Making children happy, not just your daughter Adèle, takes up an important part of your life. Can we talk about this kind of generosity?
Talking about my own generosity is always difficult because I don’t see myself as particularly generous. The day I decided to have a child and share our lives together was in the firm belief that this child would have a life of her own and it was up to her to make her own decisions. My role was simply to love her and offer a helping hand along the way. In fact, the way I see it, a child is an adult in the making, who grows up only too fast and must make up his or her own mind about the world. So it is vital children learn to be confident, and this is only possible with the respect of those around them, both in the choices they make and in who they are. Generosity is the total respect for another’s integrity. And this is the cornerstone of my thinking in all my creations.
So for you, generosity is total respect for the integrity of others.
Always! But generosity is also about the importance of showing children what is real, without soft focus. Most adults live a clichéd, false existence. They are totally incapable of facing up to reality and going beyond mere appearances. And it is this vision of the world they wish to impose upon their children. And yet we shouldn’t lie to children.
What were you like as a child?
I was a dreamer, always deep in thought. I spent a lot of time alone in the forest, building dens, or settled on a branch for entire afternoons with my head in a book. I even played in the trenches still lingering from the First World War. I can also see the stunning chestnut tree in the school playground and the sun through its branches, bike rides with friends crossing entire villages utterly wiped out except for the village name, and where the wooden bridge had been hastily rebuilt after the Germans had blown it to smithereens. The scars of wartime were still visible everywhere, even in my own life; I was abandoned as a child, then reunited only to be abandoned once more. And yet, as soon as I could, I was a happy child. I have always managed to dig deep in my own psyche to get by. Which is also something I want to pass on to children: digging deep in their own psyche. So my stories are about struggles and obstacles, just like in real life, but always with a happy ending as they are essentially fairy tales. Fairy tales scattered with wordplay like in mythology. Light-hearted tales full of humour, devoid of stereotypes.
Do you have any other interests aside from writing children’s books?
I love cooking for others and introducing new flavours. My speciality is making it up as I go along and never testing in advance what I prepare, which I love. Cooking for me is like a box of coloured paints. When I draw, I never question the purpose of a particular colour, I simple choose with very little thought. It’s the same with cooking; I don’t need an in-depth knowledge of the contents of the fridge, cupboards, freezer and garden, I just make it up with what I have to hand.
And Champagne to go with food?
Absolutely! I love Champagne but two glasses is enough. I have always loved fizz; I only ever drink sparkling water and as a child I only drank lemonade!
My stories are about struggles and obstacles, just like in real life, but always with a happy ending.
Claude Ponti began his career as a child in 1948 in Lorraine. A few years of school later, with his exams safely under his belt, he was already deviating from the norm, with only a few months at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Aix-en-Provence, cut short by a fleeting visit to the faculty of literature and archaeology in Strasbourg. With a succession of hats including cartoonist, painter, illustrator and artistic director, even at this stage he was indefatigable, imperceptible and utterly impossible to pigeonhole.Then one day, in a splash of colour, Adèle burst into the world. Claude Ponti was a father. He began to design an imaginary world for his daughter, stories without words, with words, full of wordplay, love and humour. All from Adèle. Influenced by his marvellously optimistic young daughter, his artistic inspiration knows no bounds. After some editing, 70 children’s books and 30 years later, his creative spirit shows no sign of abating. Untethered and complete.
Released November 2016:
Le Mystère des Nigmes (École des Loisirs).
Due for release in the USA 2017:
Blaise et le château d’Anne Hiversère. My Valley. Okilélé.
Released internationally by American publisher Toon Books:
Sur l’île des Zertes. Tromboline et Foulbazar: le A. Tromboline et Foulbazar: les masques published in a single edition entitled Chick & Chickie play all day.