notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘English PEN’

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 EnglishPEN.org

(c) Photo by Eimer Wieldraaijer

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

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