Highly recommended and fascinating piece about how “a pack of bitches” set upon Ungerer at an ALA convention in 1969:
But Ungerer crossed a line at the A.L.A. event, as the crowd pushed him—asking how dare he draw “Fornicon” and children’s books. “They really went after me,” he recounts, seemingly over the moment until he adds, “Really, like a pack of bitches.” What he says happened was—and a librarian who knew others at the event confirms his story—he got angry. “When I really blow up, then I’m blind, really blind—blind with anger,” he says. “Stupidly, I use the word that you certainly shouldn’t use anyway, especially in those days, and I said to defend myself, ‘If people didn’t fuck, you wouldn’t have any children, and without children you would be out of work.’ And that went, of course, very badly, especially with the word F-U-C-K.”
His punishment was to be effectively blacklisted in America, his books taken from libraries, his children’s publishing career in America over. His penance was to leave town. With his third wife, Yvonne—whom he met on the subway as she was on her way to work at the Children’s Book Council—he moved, on a whim, to Nova Scotia, subsistence living that produced a beautiful journal of painting and writing, “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough,” from which the documentary takes its name. The book, set in a beat-up and wild coastal town (the police station had been boarded up), sees in nature and farming all of Ungerer’s favorite subjects: blood and gore, sex and, mostly, death. In real life, the exiled couple had children and, as often happens, the rebel-turned-parent proceeded to look for order. “When we decided to have children,” he says, “we just realized that no way you would have children in such an unstable milieu.”
The documentary gives the impression that, even in an orderly milieu, Ungerer as a father is still fear-wracked by his youth under Nazi occupation, which is described in detail in the film and, in the exhibit, evidenced in his drawings under Nazi tutelage. These are the roots of his fear of censorship and state-sponsored brainwashing. He says:
In all my children’s books, there’s an element of fear. I always try to induce some fear in children. Why? It’s very important, because you have to overcome your fear. Just like my book “The Three Robbers,” what fascinates me is that no man’s land between the good and the bad. You know, a no man’s land is not a place where you should kill each other but a place where you can meet, and I think good can learn a lot from the bad, and bad can learn a lot from the good. Why shouldn’t they have a bit of fun with each other? Excuse me, that’s what life is about.