Philip Pullman ‘surprised and honoured’ at knighthood

The author wrote the His Dark Materials series of books.
The author wrote the His Dark Materials series of books.

Author Philip Pullman said he was “very surprised and honoured” after being awarded a knighthood.

The best-selling writer, known for the His Dark Materials series of books, has been recognised in the New Year Honours for his services to literature.

Pullman, 72, included fellow literary figures such as children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson and illustrator Sir Quentin Blake among those he was proud to join in accepting the honour.

In a statement to the Press Association, he said: “I was very surprised and honoured to be offered a knighthood. I believe the profession of letters should be recognised as having a proper place in the life of the nation, along with science, and sport, and music, and scholarship, and many other human activities.

“Many people I admire, such as Quentin Blake, Ellen MacArthur, Chris Hoy, Jacqueline Wilson, Nicholas Hytner, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Bryn Terfel, Ray Davies, Mary Beard — far too many to list — have been happy to accept a knighthood or damehood, and I am proud to be in their company.

“I’m immensely grateful to those who have worked so hard over many years to edit, publish, illustrate and sell my books, and to the Society of Authors, which does so much for the profession of authorship. I’m most grateful of all to those who continue to read my books, and I hope they don’t have to work as hard as those who edit them.”

Pullman makes stage debut
Novelist Philip Pullman is known for His Dark Materials series of books (PA)

Pullman, who published his first book, The Haunted Storm, in 1972, remains a prolific writer and in May was named author of the year at the British Book Awards, the latest prize in a storied career.

Born in Norwich, Norfolk, to a Royal Air Force pilot, Pullman moved often during his early childhood whenever his father was redeployed.

After his father died in 1954 when Pullman was seven, his mother remarried and moved to Australia, before the family eventually settled in North Wales.

Pullman attended Exeter College, Oxford, to read English, later joking: “Though I never learned to read it very well.”

He began teaching at the age of 25 and published his first children’s book, Count Karlstein, in 1982.

Pullman’s best-known work is the His Dark Materials trilogy, beginning with Northern Lights in 1995, continuing with The Subtle Knife in 1997 and concluding with 2000’s The Amber Spyglass.

A film adaption of the trilogy’s first instalment, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, was released in 2007 under the name of its US title – The Golden Compass.

His Dark Materials has won Pullman awards, including the 1995 Carnegie Medal for Northern Lights and the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year prize for The Amber Spyglass.

Pullman, who was honoured with a CBE in 2004, was in 2008 named by The Times newspaper as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

In 2017 he returned to the Dark Materials universe to launch a new trilogy, with the first novel, The Book Of Dust, winning critical acclaim.