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Michael Ende was one of the few 20th-century authors able to satisfy vast child and adult audiences alike with rich works of fantasy. Like Tolkien, C. Lewis and more latterly Ursula le Guin, he was adept at inventing imaginary worlds in which protracted battles between good and evil always seem more vividly clear-cut and engrossing than most things experienced in human reality.
Yet when still a child himself, Ende knew about evil at first hand. As an unwilling member of the Hitler Youth at the age of 15, he lost three of his friends on their first day of active soldiering.
Ende himself, the son of a Surrealist artist forbidden by the Nazis from working, destroyed his own draft and so avoided involvement in any fighting. Born in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the German Alps, Ende trained for the theatre before turning to writing. This describes the imaginary country of Lummerland from which Jim and Luke depart on their train for various adventures. It won the Jugendbuchpreis for adolescent literature in Germany, and was later televised.
Ende's greatest triumph was to come in with The Neverending Story. Translated into 30 languages and selling over 16 million copies, it starts when year-old Bastian, overweight and undervalued, decides he will read a fantastic book rather than endure another day's bullying at school. He is attracted by the book's title, The Neverending Story, since for him fiction has always been preferable to life.
A story that promises never to end is his ideal option. But strange things happen as his reading progresses. When he utters a cry of alarm the characters in the story seem to hear it. Later he reads about someone who exactly resembles him. Finally he enters fully into the story as a principal character.