Anna Höglund is one of Sweden’s leading illustrators. She made her debut in 1982 and has since published over twenty books, often with renowned authors such as Ulf Stark and Barbro Lindgren. Anna has received many accolades for her work, such as Sweden’s August Prize and a Special Mention in the BolognaRagazzi Awards.
In this post, Anna talks about her work and shares some stunning illustrations from a few books including ‘Alla frågar sig varför’ (Everyone Asks Why) – a unique picturebook which introduces us to children asking existential questions and philosophers who have tried to answer them. It’s published in Sweden by Lilla Piratförlaget.
Anna Höglund on the Lilla Piratförlaget website
Anna: To start at the beginning: What is the driving force that keeps you doing what you do?
This picture was in a photo album that I received from my mother when I turned thirty. In the foreground you can see a glass bowl that my father made. He was the centre of the family that everything revolved around, even though he was rarely physically available.
To my mother, he was everything.
Slightly blurry in the background is my mother and the child that she thought was me, but in fact it is my sister. Well, you get it.
Almost everything I do is about identity and a desire for some kind of truth.
I often use emotions from childhood and youth, rarely specific events.
In my latest books, I have started mixing in collage because I started to get so tired of my own style. Collage is also a great way to escape the lonely white paper. By bringing in a foreign element like something I have cut out, I can shake up my associations and pathways. I can surprise myself a little.
In a similar way, for example, that a trouser commercial from the 70s (my own teenage years) set off a whole lot in my subconscious. My aim with the resulting book – called ‘To Be Me’ – was to make the book I myself needed when I was thirteen. “Why do you have to be afraid so often, as if you were some kind of prey made to be hunted?” thinks the protagonist.
It was ten years before I found the right tone and shape for ‘To Be Me’. At first, I wanted to do Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ in a simplified cartoon for youths, but it didn’t work out.
I have started letting the subconscious increasingly control the work process because I realised I work best at that level. In one of my books about a highly sensitive teenage rabbit, I started by making the pictures; the text was probably somewhere in the back of my mind. I hung the pictures on strings with clothes pegs one after the other as they were finished. That way, I could move them around in different combinations and chapters.
The rabbit likes people. But he needs to be alone otherwise he starts to think just like whoever else happens to be in the same room as him. He realises that everything contains its own opposite and that if you can be your own worst enemy, you can also be your own best friend.
Freud claimed that the very first language is verbal. That as soon as we receive the verbal language, we translate all previous impressions from the pre-verbal period into words. I am not sure if this applies to everyone though. For me, the idea can still manifest itself as a picture when dealing with things that are more difficult to understand…
My latest book is called ‘Everyone Asks Why’, and it is about existential questions.
The text is written by Eva Susso from different philosophers’ existential theories.
I made the philosophers animals. (They are all dead anyway.)
Illustrations © Anna Höglund. Post translated by Gengo and edited by dPICTUS.
Alla frågar sig varför /
Everyone Asks Why
Eva Susso & Anna Höglund
Lilla Piratförlaget, Sweden, 2017
Is everyone worth the same? Why do you have to die? Who decides over my future? In ‘Everyone Asks Why’ we meet children who ask various questions about some of those things we all think about, and we also meet famous philosophers who have tried to answer those eternal questions. The book puts the questions into a larger context and discusses them through a philosophical perspective, in text as well as in illustration. A thoughtful book which allows the reader, no matter what age, to feel that they are not alone in asking difficult existential questions.