Philip Pullman has recently won the Carnegie of Carnegies for Northern Lights, the first volume of his epic trilogy His Dark Materials, which celebrates the success of a latter-day child-Eve in defeating the agents of an oppressive God, first published twelve years ago. This was the latest in a string of accolades which have included the Whitbread – for The Amber Spyglass – and a two-part stage production at the National Theatre. The film of His Dark Materials, renamed The Golden Compass, is due to be released before Christmas. Pullman, meanwhile, is some way into The Book of Dust, which will pick up Lyra’s story two years on and answer some of the huge theological questions thrown up by his reworking of the story of the Fall (or not) of Man. I began by asking him whether he ever envied his key sources Milton and Blake for the artistic energy they derived from the religious belief he cannot share.
PP: Blake was a visionary. That’s the important thing for me. Somebody said to him, ‘When the sun comes up do you not see a round thing rather like a guinea?’, and he said, ‘No, I see a choir of angels singing.’ Blake was able to see things that other