Monday, December 15, 2008

BC About the Author: Markus Zusak

Australian author Markus Zusak grew up hearing stories about Nazi Germany, about the bombing of Munich and about Jews being marched through his mother’s small, German town. He always knew it was a story he wanted to tell. At the age of 30, Zusak has asserted himself as one of today’s most innovative and poetic novelists. With the publication of The Book Thief, he is now being dubbed a "literary phenomenon" by Australian and U.S. critics. Zusak is the award-winning author of four previous books for young adults: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Getting the Girl, and I Am the Messenger, recipient of a 2006 Printz Honor for excellence in young adult literature.

Zusak lives in Sydney, where he "writes, occasionally works a real job, and plays on a soccer team that never wins." When asked about The Book Thief, he explains, "I wanted to write something very different than what I'd done before. The idea of a book stealer was in my head . . . Then I thought about writing of the things my parents had seen while growing up in Nazi Germany and Austria, and when I brought the ideas together, it seemed to work, especially when I thought about the importance of words in that time, and what they were able to make people believe." +/-

In a 2006 interview with Publishers Weekly, Zusak explained that the initial inspiration for The Book Thief were two stories he was told as a child. The first was of a tale his mother told of Munich being bombed. "Everything was red, like the sky was on fire. That was a memory that I could see really clearly as a child, a very visual image," he says. The second story was of a teenage boy who took pity on an emaciated Jew being forced through the streets, and offered him some bread. Both were whipped by a soldier who witnessed this act of compassion.

The Book Thief was published in September 2005 in Australia to wide acclaim, and was positioned as Zusak's adult debut. In the USA, Random House have chosen to publish it as a young-adult novel, which Zusak is comfortable with saying, "For a teenage audience, it's clearly for sophisticated readers. You just hope it gets into the right person's hands, whatever their age."

Visit his website, hosted by Random House, here.

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