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World Editions

In Pick of the Week on February 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM

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New publishing house World Editions aims to make the most promising international literary titles available for the greatest possible audience and bringing remarkable authors to the global market by translating their work into English.

Two Dutch books were just published in the World Editions series: Craving by Esther Gerritsen and Gliding Flight by Anne-Gine Goemans

Craving was nominated for the Libris Literature Prize, the Opzij Prize and the Dioraphte Literary Award.

The relationship between Coco and her mother Elisabeth which is uneasy, to say the least. Running into each other by chance, Elisabeth casually tells Coco that she is terminally ill. When Coco moves in with her mother in order to take care of her, aspects of their troubled relationship come to the fore once again. Elisabeth tries her best to conform to the image of a caring mother, but struggles to deal with Coco´s erratic behavior and unpredictable moods.

Gliding Flight is is the second novel of Anne-Gine Goemans.  The novel was awarded the Dioraphte Literary Award and the German M Pionier Award for new literary talent.

Inventive, dreamy Gieles lives with his father and a flock of geese on a spotters’ campground next to an airstrip. Gieles is longing for affection—from the mysterious dreadlocked girl he has met online, and also from his mother, who is always away on hopeless missions to save the world. With an ingenious but dangerous plan he tries to attract their attention.

Must read in 2014

In Pick of the Week on January 26, 2014 at 4:42 PM

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Huffinton Post selected Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch as one of the 30 books you need to read in 2014.
Koch, the author of The Dinner brings us another insightful-sounding story. This one is about a botched medical procedure, performed by Marc “doctor to the stars” Schlosser, and resulting in the death of actor Ralph Meier. The pair and their families had spent the previous summer together near the Mediterranean – that’s when things started going wrong.

The Passage to Europe

In Non-Fiction, Pick of the Week on August 5, 2013 at 8:30 AM

The Passage to Europe
Political philosopher, historian and adviser to the president of the European Union Herman van Rompuy, Luuk van Middelaar provides in a vivid narrative of the crises and compromises that united Europe in his recently translated The Passage to Europe; How a Continent Became a Union. It is a story of unexpected events and twists of fate, bold vision and sheer necessity, told from the perspective of the key players – from de Gaulle to Havel, Thatcher to Merkel. The author cuts through the institutional complexity by exploring the unforeseen outcomes of decisive moments and focusing on the quest for public legitimacy.

Financial Times selected The Passage to Europe as one of the books of the year. Tony Barber wrote in the Financial Times: It is a discerning, balanced, gracefully written book, flavoured with the insights of political science but filled with the meat of European Union history over six decades.

Tribune: Luuk van Middelaar has written by far the best, accessible, thoughtful account of Europe as was and is and as he hopes will be that we have seen in years.

The Passage to Europe was awarded the Socrates Prize for best Dutch Philosophy book and the 2012 European Book Prize. The English translation by Liz Waters, publisher Yale Books.
More information and reviews can be found on the books’ website.

Unique City Portraits

In Pick of the Week on July 28, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Citybooks - Frosina Stojkovska
Short stories about cities written by famous authors and up-and-coming literary talents: citybooks. The Flemish Dutch House deBuren has invited international authors and photographers to take part in a two week residency with one local partner organisations in various European cities. The resulting stories, essays or poems can be read, listened to and downloaded for free on Citybooks: tell me a story. Every citybook is available as a webtext, e-book and podcast (audio book) of thirty minutes in Dutch, English and French. All the podcasts are also available thru iTunes.

Dutch and Flemish authors such as Christiaan Weijts, Abdelkader Benali, Maxim Februari, Cees Nooteboom, Joost Zwagerman, Arnon Grunberg, Saskia de Coster, Chiko Unigwe, Peter Terrin, and Annelies Verbeke participated amongst many others.

Excerpt Warrior on a Horse (Skopje, Macedonia) by Abdelkader Benali

The heat lends charm to the city. The better-off middle-class flee, whilst those who stay behind fill their space. People change their clothes and behaviour without having to abandon their outlook on life and yet they seem to have become very different people, touched by a wondrous enlightenment. Suddenly, it’s all miniskirts, Ray Bans and milkshakes. The fountains conjure up an illusion of watery abundance in a bone-dry climate, exerting a soothing effect on the inhabitants; the end of time is still a million miles away. Passers-by seem to be on their way to a banquet, like figures in a dream materialising on the spot.

(c) photo by Frosina Stojkovska for Citybooks

History’s most dangerous sport

In Non-Fiction, Pick of the Week on July 20, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Gladiators
In The Gladiators; History’s Most Deadly Sport traces Fik Meijer, professor of Ancient History at the University of Amsterdam from 1992 to 2007, the origins of the gladiators over 2,500 years, from the initial belief that their blood spilled on a grave would sustain the dead on its journey to the underworld. Yet, as centuries passed and the Roman Empire grew, gladiators became part of vaster, more brutal entertainments staged by successive emperors eager to manipulate the public with “bread and circuses” and to exhibit their supreme power over men and animals, life and death. Meijer has pieced together true stories from contemporary evidence, describing the gladiators’ origin, daily life, training and the odds of their survival pitted against there legions of fans’ lust for blood and spectacle.

New York Times: Mr. Meijer understands exactly what readers want to know about gladiators and anticipates their every question in this admirable little study. He explains who the gladiators were; how they were trained, fed and paid; what weapons they used; and what rules governed combat in the arena. One chapter reconstructs a full day’s program at the Roman Colosseum and, as a bonus, Mr. Meijer looks at two films, Spartacus and Gladiator to see just how well Hollywood captured the flavor and the period detail of Rome’s most popular sport.

The Daily Mail: Forget Russell Crowe in a skirt and sandals, this is the real deal if you want to know about blood and guts in the arena.

The Gladiators : History’s Most Deadly Sport was published by St. Martin’s Griffin/Thomas Dunne Books in 2007. Earlier editions were published in 2004 and 2005. Translation by Liz Waters.

Tirza

In Pick of the Week on March 15, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Tirza_Grunberg
By Thomas Bouwmeester After The Dinner: A Round Up of Newly Translated Dutch Fiction in The Millions.

Tirza is a story about the obsessive love of a father for his daughter and is one of the most renowned novels by Amsterdam-born, New York City resident Arnon Grunberg, who debuted as a novelist in 1994 and has since created a vast oeuvre of fiction, literary journalism, essays, and stage plays. Tirza was translated by
Sam Garrett and published by Open Letter.

Tirza revolves around Jörgen Hofmeester, for whom things aren’t going very well: he lost his job as an editor and all his savings after investing in a hedge fund. His wife left him, but suddenly returns after three years, shortly before their daughter Tirza is about to move out after graduating from high school.

Tirza is the apple of Hofmeester’s eye, and he can’t let her go. When Tirza introduces her boyfriend Choukri to him, Choukri’s strong resemblance to 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta occurs to Hofmeester, who starts to regard him as his “personal terrorist.” Later on, Tirza announces that she and Choukri want to travel to Africa. The three of them spend a weekend together at a farmhouse in the Dutch countryside before Hofmeester drops them off at the Frankfurt airport. The story reaches its apotheosis when Hofmeester, after not having heard from Tirza for a few weeks, travels to Namibia to look for her.

“Grunberg chronicles the mistakes of a morose Dutch bourgeois and constructs a delectable psychological thriller.” — Le Figaro

“With this novel, Grunberg advances slowly but surely toward the class of major authors who write lucidly about the incomprehensibility of human actions.” — Haarlems dagblad

‘I don’t like to be pigeonholed’

In More poetry please, Pick of the Week on January 31, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Ramsey NasrMichele Hutchison interviewed Ramsey Nasr at the end of his four-year term as Dutch Poet Laureate
© Michele Hutchison, Wednesday 30 January 2013 Poetry International

I’ve just had the pleasure of spending a week with Ramsey Nasr and five other Dutch and Flemish writers travelling around England with the High Impact Tour. It gave me an excellent opportunity to discover the man behind the celebrated actor-poet and to hear his views on poetry, politics and performance.

What is poetry for you?
People think that poems are based on feelings and longings, but that has nothing to do with the poem itself but the effect it has on the reader. When Shakespeare wrote his famous sonnet ‘Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day’ he probably wasn’t moved himself, he was just doing a good job. Prose is a parallel universe but poetry can transport. Nothing happens in a poem, time has come to a standstill and space disappears. A poem consists of nothing but letters, put them in the right order and you evoke emotion. Good poetic technique is about creating that emotion in the reader.

The students we met in Sheffield were preoccupied with understanding poetry.
Yes. People want to understand poetry but you have to let go of that. Language is usually functional. It gets us from A to B. In poetry, language is used in a different way. The meanings of words change, that’s why it is seen as difficult. You think it’s about something and then suddenly it’s about something else. The poet himself sometimes doesn’t know what the poem is about, because things occur through association or rhyme. The laws of the form determine the poem. Poetry puts language under pressure, misunderstandings surface.

Compare it to music. You never think of a song as difficult to understand. You just hear a melody. When I was young, I listened to Michael Jackson and sang along, copying the sounds and vowels. I had no idea what he was saying. We need to be released from the question of understanding or not understanding poetry. Don’t analyse it all the time. Dissecting a rat doesn’t tell you anything about life.

What kind of poetry do you write?
People always ask what kind of poetry I write. They also ask whether I’m an actor or poet and which I prefer. If they threatened to cut off my finger, which would I be? The Dutch in particular like to pigeonhole everything.
I started off as a love poet. My first volume was about a real relationship, or actually several (poor me), but my second was about women I invented. Readers said to me, you’ve had a bad run of it! That’s the thing – the reader can be completely fooled. The poet can create something that isn’t real.
In 2005, I became City Poet for Antwerp where I lived for 18 years. It forced me to write about the here and now. For example, I wrote a poem about the ‘slumlords’ in the city, or about extreme poverty in Antwerp. Four years later, when I became poet laureate of the Netherlands, I continued on that path: I wrote a poem about Geert Wilders. I wrote a poem about child abuse in the Catholic church – and suddenly everyone called me a political poet. I hate being called a political poet actually.

Is there a difference between the poetry you used to write and the poetry you wrote ‘in function’?
There is a difference, although I don’t like to admit it. The poetry I used to write was private, I didn’t write it for an audience. As City Poet or Poet Laureate, it’s like there’s a monster with a thousand eyes looking down on you. It’s not that my ‘public’ poetry is more simple, but I’m much more conscious about what I write.

What’s it like being Poet Laureate?
You have to write a minimum of four poems a year but there is lots of pressure and lots of requests. You’re the Ambassador for Dutch poetry. It’s a full-time honorary function but you can get paid by the newspaper or institute that commissions the poem. It pulls poetry into the society and society into poetry. Having a Poet Laureate is a way of letting poetry open its ears and eyes a bit more. Poetry doesn’t have to just be about love, or the weather.

Do they commission poems from you? How does it work?
I have the freedom to publish what I like. It’s very Dutch, that. In general I view our liberty as a tool that has been used too much. The whole concept has lost its meaning for us; it’s a sign of arrogance. ‘I am Dutch, so I can be blunt’, said our minister of Finance at a EU-meeting. We don’t realise anymore what it is to be free, we take it for granted. I hate the Dutch for being too loud, it’s better to be modest sometimes. We’re a small country. But this freedom as Poet Laureate is a good thing; it is also a risk: the newspaper agreed to publish anything, without censorship.

Nevertheless, it will feel like a release when I can do what I like again at the end of the month. I look forward to writing completely private poetry. Not to anyone in particular, just for myself. It isn’t very poetic to write something current-affairs related with a twenty-four hour deadline. The poem becomes the news. I said that time stands still in a poem, this goes against that. There’s less room for multi-interpretability when you’re writing about child abuse.

Being Poet Laureate is also a great way of getting a much larger readership. In general you’re lucky if a volume of poetry sells a thousand copies in its lifetime. The top sellers might be about five thousand, that’s all. Now 200,000 people might read a poem when it’s published in the paper and if I read it out on a talk show, the audience rises to a million. You reach much more people – the man in the street.. A male cleaner in a hotel came up to me to thank me after I’d written an anti-war poem about our participation in Iraq. ‘Who other than a poet could say that?’ he commented.

How does acting compare to writing poetry?
As an actor you are always present. Your body never disappears, it’s always part of the act. The poet dissolves in language. I don’t like poets who deliberately perform on stage, there’s always a tension between the poem itself and his or her presence. It can also mask the fact that a poem might not work on paper. It has to be good enough in print, in my opinion.

I’ve had people come up to me and say they’ve only understood poems when they’ve heard them aloud. People like listening to poetry. It gives the appearance of it being understandable. Perhaps because it is read with ease. It might be like musical notation, it’s difficult to execute it in your head. Hearing a poem is a similar process of interpretation, the preparation is done for you.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was about four I wanted to be Queen of the Netherlands. We had a queen, so the idea of a king didn’t occur to me. Some years later, I wanted to become Darwin. After that, my ambitions more or less evolved into something more, let’s say, realistic . . . After flirting with the idea of studying Greek and Latin, I finally knew what I wanted to be: an actor. And as you can see, I changed my mind again, ha-ha.

Banipal published Nasr’s Collected poems Heavenly Life, translated by David Colmer.

The greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure

In Pick of the Week on January 20, 2013 at 8:36 PM

The Rider - Tim Krabbe
“If there’s one book every cyclist should read, it’s The Rider by Tim Krabbé. Just like knowing the basic skill of how to fix a puncture, this should be mandatory reading for every cyclist.[…]I’ve never read anything that captures the essence of the pleasure, the suffering and the insanity of a bike race so perfectly” Cycling Tips

English readers know Tim Krabbé primarily for The Vanishing, the translation of his 1984 novel Het Gouden Ei (The Golden Egg), which was made into an acclaimed 1988 Dutch film for which Krabbé co-wrote a script.
Originally published in Holland in 1978, The Rider became an instant cult classic, selling over 100,000 copies. Translated by the gifted Sam Garret and published by Bloomsbury in 2002.

The Rider is brilliantly conceived and written at a breakneck pace, it is a loving, imaginative, and, above all, passionate tribute to the art of bicycle road racing. Like much of Krabbé’s oeuvre, The Rider has a strange, dark, philosophical flavour: it is both a paean to pain and a hymn to the fellowship of the road. Nothing better is ever likely to be written on the subjective experience of cycle-racing.

Cycling is one of Krabbé’s great enthusiasms. Though he discovered his talent for cycle-racing relatively late in life, in his 30s. That new-found passion eventually found its way into this autobiographical novella about a 150-kilometre bike race in south-west France, the Tour de Mont Aigoual. “Suffering always appealed to me – it’s the essence of cycling. When I was eight or nine, I loved running against my friends. I had an image of myself as able to endure physical strain.” He explains in an interview with the Guardian.

“The greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is nature’s payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses; people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. ‘Good for you’. Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few friends these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms, she rewards passionately.” from The Rider.

The Rebel’s Hour

In Pick of the Week, Review on December 20, 2012 at 8:24 PM

The Rebel's hour - Lieve Joris
Award-winning journalist Lieve Joris (Back to the Congo, Mali Blues) gracefully re-imagines the non-fiction genre in The Rebel’s Hour of ‘literary’ reportage, an exhaustively researched, colorfully executed look at war-torn Congo that was released in Joris’s native Holland as nonfiction and in France as a novel (the facts are true, though her subjects could be evasive). A profound portrait of a man and his times, the book follows the life of Assani, a Tutsi cowherd who abandons the tribe of his youth to fight in the Congolese wars, where he becomes a distinguished military man, rising through the ranks of government even as he becomes deeply jaded by the chaos, destruction and suffering around him.

Joris’s Congo is a fragmented mess of political aggression, ethnic clashes and disintegrating national unity, and if the breakdown of Joris’s hero parallels the nation’s collapse a bit too neatly, it’s made up for in the author’s deft handling of Assani’s slippery perspective: “Families paralyzed you; everyone clung to everyone else and they kept asking each other for advice. Assani was against that sort of dependence-it made you lazy.” Joris presents a bare, honest and powerful tableau that illuminates the African delimma in hauntingly personal terms.
Source: Publisher’s Weekly

The Rebel’s Hour, written by Lieve Joris, translated by Liz Waters, published by Grove Press (ISBN 978-0-8021-1868-4)

Lieve Joris is one of the six novelists touring through the UK with High Impact: Literature from the Low Countries, January 14th – January 19th 2013.

What Kwaku Knows – Radio Book

In Masters, Pick of the Week on December 19, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Arthur Japin
Dutch writer Arthur Japin was born in Haarlem in 1956. He studied Dutch Language and Literature at the University of Amsterdam and drama at The Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and the Amsterdam Theatre School. He acted on stage, screen and television for many years.

The publication of his debut novel The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi in 1997 established Arthur Japin’s name as a writer. It is the tragic story of two Ashanti princes Kwasi and Kwame, who were offered as a gift to King William I in 1837. In a beautiful, polished style Japin blended fiction and historic fact into a striking whole. The book sold over 150,000 copies in the Netherlands and won multible awards. It’s been translated into numerous languages, including English, and adapted for stage, screen and opera.

In 2003 Japin published another historical novel In Lucia’s Eyes, which won him the Libris Literature Prize. Inspired by an episode related in the memoirs of Casanova, the story is set in Amsterdam in 1758. An English translation by David Colmer received critical acclaim in the United States.

His most recent novel Director’s Cut sets in Rome and features Italian film director Federico Fellini, with whom Japin found himself caught up in an unlikely love triangle.

His Radio Books story What Kwaku Knows is set in Ghana where young boys dream of being discovered by football scouts and Kwaku is no exception.

“All the boys in Kwaku’s class want to be footballers. So does he. Even more so now. Three months ago, an uburuni was standing at the field behind the school, watching them play. They had done their best. After the game, the man had beckoned to Michael, Kwaku’s best friend. He had visited his parents that evening. He gave them fifty dollars and some pocket money for Michael. He guaranteed that he would turn the boy into a professional footballer…”

What Kwaku Knows by Arthur Japin was translated by Michael O’Loughlin. The story is read by David Swatling.

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