A Gaze Trained on the Horizon

Children’s Books in the Low Countries A country by the sea is boundless, or perhaps it would be better to say, it seems boundless. The open water with the distant, intangible horizon urges exploration and adventure, but close by the undulating power of the salt sea and the constant wind cause continual commotion. Inevitably this…

An Extract from ‘Choke Valley’

I love stories, be they true, plausible or pure fantasy. As a writer, I occasionally plant a new story in the forest of existing tales. The idea for this book came to me in 2009, the Year of Darwin, when Teylers Museum in Haarlem invited me to participate in an exhibition about two legendary ships:…

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Sinologist and Essayist Simon Leys (1935-2014) Simon Leys died on 11 August 2014 in Sydney, Australia, where he lived for the final years of his life. All the major French magazines published articles or dug out old interviews. The New York Review of Books reposted online ‘The Man Who Got it Right’, a review of Leys’ last English publication, The Hall…

Oddball Amazement and Restless Waywardness

The Polymorphous Work of Joke Van Leeuwen Joke van Leeuwen’s airy, apparently casual manner of bending language to her will is quite unparalleled. Time and again she comes up with new free forms, cast in a mildly absurd style, cleverly starting the reader or spectator off on the wrong foot and creating wilful characters who watch the…

Writing is Gilding

The Monumental Oeuvre of A.F.Th. van der Heijden When A.F.Th. van der Heijden (Geldrop, 1951) debuted under the pseudonym Patrizio Canaponi with a short story in the literary magazine De Revisor early in 1978, it was immediately clear that this heralded an extraordinary talent. At the time, however, no one could have suspected what a…

With a View of the Landscape

The Poetic World of Miriam Van hee The Flemish poet Miriam Van hee, born in Ghent in 1952, read Slavonic studies at university and has translated poetry by Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam and Joseph Brodsky into Dutch. She debuted in 1978 with Het karige maal (‘The scanty meal’) and has since published ten collections, including…

An Extract from ‘Across the Channel’

On the pretext of a summer holiday, Marie Claes travels to Glasgow with her parents in 1914. It soon becomes clear, though, that there is no question of returning. War has broken out and Belgian refugees are pouring in by the thousands. Initially the Glaswegians are full of sympathy at the arrival of ‘their Belgians’,…