Fate Decided Otherwise

In October 2005 I interviewed the Dutch writer Henk van Woerden for the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad. There in the Amsterdam art gallery Espace, where his novel Ultramarine (Ultramarijn) was being launched and there was an exhibition of his drawings and photos, he told me that he was ‘dog-tired’. He attributed his fatigue to jetlag.…

Joke van Leeuwen’s Light-Hearted Anarchy

For years now Joke van Leeuwen has occupied a special position in the Dutch cultural landscape. With such a versatile talent as hers this is hardly surprising. Central to all her work, whether in her early career in cabaret or her poetry readings today, her poetry for adults and for children, or more particularly her…

Should Be Both Comic and Painful

The Work of Arnon Grunberg On the final pages of Arnon Grunberg’s bizarre – cynical, but also very moving – novel Phantom Pain (Fantoompijn, 2000) the main character, writer-dreamer-swindler Robert Mehlman, writes in a letter to his son Harpo Saul Mehlman: ‘My relationship with your mother, also known as Princess Fairytale, has survived a great…

Riposte to Death

Esther Jansma’s Poetry Mourning. Cherishing the dead. Examining, delaying, outwitting, toying with, and renaming death, in order finally to let go of it again. This is the essence of Esther Jansma’s work. Esther Jansma, born in 1958 in Amsterdam, made her debut in 1988 with Voice under my Bed (Stem onder mijn bed), an impressive…

Extract from ‘Parents Falling’

Living in breadth … After having lived almost all that time in Nijmegen ‘in length’, I realized once more what it meant. Once more I could picture my accumulated memories as a mountain that was growing bigger at its base: a mountain worn away by erosion. When I closed my eyes, it rose up before…

Artist in Remembering

The Work of A.F.Th. van der Heijden In 1977 a certain Patrizio Canaponi made his literary debut with a collection of short stories, A Gondola in the Herengracht (Een gondel in de Herengracht). The content of the stories and the press releases concerning the author suggested that the book was a thinly disguised autobiography of…