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winter nights

winter nights opening: debate

'Western writers are part of oppression'

The annual presentation of the International PEN Awards during the opening of Winternachten in The Hague is never a truly convivial affair. After all, every year at least one of the awardees is unable to receive the prize herself. Because she has been captured, because he is missing, or ill. This year, Thursday 14 January at the Theater aan het Spui, could... 

Winternachten is about something

Hello Darkness is the theme of the international literary festival Winternachten, this coming weekend in The Hague. It takes guts, in a time when everything has to be fun and cosy and we prefer not to spend our free time dealing with misery or 'heavy topics'. That is why we love Winternachten, because that festival really goes... 

Susan Neiman chief guest at Winternachten 2016: Why the atomic bomb really fell on Hiroshima

Propaganda is not just something that occurs in, say, Russia, but also in the West - more so than we ourselves realise. For example, is it widely believed today that the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force Japan to capitulate and thus end World War II, nothing could be further from the truth. In that respect, Germany goes... 

Particular Dutch culture remains under the radar due to amateur status

The India Dance Festival received just a little less attention from the national media this weekend than the Amsterdam Dance Event. Something that theatre director Leo Spreksel of The Hague-based Korzo Theatre was a bit worried about on Sunday. Because for three days now, his halls have been so muddy that he even turned away visitors who came all the way from Switzerland.... 

arie doeser on #cityt2cities

Lock up the alderman! 6 lessons from book festival #City2Cities 2015

The building alone made literature festival City2Cities worth a visit. After all, the Post Office on Utrecht's Neude, built in 1924 as an ode to progress in a style that brought together the best of the Amsterdam School, had been closed for years. So even those who don't get excited by Nick Cave and who think Michel Houellebecq is a creep had a reason... 

Carrots, potatoes and a dash of lard on Writers Unlimited

How do you get back home mentally after a war? David van Reybrouck in conversation with Stefan Hertmans and Ian Buruma Carrots, potatoes, maybe some celery and a dash of lard, this was the monotonous winter diet of the underclass in rural Flanders in the late nineteenth century. But, outlines professor and guest speaker Louise O. Fresco in her opening column, these days it is the... 

In 2016, we will conquer Germany, if it is up to Bart Moeyaert

He had had a TED training. It couldn't be otherwise. Bart Moeyaert, poet, writer and multiple award winner, sometimes literally wriggled into numerous corners to warm up the Dutch literary guild to his plans for 2016. That year, for the first time in a long time, the Netherlands will host the Frankfurter Buchmesse again, the Art Basel of the literary world.... 

Kees 't Hart pontificates on literary Holland

'Do you not agree with me that many of you - like members of Roman Catholic curia - are already trying to make yourselves immortal and indispensable? That you are suffering from severe mental and spiritual petrification?' Kees 't Hart measured himself a papal role on Sunday 18 January, when delivering The State of Dutch Literature,... 

Indian dream shattered during Writers Unlimited

Radbraken. This is how it works: you tie someone to a sturdy cartwheel, then break all his or her bones by beating them country-wide with clubs, after which you weave the mangled limbs around the spokes of the wheel. It is essential that the punished person undergoes all this alive and conscious. After the treatment, you bring the wheel with... 

It wasn't about weltschmerz, but it didn't make the sauce any less

Rarely have I seen two female artists at a table more different from each other than Dominique Goblet and Leela Corman. Two female comic artists, on either side of Peter Breedveld who is flown in every year as a connoisseur of the comic genre at Writers Unlimited. Corman, a comic book artist as well as a dancer, writes her stories in a fairly recognisable style. Impressive stories, historically, like her latest... 

From world politics to the most intimate story: in search of what touches at Writers Unlimited '15

Writers Unlimited's Friday night kicked off with an Islam debate. In no uncertain terms, religious historian Karen Armstrong argued that Islam and jihad are not the same thing. There are only 41 jihads in the entire Quran, most of which are the peaceful struggle to help the poor when one is destitute oneself. But after the Paris attacks... 

Africa is a feeling, says former African writer on Writers Unlimited

Nii Ayikwei Parks wants to write a book describing bad places in Africa as ideal, so that people who use his books as travel guides will be mugged and robbed and thus will learn what fiction is. With this humorous statement, the British-born and British-based writer, who spent his childhood with his Ghanaian parents in Ghana, brings some air into the evening... 

East, west, hell best on Writers Unlimited

Home is where The hell is. The naming of Writers Unlimited's programme sections leaves little to the imagination. And listening to the opening of this particular section, writer Maaza Mengiste is not one to leave us with pleasant thoughts either. She has plunged literarily into the plight of refugees coming from Ethiopia to... 

Solid Battle over multicultural society marks new era for Writers Unlimited #wu15

20 years of Writers Unlimited's existence, and the anniversary, now in The Hague, comes at a time when free writing worldwide is under heavier pressure than ever. Perhaps that is also why the audience is more numerous than previous editions. All nights are rigidly sold out, making for a rather sweltering atmosphere at the Theater aan het Spui. Apt opening of... 

Karl Ove Knausgard opens Writers Unlimited with strong appeal to individualism #wu15

"Everyone who writes will sooner or later run into a wall, a limit of what cannot, should not and should not be written. And almost everyone will flinch at that moment and refrain from writing it. Because that wall is there to protect us from what we don't want." Karl Ove Knausgård, already compared by some to Marcel Proust,... 

Video: 3 times swearing and ranting for the good cause and Heleen Mees

Omdat Writers Unlimited samenwerkt met een van de laatste literaire tijdschriften van Nederland, en omdat dat tijdschrijft ‘Tirade’ heet, was er tijdens het laatste festival in Den Haag een plek ingeruimd voor tirades. En wat dat dan zijn? Het online woordenboek zegt: 

To hear Andrès Neuman speak is to want to buy his book #WU14

Tijdens Writers Unlimited mengen schrijvers zich vaak clandestien onder het gewone volk. En dan vooral de jongere, internationale auteurs, in tegenstelling tot de Adriaan van Dissen van deze wereld die geen stap kunnen verzetten zonder bedolven te worden in een scrum van literaire groupies. Zo kan het dus gebeuren dat je meerdere malen bier staat te drinken met iemand die ineens, geheel onverwacht, een geniaal auteur blijkt te wezen. Zoals Andrès Neuman.

Show with substance is like good sex with a storyteller

 “Een goed boek is een man die me verleidt, is als seks met een onbekende.” Anne Provoost, de secuur Vlaams pratende essayiste slaagde erin om P.F. Thomése en Hermamn Koch even aan het wankelen te brengen. In een debat tijdens Writers Unlimited hield zij een pleidooi voor het niet-waargebeurde verhaal, en deed dat in een beeldspraak die de fantasie nogal in beweging zette. Ze citeerde haar eigen werk “Fictie en Macht” waarin het lezen inderdaad een nogal fysieke aangelegenheid wordt:

Antjie Krog and Andries Samuel drive a tractor over your heart #WU14

"Of course she can write!" seems the mother of the award-winning South African poet Antjie Krog ever having exclaimed. "Because I can do it too, right? There's nothing special about that."

Blood creeps, even for Krog. After a ten-year career as a successful architect - and secretly grinding on words - her own son debuted Andries Samuel with the crushing, heartbreaking collection of poetry Wanpraktyk (2011). 

Writers Unlimited brought mother and son together on stage. Late at night. For the first time ever. And Wende sang to them. And god almighty how beautiful that was. By the way, you have to take it from us, because on pain of caning, pitch & feathers and fines from here to Siberia, it turned out that it was forbidden to film Wende singing (but we did, and the film was online for a while, but has now been removed from the internet).

Through Facebook, writers return to origins #wu14

Het komt door Facebook. Zegt Ton van de Langkruis, artistiek directeur van schrijversfestival Writers Unlimited: “Je kunt niet langer die anonieme figuur zijn die de wereld met hermetische teksten bestookt vanuit een afgesloten zolderkamer. De markt is er niet meer naar. Je belangrijkste communicatiemiddel is facebook. Daar moet je open staan voor vragen, je communiceert met je lezers. We zijn weer terug op het dorpsplein waar ooit  de eerste verhalen verteld werden.”  

Arie Boomsma flings books of poetry at Writers Unlimited

The latenight closures of Winternachten at Writers Unlimited are always upbeat. That's because the poets have already loosened up and the audience has drunk a bit more. And this time it was also because of mega-audience favourite (on other occasions) Arie Boomsma. Out of wantonness, the cheerful ratings canon smashed poetry books of his programme's guests.

Noreena Herz topples from pedestal at Writers Unlimited

"Don't listen to the experts, they are actually always wrong." The gist of 'Eyes wide open', Noreena Hertz's latest book, is clear. That she is an expert herself, and therefore her views should be distrusted, makes sense. That the conversation she had on the subject with former politician Femke Halsema became increasingly bizarre was not so logical. Downright shocking was the fall that the terror of all the world's bankers took at the end.

No happy sex, but bitter sex #WU14

Sometimes a Writers Unlimited programme can catch you off guard. Last year, the late-night talk show on literary sex was a hilarious highlight - pun intended - of the festival. This time, the programme dropped Let's talk about sex bar little to laugh at.

Forget the connotations with Salt N Pepa. Indonesian Linda Christanty writes not about 'happy sex, but about bitter sex as a means of power, as a form of coercion and violence.' That made us quiet for a moment. 

'Thanks to facebook I have time to spare': writers embrace the social network at Writers Unlimited

Fouad Laroui does not do internet. The Moroccan-born author and professor does not even have a mobile phone. "I realise that this makes me part of a small elite," he declared during a debate at Writers Unlimited, "but I don't see the point of it." His tablemates did not share his opinion, which is quite remarkable. Just a few years ago, most of the international writing elite regarded social media as something with which they did not need to interfere.

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