We talked to four guardians of our collective consciousness in the world of photography, hospitality, urban history and children’s books
“In the world around us, there’s more and more uncertainty. This is when a kind of nostalgia kicks in and people want to return to the safety and comfort of their favorite childhood shows and books.”
If you’re an English speaker, you might not be familiar with Thomas Brezina. Although his beloved children’s books have been translated into 35 languages, they have yet to be translated into English. They have, however, sold millions of copies around the world, even outselling Harry Potter in China. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an Austrian for whom he isn’t a household name. Most of them have grown up with and grown incredibly fond of the iconic children’s book series and TV show Tom Turbo about a crime hunting bike able to talk and do 111 special tricks, running to more than 500 episodes since its inception in 1993.
As a wildly popular author and TV series moderator, Brezina’s fame was so massive at one point that, for 16 years, the native Wiener spent half the year holed up in a certain hotel room in London just so he could write his bestselling books in peace and quiet, away from his devoted fans and the distractions of everyday life. They loved him there too.
“I didn’t even have to pack a suitcase anymore; they just cleared my things away when I was gone and put them all right back in their places when I returned,” he explained, with the pleasure of a first-rate hotel’s longest-standing regular guest.
Brezina’s new book, Alte Geister ruhen unsanft (Old Ghosts Sleep Badly), is the first one he’s ever written for adults. It’s a sequel to a series of children’s books about a group of characters called the “Knickerbocker Kids,” who solved mysteries and captured the imagination of countless young fans. Now, they’re all grown up, just like their fans.
Although Brezina, 54, considers himself wholly unnostalgic (“I think in the here and now. Otherwise I would drive myself nuts!”), the return of these characters is a way for the author to get the series’ readers, many now in their 30s, to consider their own pasts.
“At that age, you suddenly realize that you’ve lived quite a long time, so you not only have a future ahead of you, you also already have a past. So then the question is, where are you standing now?”
And Brezina? If he’s not on TV or a book tour in China, he’s very likely writing – incognito – in a cozy room in London, whose location is top secret.