seeing'. In the book, Berger talks about really looking. Generally, I don't think we tend to value this as much as we should. Rarely do we take the time to use our eyes and to really see and consider.
My favourite work of art ... is a series of etchings by Max Klinger, which he did as a young man. It is a picture book, about a man who picks up a glove dropped by a beautiful woman. The man puts the glove on his bed before he goes to sleep that night, and in his dreams the glove develops an independent life. It threatens the sleeper and undergoes transformations; at one point it is stolen and then in the final scene it is lying peacefully with cupid and a rose bush.

The last album I bought ... was by the American jazz singer Kurt Elling. He has a beautiful, dynamic voice and interprets songs with great sensitivity, improvising like a great saxophone player.
You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... opening jars.
You may not know it but I'm no good at ... understanding technology. To me, a telephone works by magic.

My favourite building is ... the Mezquita de Cordoba, in Spain. It was first built as a mosque, then the Christians took it over in the 12th century and converted it into a cathedral, so it's a mixture of two styles. It is strange and beautiful, and rather sad.
Movie heaven is ... the black and white films of the 1960s, which dealt with life in the north of England: 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning', 'A Kind of Loving'. They spoke directly to me. This was the environment I lived in and the people I knew.

The best invention ever is ... the wheel.
I wish I'd never worn ... a bowler hat when I was at art college. I thought it made me look interesting; it made me look like a twit.
My greatest regret ... My father died horribly, in front of me, when I was 17. I never had the chance to speak to him as an adult.
What's the point? The point of my pencil is always very sharp.
My life in six words... So far, so good (mostly anyway).

A life in brief
Anthony Browne was born in Sheffield in September 1946. He worked as a medical illustrator at the Royal Manchester Infirmary, then as a children's book illustrator and greetings-card designer before being made the Children's Laureate in June of this year.
He lives alone in Canterbury. For more information about Anthony Browne's work, visit

No comments: