notes on dutch literature

Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Interview Gerbrand Bakker

In Awards, Interviews on July 23, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Gerbrand Bakker - Eimer Wieldraaijer
PEN Atlas Editor, Tasja Dorkofikis talks to Gerbrand Bakker about his novel, The Detour (titled Ten White Geese in the US), walking in Wales for two weeks, translating Emily Dickinson and about working with his translator David Colmer.

The Twin brought you much international recognition. Was it difficult to write a new novel after winning the IMPAC? Or was it in some way liberating to know that you have that official stamp of approval?

The Detour was already finished when The Twin was awarded with the IMPAC. It came out in October of 2010 here in Holland. So: no. But: since The Detour (or Ten White Geese in the US) I haven’t written anything, apart from my weblog and the occasional story or column. I simply did not feel like it. What I did do in the end with the prize money was to buy a house with land in The Eifel, Germany. Since the first of December last year I own it, and I go there a lot. One part of the house will be renovated later this spring, and there I will have a – I hope – wonderful, big writing room with only a wood burning stove in it, accessible via a staircase, outside the house. I’ve been having some problems with depression and stuff, and now I feel just fine, writing is not a part of my daily life, but I do feel like I have to have the feeling of wanting to write, if you know what I mean. Usually I’m very happy when I write. I work like a horse then: I don’t think or analyse much, I just move forward until the book is finished.

Read the entire interview with Gerbrand Bakker on

(c) Photo by Eimer Wieldraaijer


Freunden von Freunden

In Interviews on December 9, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Renske Jonkman - Freunden von Freunden - Jordi Huisman
Freunden von Freunden (Friends of Friends) is an international interview magazine that portrays people of diverse creative and cultural backgrounds in their homes or within their daily working environments. Our content aspires to present multifaceted personal perspectives including impressions of cities, various art scenes and international urban living.

FvF interviewed Dutch novelist and journalist Renske Jonkman back in june of this year.

After the release of her debut Zo gaan we niet met elkaar om (We don’t treat each other like this) Renske Jonkman is currently working on her second novel. Combining journalism with fiction, the Amsterdam based writer explores the interference between reality and imagination. This interaction was the leitmotiv of her first book, and still strongly fascinates her. She does not take reality for granted, but plays with it willingly.

Unfortunately We don’t treat each other like this, is not available in English translation.

Entertainment for the Middle Classes?

In Interviews on November 28, 2012 at 6:00 PM

English PEN
Over a million copies sold, multiple translations, a stage adaptation – does Herman Koch’s The Dinner show us a new way for Dutch literature? Michele Hutchison investigates for PEN Atlas

Not long after I’d moved to Amsterdam and become interested in Dutch literature, I was confronted with an exotic word: straatrumoer. Literally, ‘the sound from the street’. I learned that, in the 1980s, an academic called Ton Anbeek, who’d spent time in the States, had caused ripples in the literary world by suggesting that contemporary Dutch literature needed a lot more of it. Anbeek had compared recent American fiction with Dutch and came to the conclusion that Dutch fiction contained too little political engagement and too much navel-gazing. Novelists should work harder to reflect and comment on social reality, presumably as Don Delillo and Thomas Pynchon did.

Anbeek was lucky, just then a new generation of young writers like Joost Zwagerman, Arnon Grunberg, Ronald Giphart, and Hafid Bouzza came along, and the problem ostensibly was addressed. Contemporary social reality and politics – matters outside the protagonist’s psyche – gained a larger role in fiction. Psychological fiction moved towards faction. Nevertheless, public complaints against Dutch literature rumbled on. In 2006, then Prime Minister, JP Balkenende, wrote to eminent novelist Harry Mulisch lamenting the lack of social engagement in the arts. Where was the Grand Design? Vision? Ideals? Anbeek’s criticism had resurfaced and had even been added to the country’s political agenda!

Read the rest of this article on the website of English PEN

Interview Herman Koch

In Interviews on November 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Herman Koch

“What a tremendous book. I loved ever single gripping and strange thing about it,” commented M.J. Hyland on The Dinner; a novel about middle-class manners and parenting which has swept a tide of opinion before it.

Dutch actor and writer Herman Koch’s The Dinner is one of those zeitgeist-tapping book which has won both critical acclaim and prizes but also sold in stupendous quantities – over a million copies in Europe to date. Deborah Brooks interviewed Herman Koch on behalf of Bookoxygen.

It’s sadly the case that authors who sparkle in prose can sometimes be exceptionally dour in life. Herman Koch’s publicist had already emailed me to tell me: ‘Herman is great fun – you’ll like him,’  but I suspect that these words might have made me worry that he was anything but, had I not enjoyed the book so very much. The Dinner is certainly not light-hearted and only in a few places could it be described as ‘fun’, but it is darkly funny and extremely well observed, clearly the work of a writer who delights in detail and bringing to life characters who both amuse and appal.  My interview with Herman Koch was perforce done via phone during his brief UK visit and five minutes into the call I found myself not only enjoying our conversation immensely but also deciding that Herman Koch is indeed a man you would like to have dinner with, just not the dinner described in the book.

Read here the rest of Deborah Brooks’ interview with Herman Koch

Self-Portrait of an Other

In Interviews on November 1, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Max Neumann

Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom discussed his book of prose poems written in response to drawings by Berlin artist Max Neumann on radio KCRW’s Bookworm.  The otherworldly drawings of Max Neumann inspired Nooteboom to write a set of prose poems that complements and echoes Neumann’s work: personal reflections — memories, dreams, fantasies, landscapes, stories and nightmares— and presents. These texts took ten years to be translated into English titled  Self-Portait of an Other, translated by David Colmer.

Self-portrait of an Other

More work by Max Neumann:

Interview David Colmer

In Interviews on October 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Australian born author and translator David Colmer lives in Amsterdam with his Dutch wife and two daughters. We don’t often give much thought to the translators who make the works of different languages available to us, but a good translation really is a work of art. He translated many novels, poetry and children’s fiction of well-known Dutch and Belgium authors like Hugo Claus, Dimitri Verhulst, Gerbrand Bakker, Annie M.G. Schmidt and Cees Nooteboom.

He is a four-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize and his translation of Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin won the 2010 Impac Dublin Literary Award. In 2009 he won the NSW Premier’s Award and PEN Medallion.

David Colmer was recently interviewed by Eart Shaw of Writers Radio.

A Little Blog of Books

Book reviews and other literary-related musings

lis simone


Famous books from a small country

Just another site

the contextual life

thoughts without borders


literary translation news and updates

The Bookwyrm's Lair

Thoughts on Popular Books, High Literature, and the Printed Word

Fleur in her World

Notes from a bookish life on the Cornish coast ...


Books reviews with the occasional interview thrown in for good measure

The Overflown

Leftovers of interviews, reviews, press trips and features by an art/food/travel journalist and writer.

Lizzy's Literary Life

Celebrating the pleasures of a 21st century bookworm

A year of reading the world

196 countries, countless stories...

The Longest Chapter

Literary fiction, poetry, first editions, classics... News

Famous books from a small country