notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘Liz Waters’

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.


History’s most dangerous sport

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

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.

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.

Immigrant Nations

In Non-Fiction on December 16, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Immigrant Nations - Paul Scheffer
Immigrant Nations by Paul Scheffer is a reassessment of how immigration is changing our world. The policies of multiculturalism that were implemented in the wake of post-war immigration have, especially since 9/11, come under intense scrutiny, and the continuing flow of populations has helped to ensure that immigration remains the focus of intense social and political debate.

Based on his knowledge of the European and American experience, Scheffer shows how immigration entails the loss of familiar worlds, both for immigrants and for host societies. The conflict that accompanies all major migratory movements is not the result of a failure of integration, but is part of a search for new ways of living together. It prompts an intensive process of self-examination on all sides.

Immigrant Nations – a mix of reportage, memoir, analysis and history first published in Dutch in 2007 – is bursting with curiosity about the immigrant condition. Scheffer is a professor of urban studies at Amsterdam University but he brings a literary imagination to this vast subject, together with a psychological insight and aphoristic style not found in the academic tomes.

Immigrant Nations is an important, ambitious book. It rambles in places, and Scheffer ducks the big issue of what national identity should look like in open, rich societies. But as the revolt against mass immigration and multiculturalism shows no signs of weakening in Europe, it is timely to have a rational and liberal defence of the new scepticism that ranges with such confidence across so many countries – and is a damn good read too.

David Goodhart, The Financial Times

Immigrant Nations is published by Polity Press (2011) and is translated by Liz Waters.

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