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A witty little book about suicide (8 uncomfortable questions to Jente Posthuma and Bas Uterwijk)

Writer Jente Posthuma (1974) and photographer Bas Uterwijk (1968) co-authored a booklet about the carefully planned suicide of Uterwijk's father, Henk. Try to think a little good of me is an intimate, searching, resigned and at times hilarious portrait of a lost loved one.

Bas and I met on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu mat sometime in 2005. We were trying to strangle each other to death. He was working as an art director for a computer game company, I was doing something as a waiter in a café. We could laugh together. He got injured and quit - as it goes. I, thank God, kept everything in one piece and trained on. Three years later, I escaped the hospitality cul-de-sac and started working as a freelance journalist. Around that time, Bas also chose the poverty-stricken life: he started a career as a freelance photographer. With success. In 2010, he won the second prize at the Silver Camera. Since then, we have regularly gone out to work together pieces making. He married writer Jente Posthuma, who debuted last year with the beautiful novel People without charisma. Despite the Facebook connection, the death of his father Henk (October 2014) had completely passed me by. Until I heard about this booklet

Why didn't you keep all this to yourselves?

Bas: "This little book happened, not invented. I just started photographing and Jente started writing. At a certain point she started to push me to actually do something with it. I did wonder whether it wouldn't become too kitschy, because I hate people who show off their suffering."

Jente: "Bas does just that: photographing everything. Even at the birth of our son. He was not breathing well. And while he was being helped by the ambulance staff, Bas started taking photos. That was his way of coping more."


Bas: "You don't become a reportage photographer for the big money. I'm just a huge voyeur and viewer. The photos in Try... were all taken in the three days after my father's death. Still, I didn't think it was complete enough for a pure photo reportage, for that I was missing some images. And there were also moments when I didn't want to take pictures. So there were some things missing."

Jente: "But as a writer, I do save everything, in my head. My texts could fill in the gaps in that reportage and give the images an extra layer. They are very warm photos. So I really wanted to do something with this story, and at one point we had something we both supported. And yes, it was kind of strange to realise at an intense moment, "This is beautiful, I'm going to use this!" But if Bas had really protested about a particular passage (or this whole project) I wouldn't have pushed through, of course."

Could you have made this booklet with someone else?

Bas: "Absolutely not. What Jente and I share is an incredibly morbid sense of humour. We picked each other because we feel the same way about life. We put everything into perspective, ridicule everything. So as I took a sip of water from the little river where my father drowned, I simultaneously thought, "Is this a nice gesture, or just incredibly pathetic? What am I actually standing here doing?" You can only share such a feeling with very few people. "

Did you see it coming?

Bas: "My father had been very gloomy for years. I think somewhere, I always kind of reckoned that he would step out, but I didn't think he had the guts. It wasn't that every time the phone rang I feared he would be dead. Not that."


Jente: "It is actually very strange to realise that all couples lose a partner at some point. You live together for fifty years, like Bas' parents, and then suddenly someone falls away."

Bas: "By the way, my mother did want to help him with the whole suicide thing. But he wanted to do it himself, on his own, in his own way. And that's how it went. But it was a bit dickish of him to suddenly snap out of it."

The title of the booklet is the last sentence of Henk's farewell letter. You show the counterweight with which he drowned himself. And your mother in her swimming costume, swimming to scatter his ashes in the stream. Did the rest of the family find this intimacy awkward?

Bas: "No. In our family, everything has to be negotiable. For my mother, some passages are sometimes a bit too far removed from the way she experienced it all. But she understands that this is my story, written down by my wife. It is ón our view. I think Henk would have liked it. And yes, my mother is doing quite well now. By the way, she has a new boyfriend again, she's in love like a schoolgirl."

That counterweight is now in your attic. Why?

Bas: "My father was once an actor. He pushed that weight back at the Rotterdam stage and carried it with him all his life, from house to house. Like a kind of chore block. For me, it's a totem, an angry thing with a whole story attached to it. Every time I am in the attic I stare at that iron block for a moment. It's a reminder that I don't want to end up like him. My father had lost track for years, we couldn't help him anymore. That can happen to anyone in life, but because I am his son it is a bit more lurking with me. That helplessness can turn into desperation. You have to watch out for that."

Extremely slow

This is an unusual 'second book' though, after such a successful fiction debut.

Jente: "This book came about while I was still working on my debut. I work very slowly and on several things at the same time, so sometimes everything runs into each other. For instance, I combined some of the stories I made for The Revisor (Klein Hoofd series) rewritten for People without charisma. And I had done something earlier in the theatre with Bas' photos. I had been meaning to make a little book like this for AFdH for a long time. Often it is a collaboration between a writer and illustrator - which I thought would be fun, but somehow it never came about. First I wanted to make a new fictional story for that project, then this happened. So everything fell into place. [hints] Jente and Bas were 17 November 2016 guests of VPROs Never Sleep Again. Listen to the interview here.[/hints]"

Is it hard to live with someone who 'looks' like you?

Bas: "I don't mind so much that our lives are mirrored in Jente's stories. Sometimes I feel a bit watched and think, "Shit, this is going to be written about." And it's also kind of weird to go along to her readings, and then be besieged as a 'man-of' by the reading club ladies. Oh well, it's part of it. Fuck it."

This little book about suicide is unexpectedly witty

Jente: "We hear that more often. The other day, an acquaintance asked me, somewhat embarrassed, "May I say I laughed about it?"

Bas: "That's totally okay. My father could laugh tremendously at the tragedy of life."


Jente Posthuma & Bas Uterwijk. Try to think a little good of me. AFdH Publishers (2016).

Daniel Bertina

/// Freelance cultural journalist, critic, writer and dramatist. Omnivore with a love of art, culture & media in all unfathomable gradations between obscure underground and wildly commercial mainstream. Also works for Het Parool and VPRO. And trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.View Author posts

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