"My only real claim to anyone's attention lies in my writing." -- Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman CBE, FRSL (born 19 October 1946) is an English writer from Norwich. He is the best-selling author of several books, most notably his trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials, and his fictional biography of Jesus, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. The first of His Dark Materials has been turned into the film The Golden Compass and the first two books from his Sally Lockhart series have been adapted for television.
In 2008, The Times named Pullman in its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
"Adam and Eve are like imaginary numbers, like the square root of minus one... If you include it in your equation, you can calculate all manners of things, which cannot be imagined without it.""And before I'd got to the end of the first paragraph, I'd come up slap bang against a fundamental problem that still troubles me today whenever I begin a story, and it's this: where am I telling it from?""Argue with anything else, but don't argue with your own nature.""Being in love was like China: you knew it was there, and no doubt it was very interesting, and some people went there, but I never would. I'd spend all my life without ever going to China, but it wouldn't matter, because there was all the rest of the world to visit.""Everything has a meaning, if only we could read it.""For a long time I thought I was a poet, but that's a high title to claim.""For that reason you can't write with music playing, and anyone who says he can is either writing badly, or not listening to the music, or lying. You need to hear what you're writing, and for that you need silence.""I had passed through the entire British education system studying literature, culminating in three years of reading English at Oxford, and they'd never told me about something as basic as the importance of point of view in fiction!""I have maintained a passionate interest in education, which leads me occasionally to make foolish and ill-considered remarks alleging that not everything is well in our schools.""If you can't think of what to write, tough luck; write anyway. If you can think of lots more when you've finished the three pages, don't write it; it'll be that much easier to get going next day.""Men pass in front of our eyes like butterflies, creatures of a brief season. We love them; they are brave, proud, beautiful, clever; and they die almost at once. They die so soon that our hearts are continually racked with pain.""One curious thing about growing up is that you don't only move forward in time; you move backwards as well, as pieces of your parents' and grandparents' lives come to you.""That's the duty of the old, to be anxious on behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.""True education flowers at the point when delight falls in love with responsibility.""We don't need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do's and don'ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.""What I couldn't help noticing was that I learned more about the novel in a morning by trying to write a page of one than I'd learned in seven years or so of trying to write criticism.""What I do say is that I can write verse, and that the writing of verse in strict form is the best possible training for writing good prose."
Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England, the son of Audrey Evelyn (née Merrifield) and Royal Air Force pilot Alfred Outram Pullman. The family travelled with his father's job, including to Southern Rhodesia where he spent time at school. His father was killed in a plane crash in 1953 when Pullman was seven. His mother remarried and, with a move to Australia, came Pullman's discovery of comic books including Superman and Batman, a medium which he continues to espouse. From 1957 he was educated at Ysgol Ardudwy school in Harlech, Gwynedd, and spent time in Norfolk with his grandfather, a clergyman. Around this time Pullman discovered John Milton's Paradise Lost, which would become a major influence for His Dark Materials.
From 1963 Pullman attended Exeter College, Oxford, receiving a Third class BA in 1968. In an interview with the Oxford Student he stated that he "did not really enjoy the English course" and that "I thought I was doing quite well until I came out with my third class degree and then I realised that I wasn’t ... it was the year they stopped giving fourth class degrees otherwise I’d have got one of those". Growing Pains - Features - The Oxford Student - Official Student Newspaper He discovered William Blake's illustrations around 1970, which would also later influence him greatly.
Pullman married Judith Speller in 1970 and began teaching middle school children ages 9 to 13 at Bishop Kirk Middle School in Summertown, North Oxford and writing school plays. His first published work was The Haunted Storm, which joint-won the New English Library's Young Writer's Award in 1972. He nevertheless refuses to discuss it. Galatea, an adult fantasy-fiction novel, followed in 1978, but it was his school plays which inspired his first children's book, Count Karlstein, in 1982. He stopped teaching around the publication of The Ruby in the Smoke (1986), his second children's book, whose Victorian setting is indicative of Pullman's interest in that era.
Pullman taught part-time at Westminster College, Oxford, between 1988 and 1996, continuing to write children's stories. He began His Dark Materials in about 1993. Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in the US) was published in 1995 and won the Carnegie Medal, one of the most prestigious British children's fiction awards, and the Guardian Children's Fiction Award.
Pullman has been writing full-time since 1996, but continues to deliver talks and writes occasionally for The Guardian. He was awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours list in 2004. He also co-judged the prestigious Christopher Tower Poetry Prize (awarded by Oxford University) in 2005 with Gillian Clarke. Pullman also began lecturing at a seminar in English at his alma mater, Exeter College, Oxford, in 2004, the same year that he was elected President of the Blake Society.
In 2005 he was awarded The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award by the Swedish Arts Council.
In 2008 he started working on The Book of Dust, a sequel to his completed His Dark Materials trilogy, and "The Adventures of John Blake", a story for the British children's comic The DFC, with artist John Aggs.
On 23 November 2007, Pullman was made an honorary professor at Bangor University. In June 2008, he became a Fellow supporting the MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University. In September 2008, he hosted "The Writer's Table" for Waterstone's bookshop chain, highlighting 40 books which have influenced his career. In October 2009 he became a patron of the Palestine Festival of Literature.
Pullman has a strong commitment to traditional British civil liberties and is noted for his criticism of growing state authority and government encroachment into everyday life. In February 2009, he was the keynote speaker at the Convention on Modern Liberty in London and wrote an extended piece in The Times condemning the Labour government for its attacks on basic civil rights. Later, he and other authors threatened to stop visiting schools in protest at new laws requiring them to be vetted to work with youngsters — though officials claimed that the laws had been misinterpreted.
On 24 June 2009, Pullman was awarded the degree of D. Litt. (Doctor of Letters), honoris causa, by the University of Oxford at the Encænia ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre.
His Dark Materials is a trilogy consisting of Northern Lights (titled The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Northern Lights won the Carnegie Medal for children's fiction in the UK in 1995. The Amber Spyglass was awarded both 2001 Whitbread Prize for best children's book and the Whitbread Book of the Year prize in January 2002, the first children's book to receive that award. The series won popular acclaim in late 2003, taking third place in the BBC's Big Read poll. Pullman later wrote two companion pieces to the trilogy, entitled Lyra's Oxford, and Once Upon a Time in the North. A third companion piece Pullman refers to as the "green book" will expand upon his character Will. He has plans for one more, the as-yet-unwritten The Book of Dust. This book is not a continuation of the trilogy but will include characters and events from His Dark Materials.
In 2005 Pullman was announced as joint winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for children's literature.
Pullman is a supporter of the British Humanist Association and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society. New Yorker journalist Laura Miller has described Pullman as one of England's most outspoken atheists.
The His Dark Materials books have been criticised by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and Focus on the Family. Peter Hitchens has argued that Pullman actively pursues an anti-Christian agenda. In support of this contention, he cites an interview in which Pullman is quoted as saying: "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief." In the same interview, Pullman also acknowledges that a controversy would be likely to boost sales. "But I'm not in the business of offending people. I find the books upholding certain values that I think are important, such as life is immensely valuable and this world is an extraordinarily beautiful place. We should do what we can to increase the amount of wisdom in the world".
Peter Hitchens views the His Dark Materials series as a direct rebuttal of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia; Pullman has criticized the Narnia books as religious propaganda. Both Pullman's and Lewis's books contain religious allegory that features talking animals, parallel worlds, and children who face adult moral choices that determine the ultimate fate of those worlds.
Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, praised His Dark Materials as a fresh alternative to C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and J. K. Rowling. He described the author as one "whose books have begun to dissolve the frontier between adult and juvenile fiction."
Literary critic Alan Jacobs (of Wheaton College) said that in His Dark Materials Pullman replaced the theist world-view of John Milton's Paradise Lost with a Rousseauist one. Donna Freitas, professor of religion at Boston University, argued on BeliefNet.com that challenges to traditional images of God should be welcomed as part of a "lively dialogue about faith", and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has proposed that His Dark Materials be taught as part of religious education in schools. The Christian writers Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware "also uncover spiritual themes within the books." Pullman has also referred to himself as knowingly "of the Devil's party", a reference to William Blake's revisionist take on Milton in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
Pullman's latest novel, a contribution to the Canongate Myth Series, is The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. It is "a far more direct exploration of the foundations of Christianity and the church as well as an examination of the fascination and power of storytelling."
On 15 September 2010, Pullman along with 54 other public figures signed an open letter, published in The Guardian newspaper, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI being given "the honour of a state visit" to the UK, arguing that he has led and condoned global abuses of human rights. The letter says "The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties ("concordats") with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states". Co-signees included Stephen Fry, Professor Richard Dawkins, Terry Pratchett, Jonathan Miller and Ken Follet.
A mini-series adaptation of I Was a Rat was produced by the BBC and aired in three one-hour installments in 2001.
A film adaptation of The Butterfly Tattoo The Butterfly Tattoo - Home finished principal photography on 30 September 2007. The Butterfly Tattoo is a project, supported by Philip Pullman, to allow young artists a chance to gain experience in the film industry. The film is produced by the Dutch production company Dynamic Entertainment.
A co-produced BBC and WGBH Boston television adaptation of The Ruby in the Smoke, starring Billie Piper and Julie Walters, was screened in the UK on BBC One on 27 December 2006, and broadcast on PBS Masterpiece Theatre in America on 4 February 2007. The television adaptation of the second book in the series, The Shadow in the North, aired on the BBC on 26 December 2007. The BBC and WGBH announced plans to adapt the next two Sally Lockhart novels, The Tiger in the Well, and The Tin Princess, for television as well; however, since The Shadow in the North aired in 2007, no information has arisen regarding an adaptation of The Tiger in the Well..
A film adaptation of Northern Lights, titled The Golden Compass, was released in December 2007 by New Line Cinema, starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Sam Elliott, Ian McKellen, and Dakota Blue Richards.