Grief, Frustration, and A Telephone Connection:

An Interview With Emma van Meyeren

by Annika van Leeuwen

Photo by Annika van Leeuwen

On a Friday evening in the beginning of May, the RevUU team invited Emma van Meyeren to speak about her collection of essays Ook ik ben Stukgewaaid, which was published in November 2020 by Uitgeverij Chaos. Especially for RevUU, Emma translated part of her second essay – the first one she wrote for the collection – into English. The essay, called “The right ingredients. A ritual in the grocery store,” discusses the experience of grieving through rituals. After the reading, our chief editor Ella van Driel asked Emma some questions about the book and the writing process, including questions from the audience. This article is a summary of this interview.

An important point in Ook ik ben stukgewaaid is that grief does not end. Emma particularly links this to the language we use for grief; words and concepts like the “stages of grief” and the “grieving process” strengthen the misconception that there is a beginning and an ending to grief. These sociological ways of understanding grief do not sit right with Emma, she says, “One of the most important things I learned is that the idea of grief having a beginning or an end has to do with seeing grief or death as an event, different from the way the rest of your life should be.” In fact, grief and loss are an intrinsic part of life, not distinct from other things you go through as a person. A problem with the five stages of grief is that the concept can make people feel like they have to distance themselves from the person they lost and the feeling of grief. To use another cliché, you have to close the chapter and start a new one. Some clichés can be useful, though. The concept of “learning to live with loss” is usually used to denote learning to live with the general concept of loss; however, Emma would like to see people learn to still live with this person that is not around anymore. It would be better to continue the relationship you had with the person you lost, but in a different way – we just do not have the language to talk about the presence of that person. As an example, Emma describes the way the light and clouds make her feel that presence, likely because of their relation to the Christian idea of heaven, “but even as I say this it feels like I am performing it, that someone else has said this for me.” Regarding the title of the book, which came from a line in a poem by Astrid Roemer, she says “Stukgewaaid is impossible to translate. It is a way of saying that you’ve been broken down by the wind blowing.” The perception of being stukgewaaid is a way for Emma to think about grief differently.

A problem with the five stages of grief is that the concept can make people feel like they have to distance themselves from the person they lost and the feeling of grief.

Clichés make it difficult to write about grief. Emma refers to a distinction made in an article in the Autumn 2020 issue of RevUU by Laura Hoogenraad, “Welcome to the Self-Help Era,” between spiritual reading and functional reading. For Emma, being stuck in your thoughts can become a constriction that you need to break out of, which is why you turn to the body. In the essay, Emma says she tries to figure out the relation between the mental and the physical. Emotions are usually ascribed to the mental sphere, but the body comes in to help you feel a process that poet CAConrad also highlighted in their own search for rituals. CAConrad tries to find grief through noticing how the body grieves, which gives you clues about how you grieve in general.

Reading itself may also be a ritual, or at least part of the healing process, something which RevUU editor and author Lea Dokter acknowledged in her article “Life and Other Stories” in our Spring 2021 issue as well. The difficulty in writing about grief is that it is drenched in clichés. Emma wanted to break out of those, but considers that too great a claim for what she eventually did in the book. It is impossible to understand something through the thick layer of clichés and nostalgia; the ways of knowing grief have already been decided. Emma gives the example of the industry around death: there are few options for tombstones (white, black, grey) and even fewer for what to do with the body; cremation or burial? And because there is so much stuff we think we need to do after someone passes that we do not actually need to do, funeral directors can profit off the cliché, off the fact that we are alienated from grief. It is important, Emma thinks, to find new forms of understanding what grief is.

This wish to understand grief was crucial in the creation of the book. Emma states, “I always felt like I wanted to touch on grief, but my head would blank out if I thought about it,” until she realised that she could write about it from that perspective. When asked by her publisher Chaos to write more essays in order to make a book, she did not think she could do it. However, she received a set of new editions of Ursula K. Le Guin’s books for Christmas that year, one of which she gave to a friend. Said friend was happy that it was a small book, because that meant he would read it. So, Emma decided to write a small book, in which important thoughts could be shared, but that would not force you to invest days of your life into it. Emma does not claim to have all the answers, though; she wrote this because she needed it for herself. The idea of processing or understanding or knowing what a ritual would be is something that these essays subvert.

Grief does not always have to be melancholic

Grief is frustrating, too, in the same way that our lives during the pandemic are frustrating; there is a loss there as well, both of people and of “normal life,” of expectations. We are frustrated about losing things. When grieving, you know you will feel sad about your loss in the future, yet you are still surprised every time it happens. Grief does not always have to be melancholic, though, as Emma also points out in the first essay. In an interview with Just Kids’ author Patti Smith, Emma realised that the book was all about grief, and the memory of her husband. The content of the book was such that she had never noticed it as being about grief, it was not melancholic and sentimental. There are different forms of grief, Emma says, and that is great!

A problem occurs when everyone grieves in a different way, yet everyone grieves alone. When asked, Emma admits that she does not know how others grieve, because it is something people do not talk about. While writing the book, and people would ask what she was working on, even people that she knew quite well would tell her stories that she never knew about. While she was working on rituals, for example, many people told her that they had similar experiences to hers; however, even though many people experience the same thing, it is difficult to speak about it to other people. Oftentimes, friendships and relationships suffer when one person – or both – are grieving. It is hard to be faced with someone else’s grief, and there is frustration in the fact we don’t know how to handle it. A former friend told Emma that their relationship fell apart because she was not able to see her friend’s grief while she was grieving.

Photo of Emma van Meyeren during the event, by Ella van Driel

In response to a question from an audience member, “Considering that you are expected to react to losing someone, do you think that a lack of rituals or response to someone’s passing is a ritual in itself?” Emma quickly pens the thought down and says she has not considered that yet. “The awkwardness, the silence, all of that can be seen as a ritual.” She might want to write about that more, though.

The most interesting question, though, was asked by our teacher Mia’s daughter: “Do you believe in spirits?” Yes, Emma says, one hundred percent. “I believe in them in the sense that I think everything that we have language for is true or exists in some way. Anything we talk about exists in some way, otherwise we would not have language for it. But I don’t have the relationship with spirits that other people might have, though I’m jealous of those people who do.” She would like to, though, because she remembers her mother saying “As soon as they install a phone connection in heaven, we can talk again.” Some people have that phone connection, and sometimes when Emma misses her mother, she is upset that that connection is not there. She believes she could learn, though, and is completely open to learning to be more connected to spirits.

Thank you, Emma, for your reading, and your thoughtful answers to these questions! You can find more information about Emma on her website.

Read Jane Singer’s review about Ook ik ben stukgewaaid here!


Annika van Leeuwen is the head of RevUU’s PR and Marketing team. She’s currently enrolled as a Master student in literature at Utrecht University. When reading, she focuses on how books deal with themes such as gender, race, and sexuality. She will not read only Literature, but she will deal with any book as if it’s literature. As a reader, she’s mostly interested in fantasy books, although she also thoroughly enjoys some Jane Austen.

Photo by Annika van Leeuwen


References

Dokter, Lea. “Life and Other Stories.” RevUU, Spring 2021.

Hoogenraad, Laura. “Welcome to the Self-Help Era.” RevUU, Autumn 2020.

Meyeren, Emma van. Ook ik ben stukgewaaid. Essays over rouw. Uitgeverij Chaos, 2020.

Op zoek naar vervangende tekens voor rouw: Een recensie van Emma van Meyerens Ook ik ben stukgewaaid: Essays over rouw

Design: Kris van der Voorn

Door Jane Singer

Het boekje is klein, dun, en voelt licht in mijn hand, terwijl het onderwerp zo zwaar lijkt. Ook ik ben stukgewaaid: Essays over rouw is een bundel van drie essays over herinneringen, rituelen en rouwpatronen. Het boek beschrijft zichzelf als “een collectie van notities over aanhoudende rouw”. De essays bieden reflecties op de rol van rouw in Van Meyerens leven—zij verloor zelf tien jaar geleden haar moeder op jonge leeftijd. Deze reflecties worden onder andere geleid door theorieën over rouw, boeken van Patti Smith, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s De avond is ongemak, en het werk en de ervaringen van Amerikaanse dichter CACondrad en Belgisch filmmaker Chantal Akerman. De kracht van de bundel zit hem voor mij dan ook in hoe Van Meyeren omgaat met deze originele leidraden die nieuw perspectief bieden op een onderwerp dat anders een magneet is voor clichés.   

Samen alleen rouwen  
De titel Ook ik ben stukgewaaid—die overigens een citaat is uit Astrid Roemers NoordzeeBlues—suggereert dat rouw veel mensen treft. “Er klopt iets niet aan rouw als individuele ervaring”, merkt Van Meyeren terecht op (39). Uiteindelijk treft het iedereen. Ik ben ook stukgewaaid toen mijn vader bijna twee jaar geleden overleed. Toch voel ik mij eenzaam in mijn rouw—mijn rouw. Maar waarom is rouw een eenzame ervaring, terwijl iedereen er mee te maken krijgt? Van Meyeren schrijft onder andere over deze “geïndividualiseerde rouw” met behulp van Alessa Ricciardi’s The Ends of Mourning (33). Volgens Ricciardi is rouw in een Westerse, kapitalistische samenleving een privéaangelegenheid (33).  

Ik vraag me af of ook de angst voor de dood of het negatieve en zwaarmoedige stigma rondom de dood een reden is waarom rouw in de marge beland is

Dit is één van de paradoxen van rouw die naar voren komen in de bundel, een paradox die mij bekend voorkomt uit niet alleen mijn eigen beleving, maar ook uit Helen Macdonald’s memoire H Is For Hawk. Tijdens het lezen van Ook ik ben stukgewaaid moest ik vaak denken aan Macdonald. In dit geval aan deze zinnen uit haar  memoire: “It happens to everyone. But you feel it alone. Shocking loss isn’t to be shared, no matter how hard you try” (13). Hartverscheurend verlies is er niet om te delen. Het laat zich niet delen. Dat mag niet. Van wie niet? Van het kapitalisme? Als het aan Van Meyeren ligt wel. We zijn volgzamere consumenten wanneer we ons niet verbonden voelen met elkaar (33).  

Ik vraag me af of ook de angst voor de dood of het negatieve en zwaarmoedige stigma rondom de dood een reden is waarom rouw in de marge beland is, in ieder geval in de marge van de Westerse samenleving. Net voordat ik aan de bundel begon was ik An Idiot Abroad aan het kijken:  een  komische  reisdocumentaire-serie over een klagende Brit, Karl Pilkington, die tegen zijn zin in eropuit gestuurd wordt om nieuwe ervaringen op te doen in verre landen, waar hij alles raar, exotisch en vooral verschrikkelijk vindt. In China gaat Karl lunchen bij een familie waarvan de man buiten bezig is met het maken van een grafkist voor zijn vrouw: een zestiger die er nog gezond uit ziet. “Doesn’t this depress you, seeing this every day when you leave your house?[…] I  don’t  want  to  be  reminded  that  I’m  gonna  die, not every day,” vraagt Karl aan de Chinese vrouw. Maar zij zegt dat ze niet bang is voor de dood en zich daar geen zorgen om maakt.   

Rituelen  
Een ander probleem dat Van Meyeren herkent in haar “wester-seculiere omgeving” is het gebrek aan rouwrituelen (30). Volgens Van Meyeren is dit een enorme tekortkoming, omdat rituelen helpen met het onderhouden van een relatie met een overledene. Rituelen kunnen het verleden verbinden met het heden. Van Meyeren schrijft over de somatische, dat wil zeggen lichamelijke, rituelen van CACondrad die hen uitvoert naar aanleiding van de zelfmoord van hun vriend Earth en hun daaropvolgende depressie. Deze rituelen lijken compleet willekeurig: “Het eerste ritueel hield in dat hen een rode pruik opzette en een hele dag rood voedsel at. Andere rituelen in reactie op het verlies van Earth worden uitgevoerd door bijvoorbeeld verhalen uit het nieuwe testament te zingen, daarna te schreeuwen, en vervolgens in een blender te stoppen samen met kristalwater” (37). Van Meyeren benadrukt dat zulke rituelen geen oplossing zijn voor rouw—rouw valt immers niet op te lossen op een manier dat het beëindigd wordt—maar dat deze wel kunnen werken, kunnen helpen. Van Meyeren lijkt bij voorkeur rouwen vooral als een fysieke bezigheid te zien.  

De nadruk op het fysieke komt ook terug in het belang van objecten in de bundel. Objecten verbinden net als rituelen het verleden met het heden. In het boek worden objecten als de zwarte Renault  Mégane  van Van Meyerens moeder of de fromage  blanc waar Akermans moeder van hield, gezien als metaforen die de afwezigheid van iemand communiceren. Op die manier vormen metaforen een taal voor rouw, een taal die we volgens Van Meyeren vooral moeten binnenlaten. 

Van Meyeren lijkt bij voorkeur rouwen vooral als een fysieke bezigheid te zien.

Alledaagse rouw  
Ook het alledaagse van rouw wordt besproken in de bundel. Patti Smith, zo schrijft van Meyeren, beschouwt de dood niet “als een uitzondering op de normale gang van het leven”, maar Smith is “constant gericht op de aanwezigheid van afwezigheid” (23). Het belang van het alledaagse in relatie tot rouw komt met name naar voren als het over ‘secundair verlies’ gaat. “Primair is het verlies van de persoon die overleden is, secundair het verlies van relaties en gewoonten die veranderen door het primaire verlies” (46). Op “het terrein van de rommelige, alledaagse ervaringen” komen primair en secundair verlies samen (47).   

De objecten of metaforen, ook wel motieven genoemd in de bundel, maken ook dat rouw plotseling heel sterk aanwezig kan zijn in het dagelijks leven. Bijvoorbeeld als die zwarte Renault Mégane ineens de hoek omrijdt. Dit plotselinge maakt dat Van Meyeren rouw vooral ziet als een “opdringerige oscillerende beweging” (52). Deze onvoorspelbare kant van rouw doet mij weer denken aan Macdonald, die schrijft dat de archeologie van rouw niet gerangschikt is en dat er verrassende dingen aan het licht kunnen komen, dingen waarvan je misschien dacht dat je ze vergeten was: “The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade, turning up things you had forgotten. Surprising things come to light: not simply memories, but states of mind, emotions, older ways of seeing the world.” (199)   

Op zoek naar nieuwe tekens  

Rouw heeft meer erkenning nodig, zo concludeert Van Meyeren, maar ook meer taal, meer dan de woorden die we lezen in overlijdensberichten. Daarom gaat Van  Meyeren op zoek naar “vervangende tekens” (56). Zij zoekt naar deze tekens in poëzie, film en prosa, maar ook haar bundel behoort nu tot het domein dat zowel erkenning voor rouw opeist, als woorden biedt om het te beschrijven en samen te bespreken.

Alsof je rouwen op een to-do lijst kan zetten en het door kunt strepen als je voor vijf jaar lang elke week even een kaarsje hebt aangestoken en een traan gelaten

Marja Pruis schrijft in De Groene Amsterdammer dat de bundel haar verraste “vanwege iets principieels, iets wat ik zelf nooit zo beseft had dat dit ook tot de mogelijkheden behoorde, namelijk dat je degene om wie je rouwt niet loslaat”. Dit principe wordt in stand gehouden door woorden als ‘rouwproces’ en rouwverwerking’ die suggereren dat rouw een einde kent. Je moet slechts het proces doorlopen, het verwerken doen. Alsof je rouwen op een to-do lijst kan zetten en het door kunt strepen als je voor vijf jaar lang elke week even een kaarsje hebt aangestoken en een traan gelaten. Dit moet toch wel één van de best verborgen geheimen van onze samenleving zijn; dat rouw geen einde kent en volgens Van Meyeren “misschien zelfs geen begin”. Dit is iets wat alleen ervaring of boeken zoals deze je leren.  


Jane Singer is the Managing Editor of RevUU. She works as a student assistant for the department of Literary Studies at Utrecht University, as well as a freelance journalist for the university’s independent news platform DUB. She completed an MA in contemporary literature at UU and is currently doing an MA in South Asian Studies at Leiden University, specialising in contemporary South Asian literature.

Foto door Jane Singer


Bibliografie

Pruis, Marja. “De doden in je leven bijhouden.” De Groene Amsterdammer,  22 december 2020, 

https://www.groene.nl/artikel/de-doden-in-je-leven-bijhouden.

Macdonald, Helen. H Is For Hawk.  Pen-guin  Random House, 2014.  

Van Meyeren. “Ook ik ben stukgewaaid.”  Chaos, 2020. 

LEDA – WRITE THY SELF

LEDA

WRITE THY SELF

By Leda Serikoglu

[1] Excerpt from W.B. Yeat’s poem, “Leda and the Swan.”

HERE LIES THE BRUTAL DICHOTOMY OF THE DEAD.

Some are taught the sky is the limit

Some are warned to mind the ground

Yet even with the Heavens and Earths colliding…

She counted reveries which could not be found, but conjured out of twenty-six by two cases the bricks to build her own Babylon.

***

                        Here we say lies the road ahead

                        Here we know lies the road to awe

                        Here lies the cradle of the dead

                        The place for those never born at all

There are whispers in machinations / there are voices in imagination / of Bluebeard’s wives and their final designation / built on rows, racks and inhaled sedation / where their deed is dead / conjuring delectable ideations / and always welcomes post-mortem guests / speak once permits the Author / to make your bed.

***

He was drawn by the invitation, one he wished to refuse but never could. He couldn’t fathom the indignation; the story had shrouded his creation, as stories often would. On light screens and dark lettering, he was born to be Her guide. Through the ribcage to the heart, he was Death personified.

“And what am I meant to do,” he asked as he stepped through such flesh.

She in her impeccably tailored suit replied, “To save me from all the rest.” She gave him a Marlene Dietrich smile to make sure he wouldn’t dare protest—knowing the action was futile—he was personified as Her Death.

In the second corridor of the first tower was the child caretaker without a choice. She had her duties listed from wall to wall written in her mother’s voice.

“Can’t you help” the woman asked, but Death gave no response, his silence not indifference, but puzzlement at what they’d found. The girl kept smiling a familiar smile, the girl had no voice—but she had not been written, she too could not be found; she was the castle’s body, tied and unbound.

In the third corridor of the second tower was the heroine of that ancient tale, whose name bore haunting stories of swans, rivers, and the thresher’s flail.

“I have always looked for her in all the margins on the side, conjured yet another shadow, left, on otherworldly embankments, behind.”

“Why” he asked in amazement.

“I don’t know” she replied, “She became I in some strange replacement, a name shared, a personality divide. There is always a story in the story, the fingers and the worlds apart, the journey is to seek the folly, to end in the place where we all start. I wish to be saved from their outcome. Save me for both our sakes. There is only salvation in completion—this is a place for my things half-made.”

And so they went on their journey, seeking out the lost one by one. Each uttered few lines of story, each doomed to never be found.

“They” the woman uttered, “were mine when this began. Now they are monsters in the darkness, the plague that hurdles across my land.”

In the last corridor of the third tower, was the antagonist of a story when she was ten years old.

“You never finished me” he pleaded, his clothes tattered, his flesh cold. “I beg you to complete me” he said, a line replete in repetition.

“A fragment cannot be given breath.” She replied, “A forgotten excerpt is dead by admission.”

Death looked on in horror, saying “You too will never be complete, your doom is your story—there are no words left to seed. I cannot save you from the others, I cannot separate you from their fate. You too are a projection, stuck between Her fingers and Her page.”

Terrified in realisation, she turned to face her demise “I am the mistress of this story, do not mistake your power for your pride.”

“You mistake my intentions” he kept saying, “you mistake them for sheer contempt, but if I am Death’s personification, then I am first companion to the Fingers and the Head.

This mangled nightmare will always begin anew, such is the pains of writing—to always pay Death its owed due. But you—you should have known the end of this story, Her phantom on the parapets. You are distanced from love and glory—you are the doomed palimpsest.”

***

There are whispers in the ether / there are voices in imagination / of putrefied sacks / scattered before curtain call / where meat is met / conceived from the nexus of choices and ideations / and welcomes you into delightful Fall / Then quoth the Author,

“Nevermore.”

***


Leda Serikoglu 

Having completed her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Culture at Utrecht University in 2019, Leda Serikoglu is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Comparative Literary Studies. Her interests include creative writing, speculative fiction—mostly of the weirder, the better persuasion, frequently dealing with power narratives—and more recently, meta-fiction and eco-horror. On her time off, she binge watches Black Sails and Hannibal for the umpteenth time, and chronically overwaters her plants.   

Photo by Leda Serikoglu

G is for Grief

G is for Grief

The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade,        turning up things you had forgotten.

–Helen Macdonald

By Jane Singer

Photo by Mel Micai

They said two years, and so it was planned. My father’s death and my own grief started two and a half years before his heart stopped beating. He died by euthanasia, choosing death after being slowly broken down by the cancer and its treatment. I knew the date and the time he would die days before it happened.

I read H is for Hawk about two months after my father passed away. The book was comforting, not because of the occasional mentions of the familiar headaches and tiredness that come with mourning, but due to the recognition of the excruciating struggle that comes with the death of someone you love; one that everyone faces, sooner or later.

Macdonald provides an extraordinary account of how everyone mourns in a different way. It is a very personal story of her dealing with the death of her father. Soon after he passes away, she can’t escape the feeling that she should buy a goshawk, and so she does. Her interest in falconry then turns into an obsession with the training of the hawk.

The book and especially the title taught me that the process of recovery after you lose someone significant is like learning how to talk again.

The book and especially the title taught me that the process of recovery after you lose someone significant is like learning how to talk again.

Grief is complex, but Macdonald accurately describes instances of grief in an accessible manner. She spells out grief for people who can’t find the words, in a way that has not been done before. She provides a language for grief; a language that I used to put my own grief into words.

Below is a fragmented account of my experience with mourning, guided by Macdonald’s words.

L is for laughter. Laughter because of memories, or because of the hideous flowers your aunt sends. In the period after someone significant dies, it feels like ridiculousness is everywhere, which results in many smiles and laughter. During my father’s funeral procession I sat behind the steering wheel of his cream-white Singer roadster from the 50’s. My father was crazy about cars, especially old ones. To find an old-timer from a brand with the exact same name as our family name was the last push for him to finally let himself buy one.

In the period after someone significant dies, it feels like ridiculousness is everywhere, which results in many smiles and laughter.

That day I was following the hearse with my mother next to me in the passenger seat. Behind the hideous, colossal vehicle and our adorable little roadster were about ten other Singer old-timers. Thank God my father wasn’t able to observe that his last ride was in such an appalling car, for he would have never gotten in.

The thing with funeral processions is that they don’t go very fast, but a car from the 50’s needs to warm up its engine before it runs smoothly. So after a few minutes of pulling up and slowing down again, the engine failed. The cars following us, all driven by middle-aged male mechanics, had to stop. Before them they saw two women looking like they were at a loss, facing each other as their roadster slowly rolled on for a few more meters and finally stalled. The gap between us and the hearse was growing bigger and bigger. Just like Macdonald, unable to cope with some situations, my mother and I laughed, for there was nothing else we could do, and there was “no way of incorporating these signs of life into the fact of death.”

P is for parents. In H is for Hawk, Macdonald mistakenly mentions going to her “parents” house for a weekend: “My parentshouse. I suppose it was my mother’s house now.” Parents become mother. They become she. Their becomes her. No more his. No more he. No more him.

H is for hands. “Hands are for other humans to hold.” Macdonald realises that to flee to the wild to heal her broken heart was a big mistake, that she needs others to help her through her mourning. Being a bit of a loner myself, this reminds me of the effort it took me, and still takes (some of my friends still don’t know), to tell people my father passed away. I long to shut down, to not tell anyone. The pity and sympathy of others only make it harder, perhaps because it makes it more real. I still fight against this urge to bury the grief deep inside me. 

R is for recruiting, for I recruited the hands that held me and hold me still.

R is for recruiting, for I recruited the hands that held me and hold me still, like Macdonald recruited a man she briefly dated to “serve” her loss. I knew mourning was approaching, so I could decide whom I wanted to help me through it. Slowly the relationship with one of my friends made no more sense. She was a bit like a social butterfly, always fun to be with, but also super busy. When you would finally plan to do something with her, which was quite a task, chances were she’d cancel. One time I confronted her with this, resulting in her feeling pressured and offended, needing an apology from me in order to patch things up again. But when you enter a period in which you need friends, instead of just want friends, these shallow friendships are not worth your limited energy anymore. And so she left me, like the man Macdonald looked to for support left her, unwilling to aid my approaching loss.  

One of the first times I cried after he died was while peeling onions, although it felt more like the onion was peeling me.

M is for messy. In her book, Macdonald casually sits on her sofa watching television when suddenly she notices tears running from her eyes and dropping into her tea mug. This reminds me of how messy grief can be. I am what you can call an opportunistic crier. After my father died I didn’t cry very often. One of the first times I cried after he died was while peeling onions, although it felt more like the onion was peeling me. The more I peeled, the more I felt like I was peeling away my own thick skin. When it came to chopping them, my eyes were already wet. My sight became blurry, but I just cut through. The tears came and I went with them. I liberated my sorrow.

This week, the tears also came. I went to get a Hepatitis B shot. The nurse sat me down in a white, sterile room, the only colour coming from a poster on the wall with an animated world map on it, clearly placed there to distract children. I sat down on the bench, holding it with two sweaty hands. I’ve always been afraid of needles; even thinking about it now turns my stomach. However, it was not panic I was trying to control, it was misery. I told her needles always stress me out. She told me to look at the poster. I tried to sit still as the tension was building up inside of me, and as I was looking at that stupid poster I could only think about my father. When the needle pierced through my skin it hit a nerve. I still sat like a statue after the needle had left my body.

“Breathe,” the nurse ordered.

I drew a deep breath. I sobbed. While trying to catch my breath, she looked at me with sorry eyes and asked if I liked chocolate. Surprised at the offer, and already feeling like a child, I nodded yes and optimistically expected her to open a drawer full of little chocolates in colourful shiny wrappers. Maybe she has dark chocolate. Oh, how I love dark chocolate. I was already beginning to feel a little bit better. In a second she would present me a chocolate in a golden wrapper shining like the sun, and everything would be okay again.

“There’s a coffee machine outside that offers hot chocolate. You can sit in the hall and take a minute to collect yourself,” she said as she opened the door for me to leave.

D is for dont forget, because that is what you want to do. When Macdonald leans towards forgetting “darkness”, “death” and “all things that had been before”, she reminds herself that she “must fight, always, against forgetting”. I too desperately wanted to forget my father’s death, but I cannot forget it without forgetting him. So I won’t forget his laugh, his love, his positivity, and our rides together in the roadster. When we took it to south England, rolled off the boat in Dover, its headlights like two big wide eyes, having no idea of where to go. Mum was more of a planner than we were. We drove on over the cliffs, let the coast guide us. The road before us was as grey as the sky. The wind, the tires on the road, and the occasional passing car were our only music. The wooden dashboard only held a glove compartment with some liquorice, and, behind the steering wheel, a spastic speedometer that looked more like the pendulum of a clock. I knew you could fix it. Hell, you could fix anything, built an entire new engine for this car from scratch. It just didn’t matter. Speed didn’t matter. Don’t forget that speed doesn’t matter.

G is for gap. In one passage Macdonald perfectly describes the shape of grief:

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.

It’s easier to walk past them, jump over these holes, but, for the sake of remembering, we should look into them.

In order to not forget my father, I have to visit these holes, even though their depth can be intimidating. When I visit my mother’s house the holes are more prominent. The sight of the empty couch, the empty bed, the roadster, all cause a stinging pain in my heart. It’s easier to walk past them, jump over these holes, but, for the sake of remembering, we should look into them.

L is for love. At the end of the book Macdonald realises that “all the grief had turned into something different. It was simply love.” This reads like light at the end of the tunnel. I am not there yet, and right now I don’t know if I will be, or if I want to be, for the grief also reminds me of my father. It feels like it intensifies my love for him, and I don’t know if I am willing to give this up (yet). For now I am somewhere between grief and love.


Jane Singer is the Managing Editor of RevUU. She works as a student assistant for the department of Literary Studies at Utrecht University, as well as a freelance journalist for the university’s independent news platform DUB. She completed an MA in contemporary literature at UU and is currently doing an MA in South Asian Studies at Leiden University, specialising in contemporary South Asian literature.

Photo by Jane Singer


Reference:
Macdonald, Helen. H is for Hawk. London: Jonathan Cape, 2014.

Life and Other Stories

By Lea Dokter

For as long as I can remember, stories have been a foundational part of my life. I have started to think of them as a breadcrumb trail weaving through my own story, beginning with my mother, and later helping me find my way back to my father. They helped me navigate the twisted undergrowth of childhood and the confusing labyrinth of adolescence. Stories are the glue that give my life some semblance of shape and coherence, counteracting the fracturing power of trauma. 

My earliest memories of them are of those told by my mother, invented on the spot as she sat on the edge of my bed; her stories almost always took place in forests, revolving around the adventures of anthropomorphic animals. Although the general fallibility of memory makes me question the accuracy of this recollection, I vaguely recall a story about a squirrel’s birthday party. 

My mother had always been a writer, dabbling in poetry and journalism in adolescence, then writing articles for the neighbourhood magazine as a creative outlet next to the demands of motherhood and work later on. As most writers are, she was also an avid reader, and I treasure the battered copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World I found among her possessions years after her passing.  

My earliest memories of them are of those told by my mother, invented on the spot as she sat on the edge of my bed

It was a surprising find, tucked away among her scrapbooks, articles, photo albums, and other miscellaneous possessions my father could not bear to look at, nor get rid of. The dusty box had been tucked away in the attic, waiting to be discovered when my father, too, passed away. How strange to find that this novel, which I had fallen in love with several years before, was one my mother had not only read, but presumably treasured as well – the sole surviving material evidence of my mother’s taste in literature.  

Her body succumbed to the cancer that was corrupting it from the inside when I was seven years old. Never again would I get to witness her impromptu storytelling; I found solace in the books she had bought me instead. I vividly remember the colourfully illustrated pages of Rupsje Nooitgenoeg and De Mooiste Vis van de Zee, which transported me to different worlds in which, for a moment, the grief could be forgotten. 

I had always been a bit of an outsider. Home had been my safe space, but now that my mother was nothing more than a collection of stories and a decaying heap of flesh in a box underground, it felt as if our house, too, was blanketed by six feet of damp, suffocating earth. I fled into fiction. The books absorbed me, to such an extent that I completely lost touch with whatever was going on outside the place the pages transported me to. Children can be immensely cruel; if I’d had a rough day at school I would flee into a different universe where the fictional characters almost felt like friends. 

Books were an escape, a place to go when the present was less than ideal. Simultaneously, the grim tropes of fairy tales manifested themselves in our home, which turned hostile when my father decided to move my new stepmother and her two children in. I was never forced to clean the fireplace, but it was clear from the very start that my stepmother had marked my younger brother and me as obligatory annoyances on her path to happiness. Fiction gave me hope that my life, too, could unexpectedly change for the better. Like millions of young Harry Potter fans around the world, I stayed up the night of my eleventh birthday in the vain hope an owl would come crashing through my window, for it would deliver me from this bland and painful muggle existence, marked by neglect. 

the grim tropes of fairy tales manifested themselves in our home, which turned hostile when my father decided to move my new stepmother and her two children in

Aside from providing an escape, books also provided a means for identification. Needless to say, the wicked stepmother trope was a welcome affirmation of my feelings. Much like Cinderella’s, mine had made it abundantly clear that her offspring would always come before me and my brother. Seeing my situation reflected in stories made me feel like I was not alone. Over time, as I started to consume more complex narratives, circumstantial identification evolved into an almost interpersonal connection: I felt understood by characters who had similar experiences to mine, more specific than broad biographical details, who felt and thought similar things, and who saw the world in the same way I did. They suffered the things no one talked about, the things I kept to myself – melancholy, loneliness, automutilation. Somehow, the stories I read made my experiences feel valid.  

Unlike most fathers in tales involving evil stepmothers, mine was still alive, although metaphorically speaking he may as well have been dead at times. Trauma is difficult to comprehend as a child, especially the trauma of others. How to interpret a parent pulling back into themselves, locking the vulnerable parts away in a high tower with no golden locks to climb upon? How to interpret it as anything but rejection?  

My father wasn’t much of a reader, with one notable exception: anything written by Stephen King. At age twelve, I snuck his copy of Desperation up to my room, and devoured it. It was terrifying in the best way, and over the next few weeks I steadily made my way through CarrieDe Marathon, and Misery. Though not the most observant parent, my father could not help but notice, and although he questioned the suitability of these books for a girl my age, he also realised we had passed the point of no return.  

The evil stepmom moved out, taking the entire contents of the bookcase with her. Instead of starting another argument, my father purchased a cheap second-hand collection of Stephen King novels online. Most of them were Dutch translations, as my father had assumed, but to his surprise some English copies were also included. I was intrigued.  

English had always been one of my favourite subjects in school, and growing up in the age of the internet certainly helped me gain some proficiency. I decided that I would give reading in English a shot; after all, how could I claim to love the way Stephen King wrote if all I ever read were translations?  

Although painstakingly slow at first, I was soon reading everything in English, aside from books originally published in Dutch. When the time came to decide which degree I wanted to pursue, there was only one option I could associate with some form of happiness: English literature. The best thing my ex-stepmother has ever done for me, it turns out, was taking my father’s books. 

The pursuit of literature solidified into an actual, physical escape from our dysfunctional household. The apartment I moved into was set to be demolished in a year or so, and therefore very cheap; I had a garden and lots of space, but everything was damp, and there was no heating. I felt at home for the first time in twelve years.  

Traumatic pasts tend to disfigure present realities

University was not exactly Hogwarts, but it read like a fiction I had never fully believed would become my reality. Friendships seemed to form effortlessly, books providing fertile ground for conversation. We were reading constantly, my literary horizons expanding at an astounding speed. Many of the authors I now consider to be among my favourites – Atwood, Welsh, Duffy, Plath – got introduced to me by professors I soon desired to equal some day.   

However, these five years were not a simple upward trajectory to a happy ending. Traumatic pasts tend to disfigure present realities; whilst condemning my father’s drinking and my brother’s cocaine habit – causation or correlation? – I feel the lineage press urgently on my shoulders as I open my first bottle of wine at 1.37 PM on a Tuesday.  

Years spent consuming dystopian narratives did not pay off in terms of preparing me for the real thing. Global society seems to be disintegrating at an increasingly rapid speed as I’m pursuing a Master’s degree in comparative literary studies. Books have transformed into objects of study, layered works of art, which I frequently delve into – not to escape, but to analyze. Analyze and admire.  

Books are no longer just stories to me, but carefully constructed commentaries, reflections, explorations. They still have the power to transport me to different worlds, but this acts less like a temporary escape and more like a broadening of perspective. Identification is no longer the main attraction, but some works have a way of grabbing you when you least expect it.  

For a course on African Literature, we’re reading Soul Tourists, focalized through a perspective far removed from my own. The novel opens by detailing the circumstances of the protagonist’s father, who casually slips into messy alcoholism and self-neglect after his wife passes away. The teacher asks how everyone is enjoying the novel, prompting a classmate to state that so far, the novel hasn’t gripped him yet. What a luxury. Descriptions of piss-soaked carpets, the result of alcohol abuse and depression, call to mind the diarrhea-caked bedframe I wiped clean after my father’s suicide. The dried vomit, months old, on the laminate.  

The horror narratives my father and I shared a passion for paled in comparison. Ironically, we had very little in common other than clinical depression and a love for these dark novels. I plucked the English ones from the shelf, then stumbled across old children’s books and my mother’s copy of Brave New World in the attic’s cobwebbed recesses. They currently reside next to each other on my own bookshelves, an odd but meaningful little genre of their own.  

The breadcrumb trail has become a yellow brick road, a solid foundation bright with the promise of home

I tend to remember my mother in the bright colour scheme of the children’s books she collected for me, my image of her a pastiche of pictures, stories, artefacts, and unreliable memories. I often wonder if we would have gotten along at this age – I feel, or rather want to believe, we would have been friends. At least we could have discussed Huxley together.  

Would she agree with me that the most intriguing part of the novel is the beginning? Did she read 1984 as well, and if so, how did that compare for her? Which aspect of the dystopias did she find most unsettling and why? Would she please tell me another story? 

For as long as I can remember, stories have been a foundational part of my life. They began with my mother, and reconnected me to my father; they have comforted, familiarized, touched, provoked, broken, repaired. The breadcrumb trail has become a yellow brick road, a solid foundation bright with the promise of home; I have dedicated myself to stories, intending to spend the rest of my days reading them, researching them, talking about them. Who knows, perhaps I’ll end up writing them. If I do, I hope my parents would have liked them. After all, without my mother’s stories, my father’s novels, my own literary story would never have begun.  


Lea Dokter, 25, is currently finishing up her Master’s degree in Comparative Literary Studies at Utrecht University, after graduating (cum laude) from an English Language and Culture Bachelor’s. She specializes in countercultural literature, women’s writing and life writing, specially autofiction. In her free time, Lea reads a lot of non-fiction, focusing on themes such as feminism, gender, and societal critique. She’s a big fan of the dystopian and speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood, as well as other authors such as Irvine Welsh and Carol Ann Duffy.

Photo by Lea Dokter


References

Carle, Eric. Rupsje Nooitgenoeg. Translated by J.H. Gever. Gottmer, 1996.  

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Penguin, 1970. 

King, Stephen. Carrie. Translated by Ingrid Niekerk, Luitingh-Sijthoff, 2006. 

—. Desperation. Translated by R. Vernooi. Luitingh-Sijthoff, 1996. 

—. De Marathon. Translated by Mariella Snel. Luitingh-Sijthoff, 2000. 

—. Misery. Translated by Margot Bakker. Luitingh-Sijthoff, 1994. 

Orwell, George. 1984. Penguin, 2008. 

Pfister, Marcus. De Mooiste Vis van de Zee. Translated by Nannie Kuiper and M.E. Ander.  

De Vier Windstreken, 1996. 

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga: An intense imagination of the self in the other

By Kris van der Voorn

Imagine that you choose to read a story featured on the Booker Prize Shortlist. You decide to read Mengiste, or perhaps Cook. As you search for the right title however, you read about Tsitsi Dangarembga’s imprisonment due to a protest that calls on reform in Zimbabwe. You read that This Mournable Body calls out this regime. Imagine that you pick up that book instead, a book written in the second person calling out to ‘you’. Imagine that.

As you read, you cannot put it down anymore. You find yourself immersed in the story, a dubious identification with a beautifully reincarnated character in Dangarembga’s sequel on post-independent Zimbabwe. Here is a world so different to yours, and yet you find yourself strongly identifying with the character’s experiences in a post-colonial capitalistic and sexist world. You remind yourself that you scorned Atwood’s sequel being chosen two years ago, because it did not fit into a Booker prize based on one particular book. Then you remind yourself of the larger issues surrounding Atwood’s win alongside a black woman that year. Of the invisibility of black women in general. Of the problematic systematic racism in that book. You realise Dangarembga addresses all this through the main character Tambudzai. And so, you read on.

This Mournable Body gives you the feeling of sitting on the edge of a very uncomfortable seat after a long day of hiking.

In This Mournable Body, Tambudzai reappears as the adult version of the Tambu you might have become acquainted with in Dangarembga’s earlier classic Nervous Conditions. This time, Tambudzai’s story begins with her eviction from the hostel she was living in due to her “old” age. Throughout the novel you learn that Tambudzai, an educated woman from a small village, ended up in this situation when she gave up a successful job in the city as a result of racist and sexist obstacles at the workplace. The author guides you into the world of a black woman who is invited into Western education, only to realise that in this process of becoming, Tambudzai loses all connection to her African roots. It is these same problems that Tambudzai faces in trying to make something of herself after her resignation. Her days are riddled with shame and insecurity. You read it in the guilt she feels towards her family as she is unable to provide for them in the ways she wants to after leaving them for the big city. It haunts her during her months spent in a psychiatric ward following a mental breakdown. She spends those months unable to talk to anyone but the hyena in her head, a symbol for the idea of balance and acceptance. It is only when Tambudzai recognizes her need to connect to her roots and family, that she overcomes these feelings. Throughout the novel Dangarembga breaks down the protagonist’s self, formed by an education that made her believe she was worth less than her white peers and at the same time made her feel culpable for it. She then builds it back up to a new firm belief in the self and her black sisterhood that establishes her past experiences and traumatic connection to the Zimbabwe war.

This Mournable Body gives you the feeling of sitting on the edge of a very uncomfortable seat after a long day of hiking. You do not want to get up and walk anymore, but you realise that neither option is going to make you feel better.

She makes you, the reader, feel complicit, bringing a new level of understanding and deepening of character development never seen before.

This feeling of discomfort arises mostly from how the book addresses its main character, Tambudzai, whose adolescence was shown in the earlier novel and whose coming of age now occupies your mind. Where this earlier story was told through her own first-person address, it is now the reader’s turn to be involved in the story. By addressing Tambudzai in de second person, Dangarembga creates an experience whereby every sentence feels like it starts with “imagine yourself.” Imagine yourself in Zimbabwe after the war in Tambudzai’s skin and life. Imagine yourself living through these experiences. In doing this, Dangarembga brings you into the story like never before. She makes you, the reader, feel complicit, bringing a new level of understanding and deepening of character development never seen before. Just like that, you have become one with the circumstances of the novel. And at the same time, of course, especially in light of your own identity and the history of the Booker Prize, you begin to question yourself. Am I allowed to read this story? Am I allowed to identify with a character whose struggles and deep insecurities result from neo-colonialist problems and racist segregation? There are moments when you want to denounce Tambudzai for her ideas and actions. The very beginning of the book is the shocking condemnation of a woman whose skirt slips up in public. She is attacked by the crowd for revealing her legs, with even Tambudzai herself picking up a stone to throw. But Dangarembga’s second person address draws you in. It is not Tambudzai, but you, who holds the stone. “It is in your hand. Your arm rises in slow motion” (24). This biblical reference makes you question who you are to criticize something that happens outside of your scope of reference; outside of your understanding. And bit by bit, you begin to understand the relevance of reading this story, your discomfort, and the arduous acceptance of your identification with the main character. Because you now realize: this has been your assignment all along.


Kris van der Voorn is head of design at RevUU. They are a non-binary writer and spoken word performer, currently pursuing the Literature Today Master’s at Utrecht University. They specialize in queer and politically engaged literature. Their goal is to make RevUU as diverse and inclusive as possible. Aside from their studies, Kris works at Savannah Bay, one of Utrecht’s finest bookshops. They are also a content creator for the online platform VOOS.

Photo by Kris van der Voorn


References

Dangarembga, Tsitsi. This Mournable Body: A Novel. Graywolf Press, 2018.

Finding Wit in Worry: A Review of Jenny Offill’s Weather

by Annick Smithers

In an interview with The Guardian, Jenny Offill expresses a feeling regarding the climate crisis familiar to many of us: why aren’t we more concerned about it? This disconnect between knowing what’s to come and policies seemingly lacking any sense of urgency is what inspired Offill’s latest novel, Weather – a must-read for anyone feeling like an earth-threatening crisis can sometimes feel a little overwhelming.

In Weather, we follow Lizzie Benson as she goes about her daily life and grapples with the impending climate crisis. Lizzie works as a librarian at a university in New York, where she encounters various people who require assistance at the library’s help desk, such as an elderly man who expects Lizzie to solve his problems by giving him the password for his own email. She also imagines someone who “has been working on his dissertation for eleven years” to come home to a note from his wife saying, “Is what you’re doing right now making money?” Lizzie herself comes home to a son and husband but, significantly, also feels responsible for her brother and eventually his new-born.

a must-read for anyone feeling like an earth-threatening crisis can sometimes feel a little overwhelming

When Lizzie takes on a job answering emails sent to the podcast of her old grad school professor, Sylvia, the worries of doomsayers slowly start to invade Lizzie’s life. The podcast, called Hell and High Water, is about climate change, and, unsurprisingly, “everyone who writes her is either crazy or depressed.” In addition to dealing with “cranky professors” at her job at the library, Lizzie now also has to soothe the existential concerns of doomsday preppers and end-timers. Lizzie’s answers to the emails are witty and illustrate her overwhelming feeling of dread when facing the issue of climate change. For example, rather than teaching the younger generation to farm or hunt as the most useful way to prepare for “the coming chaos,” she suggests teaching them “techniques for calming a fearful mind.”

This strategy certainly seems the most appropriate way to cope during a time when even some world leaders, most notably the former President of the United States, do not listen to scientists and believe climate change to be a hoax. In the novel, Sylvia provides some much-needed sense on the matter, even though the contents of her well-researched talks are not soothing at all. The knowledge and clarity provided by Sylvia is contrasted with the teaching approach of the school where Lizzie takes her son Eli. Some of the wittiest remarks by Lizzie concern the alienating environment of Eli’s elementary school. Lizzie’s request to add seedlings in the kindergarten classrooms is denied, as it is “a safety issue.” The school’s strict regulations give the impression of it being a strange, human factory, where future generations are being taught without even the slightest bit of humanity provided through some plants

While Lizzie’s slate of responsibilities might make anyone want to move to Mars (as she considers for a moment), Offill still manages to bring a lightness to her descriptions of Lizzie’s experiences, so it never feels as overwhelming for the reader as it must for Lizzie. Through her thoughts and observations, which are often funny and smart, we only get access to snippets of Lizzie’s life; the novel, therefore, does not have a very clear plot. Rather, Offill uses the framework of the novel to meditate on the current state of America, where “Much of the population was in a mild stupor, depressed, congregating in small unstable groups, and prone to rumors of doom.” .

Offill uses the framework of the novel to meditate on the current state of America

Similar to Offill’s previous novel The Department of Speculation, Weather is written in a fragmentary style. The novel is written in small sections, each only about seven lines long, highlighting Lizzie’s remarks and observations about her life. Offill nevertheless manages to create characters that are interesting and believable, as we get to know them through Lizzie’s poignant perspective. While some fragments do seem to come rather out of the blue, it is precisely this conglomeration of Lizzie’s random thoughts that ultimately makes the novel so funny and clever. At times, it is difficult to make sense of Offill’s playful style and Lizzie’s out-of-context observations, but this randomness and struggle to grasp the situation is perfectly reflective of our grapple with the climate crisis. Lizzie’s feeling of helplessness about the climate crisis and pessimism about the future is relatable. One the one hand, there is the existential dread and hopelessness that accompanies looking too deep into the matter, a rabbit hole that we see Lizzie falling into multiple times. On the other hand, it is all too easy to remain ignorant on the issue and to cling to a self-preserving mindset. Lizzie knows that many people “are really sick of being lectured to about the glaciers” and do not want to hear about issues that seemingly have nothing to do with them. All they want to know is “what’s going to happen to the American weather?”

Weather shows us that it is natural to feel overwhelmed by what we are facing, both in our current, everyday lives and in regard to the long-term challenges for future generations. It is difficult to become involved and not go into doomsday prepper mode, like the people Lizzie consoles for the podcast. At the same time, it is also all too easy to only be concerned about your local weather forecast. Weather shows us how a regular person grapples with the facing threat of the climate crisis, all the while trying not to succumb to the dread that comes along with it. And, just in case, it also teaches us how to make a candle from a tin of tuna.


Annick Smithers is one of the RevUU’s copy editors. She finished her English Language Bachelor’s degree last year and is now pursuing the English track of the Literature Today Master’s program. She’s mostly interested in the role of language and literature in society. Some of her favourite authors are Ali Smith, Angela Carter, and Kazuo Ishiguro.

Photo by Annick Smithers


References

Offill, Jenny. Weather. Granta Books, 2020.

Scutts, Joanna. “Jenny Offill: ‘I no longer felt like it wasn’t my fight’.” The Guardian, 8 Feb. 2020.

Vorm en inhoud in een relationeel samenspel: Medicalisering van verliefdheid en de kracht van verhalen in Hanna Bervoets’ Efter  

Door Lydia Fris

Hanna Bervoets schrijft dit jaar het Boekenweekgeschenk Wat wij zagen, dat deze maand verschijnt. ‘Hanna is met haar inspirerende oeuvre en scherpe observaties een belangrijke stem in de literatuur en een van de meest toonaangevende vertegenwoordigers van een nieuwe generatie,’1 schreef de directeur van Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek (CPNB). Haar roman Efter getuigt hier het best van, en haalde de longlist van de Libris Literatuurprijs en de Gouden Boekenuil en kwam tevens op de shortlist van de BNG Bank Literatuurprijs terecht. De roman verhaalt over negen personages die allemaal op hun eigen manier betrokken zijn bij Love Adiction Disorder (LAD) en Efter, het ontwikkelde medicijn  tegen het als verslaving bestempelde verliefd zijn. Bervoets’ roman trekt je mee in een wereld die we herkennen als de onze, maar die tegelijkertijd is doorgeslagen, zodat de lezer zich na het lezen van de roman even verward als opgelucht voelt. Want het is niet onze wereld waarover we hebben gelezen. Toch?  

In Efter volgen we achtereenvolgens wat er in de maanden mei, juni, juli, augustus en december gebeurt. Bijna elke maand staan twee andere personages centraal die optreden als focalisators. Zo hebben we te maken met Robert, de vriend van Heleen en de stiefvader van Meija. En Pete, die promotie maakt voor het nieuw op de markt gebrachte medicijn Efter en tevens de echtgenoot is van Katinka, die in de LAD-kliniek werkt waar cliënten worden opgenomen om van hun verslaving af te komen. Dan Meija zelf, die onbeantwoorde liefde koestert voor Sjoerd en in de LAD-kliniek opgenomen wordt, waar ook Silver en Fajah als cliënten zitten. Alles draait om het bestaan van LAD en het medicijn Efter, en al snel wordt duidelijk dat er sprake is van belangen-verstrengeling hieromtrent, iets dat journaliste Laura  ontdekt en waar zij in haar ‘realms’ op een kritische wijze verslag van doet. Wat echter opvalt, is dat Laura niet het bestaan van een ‘Love Adiction Disorder’ bekritiseert, maar slechts de dubbele agenda’s van de personages.  

Dat is waar Efter grotendeels over gaat: het verlangen van personages om zich te verbinden aan anderen en het verlangen die relaties zelf te beïnvloeden.

We worden in de roman geconfronteerd met verschillende  focalisators en genres of vertelvormen. Zo komen we in de roman journalistieke stukken en persoonlijke blogs tegen, ‘realms’, beide geschreven in de ik-vorm, terwijl in de verhalende tekst een verteller het woord neemt. De meerduidige focalisatie en de verschillende genres kunnen worden geanalyseerd als een technische uitwerking van wat in de wetenschappelijke literatuur ‘literair relationisme’ wordt genoemd. Kort gezegd draait het hierin om de pogingen die personages doen om elkaar te begrijpen en verbindingen met elkaar aan te gaan. Er wordt een constructie van een personage gemaakt door in te gaan op de relaties die het personage heeft met anderen, omdat het personage mede door al die anderen gevormd wordt.2 Dat is waar Efter grotendeels over gaat: het verlangen van personages om zich te verbinden aan anderen en het verlangen die relaties zelf te beïnvloeden. De verschillende genres en de meerduidige focalisatie in Efter laten technisch zien wat het relationisme inhoudt: verschillende perspectieven en verschillende vertelvormen hebben invloed op hoe de personages talig gevormd worden, zoals ook de betrokken personages elkaar binnen het verhaal beïnvloeden en daarmee vormen.  

De natuurlijke manier van verbindingen aangaan wordt echter verstoord met de komst van het medicijn Efter. Efter bemiddelt  in de relaties tussen de personages. In deze samenleving wordt verliefdheid tot een beheersbaar en controleerbaar fenomeen gemaakt, iets dat je kunt sturen en beïnvloeden, en niet alleen bij jezelf. Personages kunnen hun verliefdheid kwijtraken en niet verliefde mensen  kunnen er bepaalde gevoelens mee stimuleren  en dat allemaal  door het slikken van de Efterpillen. Wat we zien is het proces van ‘reïficatie’: tot economisch object maken.3 Dit past binnen de kaders van het neoliberalisme, waarin alles onderdeel wordt van een economisch model, zelfs  de emotionele sfeer van het leven. In Efter wordt verliefdheid tot een  object  gemaakt, het wordt gemedicaliseerd, je kunt het nu regisseren door middel van medicatie. De roman lijkt het medicaliseren in onze eigen maatschappij uit te vergroten, als een experiment, zoals Bervoets graag experimenteert in haar romans. Wordt er dan kritiek geuit op het medicaliseren van ‘gewone’ verschijnselen in onze maatschappij, of op wat we tot verslaving rekenen? 

Bervoets’ roman draait om causaliteit en verhalen. Want niet slechts Efter bemiddelt in de relaties tussen de personages, meer nog hebben verhalen de kracht om in de relaties te arbitreren. Relationisme wordt door de verhalen gevoed. Het gaat om de verhalen die de personages vertellen, aan elkaar en aan zichzelf, om te kunnen overleven, want ieder personage beweegt binnen de narratieve kaders die het voor zichzelf  en anderen heeft uitgezet, hetzij troostrijk, hetzij manipulatief. Het motto van de roman zegt genoeg: ‘The world is a story we tell ourselves about the world’4. Hoe zit het met het verhaal dat Bervoets heeft geschreven met Efter? Schreef ze een dystopie? In mijn ogen niet. Bervoets heeft een wereld in de nabije toekomst geschetst die we herkennen als de onze, maar waarin één  fenomeen  een extreme ontwikkeling heeft doorgemaakt. Het draait in haar roman niet om de wereld waarin de personages leven, maar de verhoudingen tussen de personages staan centraal. Niet een kritische stem voert het hoogste woord, maar een nieuwsgierige onderzoeker gaat achter deze roman schuil. Verhalen, waar of niet, drijven de mens in relationele zin.  

Verhalen, waar of niet, drijven de mens in relationele zin.

Efter is een waar meesterwerk. Dat Bervoets verliefdheid medicaliseert, getuigt van originaliteit en vindingrijkheid. Het aloude thema van de liefde krijgt een compleet nieuwe betekenis en het aloude thema van verhalen krijgt een nieuwe lading door het relationeel in te vullen. Technisch laat Bervoets uitstekend zien wat er inhoudelijk speelt. Efter leest vlot en laat op z’n best zien waar Bervoets toe in staat is. Dit boekis bovendien ondanks zijn leeftijd actueel: de Efterproducent  Fizzler in de roman komt  opvallend  dichtbij  nu  coronavaccin-producenten als Pfizer de krantenkoppen halen. Met Bervoets’ roman sta je middenin de wereld van vandaag. Dit smaakt naar meer.  Kom maar op met dat Boekenweekgeschenk!  



Bibliografie

Bervoets, H., Efter. Amsterdam: Atlas Contact, 2014.  

Demeyer, H., S. Vitse, Affectieve crisis, literair herstel. De romans van de millennialgeneratie. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2020.  

Dijk, Y. van, M. Olnon, ‘Radicaal relationisme. Het andere engagement in de jongste   Nederlandse literatuur’. In: De Gids 3 (2015).  

Aendekerk, E., ‘Hanna Bervoets schrijft Boekenweekgeschenk 2021’. Webpagina CPNB, 15   december 2020, <https://www.cpnb.nl/nieuws/hanna-bervoets-schrijft-boekenweekgeschenk-2021>.  

“You just want our blood on this floor” Review of Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones

By Alyssa Vreeken

Namina Forna’s literary debut hit the shelves in February. With my thesis handed in and birthday around the corner, it seemed like perfect timing — except that my favourite bookstore was closed due to Covid, and also wasn’t receiving recent publications for their click and collect due to Brexit. In other words, this book needed to perform well online, which is where I encountered and bought it. It is unsurprising, however, that the online marketing was going well. The Gilded Ones, the first book in the Deathless trilogy, received an impressive six-figure publication deal mere days after Forna submitted her final draft. Plus, it was revealed soon after that the book also received a film deal, with Forna set to write the script herself.

This might make it sound like getting her story from manuscript to bestseller has been a straightforward process, but there is more to it. Forna started writing The Gilded Ones in her second year at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2012, but at the time her work was met with questions such as if it was necessary for her main character to be a person of colour. Forna struggled with her identity as an immigrant woman living in America: “In Sierra Leone, it was clear cut. I was a woman, and therefore inferior… But America, I had found, was just as brutal, albeit better at masking the signs of patriarchy.”

The Gilded Ones, the first book in the Deathless trilogy, received an impressive six-figure publication deal mere days after Forna submitted her final draft.

Fast forward to 2017. Forna noticed significant promotion for cultural productions featuring people of colour in leading rolls: “[m]ovies like Black Panther and books like Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give have ushered in a renaissance of Black art and culture.” After meeting with an agent, Forna decided to start anew, rewriting The Gilded Ones from scratch within two months; this new version immediately received significant attention in the publishing industry and beyond.

The story is set in Otera, a fictional world inspired by West African culture and folklore, with “ultra-patriarchal” values at the core of society: women wear masks that cover the top half of their faces, they are not allowed to leave their houses without a male escort, and aren’t allowed to run, drink, join the army, or even receive education. But most importantly, all girls are expected to prove their purity at the age of sixteen.

During this Ritual of Purity, all sixteen-year-old girls have to prove that they bleed red rather than gold. Girls who bleed gold are referred to as alaki, meaning unwanted and worthless. They are said to be the descendants of the Gilded Ones, who folklore dictates were the four original demons who were inherently female. Bleeding gold thus marks them as impure and demonic, which is not a good or safe thing to be in a world that is plagued by demonic monsters called deathshrieks. If gold runs through a young girl’s veins, they are given the Death Mandate, until death sticks.

Deka’s death does not stick. Moments before she is set to take part in the Ritual of Purity, a group of deathshrieks flood into town. Against her better judgment, Deka attempts to protect her father by vehemently urging the deathshrieks to stop. Unfortunately, in doing so, she displays unusual abilities: the deathshrieks obey her command. But this society does not appreciate people who are different. It is clear that anything that is ‘irregular’ is perceived as dangerous; as a result, Deka is sentenced to death by her community, including her ‘loving’ father.

From birth, Deka has wished to be pure and unnoticeable, which becomes impossible as soon as she receives the Death Mandate. The town Elders try everything to find her final death: decapitation, bleeding her dry to sell the gold, dismemberment; they even have her father kill her, but nothing works. Nine attempts later, Deka is still blinded by the misogynistic messages of her culture, and still wishes for nothing more than to be forgiven and become pure in the eyes of their God, Oyomo.

I feel for her – which is the point, of course. Deka has tried so hard all her life, and yet she is still deemed not good enough. Not based on her behaviour or actions, but based on something that is out of her control. Despite our differences, this is something I, as well as other readers, can relate to.

Fortunately, Deka’s perception of herself and the ultra-patriarchal society of Otera start to slowly change after she is picked up by White Hands, a female emissary of the emperor, who takes her to the capital. Here she and the other enlisted alaki will be trained to fight and kill deathshrieks, alongside all-male soldiers – although alaki aren’t considered women anymore, the emperor uses the soldiers to keep an eye on them.

Deka’s development as a character – as well as that of the secondary characters, alaki and soldiers alike – goes hand in hand with her understanding of the misogynistic society she lives in.

Deka is continuously confronted with these views, while also being asked to do the very things she was never allowed to do, such as run and fight. She receives training and education, and learns how to make armour out of her own golden blood. Running – something I try my best to avoid at any cost, even when I desperately need to catch a bus or train – all of a sudden seems like such a luxury.

After a couple of months, Deka starts to wonder whether the restrictions she faced as a girl – justified by religious traditions, put on all girls up to sixteen, still enforced on pure women afterwards – were never meant to protect and prepare her for a happy life, but formed a cage to contain her: “[o]ur whole lives, we’ve been taught to make ourselves smaller, weaker than men. That’s what the Infinite Wisdoms teach – that being a girl means perpetual submission.”

Deka’s development as a character – as well as that of the secondary characters, alaki and soldiers alike – goes hand in hand with her understanding of the misogynistic society she lives in: “[t]ill our empire is free from those monsters … What was she referring to with those words? Was it the deathshrieks … or the men who send us out to battle them?” This growing comprehension of her society results in her and her friends finding strength in numbers, rebelling against the system that has thus far not only suppressed them, but made them feel insignificant, unnatural, not worthy of life. The focus is not only on fighting the patriarchal order and their traditions, but on creating an equal society in which men and women can enjoy the same freedoms.

This is an extremely important message, especially in light of the many contemporary discussions and criticisms about feminism. Sure, it is supposed to serve women, but what about intersectionality? What about people who identify as men but are still oppressed due to skin colour, class, or sexuality? This book speaks to these issues in a way that is accessible to young readers, who might – like myself and many others – turn to books to try and make sense of the world around them. The Gilded Ones promotes community over division, compassion over animosity, and most importantly, it recognises that patriarchal structures are problematic and oppressive for (almost) everyone.

It is clear that, for Forna, it was important to communicate what she had learned living in Sierra Leone and in America, stating that The Gilded Ones is a feminist work: “it is the kind of book I wished I’d had earlier. One that offers a space not only to people who look like me, but to everyone.”

Learning that Forna is currently also working as a screenwriter in L.A. was unsurprising after having read The Gilded Ones. The way in which she plays with descriptions – meaning physical appearances (of human and non-human alike), nature, the towns and cities, objects, and so on – indicates that she has experience with screenwriting: the reader is immediately immersed in the world she has created.

The Gilded Ones promotes community over division, compassion over animosity, and most importantly, it recognises that patriarchal structures are problematic and oppressive for (almost) everyone.

Furthermore, Forna does not linger in her writing, does not show the reader everything, and leaves room for imagination. She holds a pace in accordance with Deka’s development, providing the reader with summaries akin to cinematic montages. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Forna has in store for us with the remaining two books in the Deathless series, as well as the film adaptation. She will surely impress.


Alyssa Vreeken has just concluded her Master’s degree in Literature Today, but is still working hard at finishing her Master’s degree in Comparative Literary Studies. She specialises in Young Adult literature (how it is read and the affect these narratives (can) have on its target audience), and is particularly interested in Perpetrator Studies, Feminist Theory, and Adaptation Theory (especially in relation to fairy tales and mythology). While reading, writing, and editing at Paratext take up the majority of her time, she also likes to dabble in photography, which is evident by her Bookstagram account: @wandaheartian.

Photo by Alyssa Vreeken


References

Forna, Namina. The Gilded Ones. Delacorte Press, 2021.

—. “As a Black Lord of the Rings Fan, I Felt Left Out of Fantasy Worlds. So I Created My Own.” The Guardian, 22 Feb. 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/feb/22/namina-forna-lord-of-the-rings-jrr-tolkien-fan-the-guilded-ones.

—. “The Gilded Ones Author Namina Forna On Fleeing Sierra Leone And Confronting the American Dream.” Elle, 4 Feb. 2021, https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/a35409028/the-gilde

We Are Far From Polished, Far From Pristine: The Impossibility of Finding a Perfect Translator

We Are Far From Polished, Far From Pristine: The Impossibility of Finding a Perfect Translator

by Kayleigh Herber

Ultimately, there is a sizeable chance that the “perfect” translator for any given book might not even be within the consciousness of the publisher because of the way the selection process typically takes place.


For a period of three days, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld was the chosen translator for Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb” and its accompanying upcoming poetry collection. But the announcement of this choice made by Dutch publisher Meulenhoff on the 23rd of February 2021 was followed by an outpour of opinions on whether or not Rijneveld, a White author, should have been chosen over a translator with a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People Of Colour) background. While some may hold the opinion that Rijneveld should have just declined the offer, many for whom translation is their main source of income are not always at liberty to accept or decline assignments merely based on whether they think another translator might be more suitable. The outpour of emotion about who can and should translate a text and why reveals a lot about how our society views translation, a craft often hidden away in fine print and the inside of book covers. The questions ultimately brought to light are, what does the hypothetical perfect translator for such a text look like or need to be able to do? This article will not dwell on whether or not poetry should be translated in the first place, nor will it spend aeons of time discussing whether the translator should be expected to refuse such commissions, as these would not merely be a question of conscience, but also a financial decision. This essay will explore the parties involved in selecting translators, as well as why the perfect translator does not exist.

What does the hypothetical perfect translator for such a text look like or need to be able to do?

The response this situation has garnered reveals that the issue here is much more complex than a White author translating a Black woman’s poem. It is probably not a secret that a vast majority of Dutch translators working on high-profile assignments are Caucasian – Elbrich Fennema and Luk van Haute translated Haruki Murakami’s works, while neither of them are ethnically Japanese. Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi was translated by Angelique Verheijen, also not BIPOC. However, neither translation really

caused an uproar. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, a book about the immense struggles experienced by pre-abolition American BIPOC was translated by Harm Damsma and Niek Miedema, as was Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys. Specific choices made in especially the latter’s translation regarding the translation of the N-word were the subject of a heated debate (Nzume), but the translators’ ethnicity, though mentioned occasionally, was never really the main topic.

The translation of sensitive issues and concepts always depends on the context of the story and the publication.

The translation of sensitive issues and concepts always depends on the context of the story and the publication. Translate terms surrounding these issues in a more politically correct way and it could make it seem like the text is softened compared to the original. This is not necessarily the effect to strive for when you want to give the reader a more accurate sense of the ease with which these deeply offensive terms were used during the time a story might be set. Translate it in a way that could be considered more accurate to the context of the story and it could be quite shocking because it is indeed offensive. Another translator faced with The Nickel Boys may have chosen differently, or maybe the editor or the publisher would have the final say on whether or not this text would be published as such.

The translation of any piece of literature that deals with race should be treated with appropriate sensitivity to those issues, but a good translator of whichever ethnicity should aim to treat the text with the respect its contents deserve.

The debate surrounding “The Hill We Climb” seems to be very much focused on the two individuals, Gorman and Rijneveld, while there are many more parties involved. What people were offended by, or at the very least apprehensive of, was the feeling that a White person would become a mouthpiece for a Black author, or would take some degree of ownership of a text written by a Black author. The translation of any piece of literature that deals with race should be treated with appropriate sensitivity to those issues, but a good translator of whichever ethnicity should aim to treat the text with the respect its contents deserve. Yet in the case of “The Hill We Climb” undue attention seemed to be put on Rijneveld and for the most part Rijneveld alone – it was their face that featured on many publications on the topic.  However, the systemic issues of representation of minorities in the world of Dutch publishing houses seemed to escape relatively unharmed. The ethnicity of the translators of the aforementioned books did not get the attention Rijneveld received, but that is not the main point. What is more important is that fighting the translator will never be as effective as calling the system behind the case to attention.

Photo by Ella van Driel

Who gets to pick the translator?

It is relatively rare for the author to decide who translates their text. Commissioning a translator usually takes place through previously established connections. Generally speaking, a publishing house will acquire the translation rights from the original publisher if they think there is a market for a translation of a specific text. In many cases there is a pre-established portfolio of translators the publishing house works with on a regular basis, and once a collaboration has proven successful a translator may be offered other assignments by them in the future, sometimes within the same genre or perhaps even from the same author. This can help translators hone their specialisation skills. The database can grow in numerous ways: the publishing house may notice a translator’s skill in another publication, or the translator may have applied to be added to the database in a similar way someone would send an open application to a company, to name a few. Contact between a translator and a publishing house or it may be established via internships, acquaintances, colleagues or even translation scholars and teachers who could recommend promising students. Usually, a translator cannot apply for a specific translation project in the same way another person would for a job. Ultimately, there is a sizeable chance that the “perfect” translator for any given book might not even be within the consciousness of the publisher because of the way the selection process typically takes place.

In the current case, Gorman and her team were actually involved in the process, and had expressed their approval of Rijneveld’s selection under the condition that three sensitivity readers would be involved in the process. The demand for sensitivity readers was included in the translation contract, and would have been present regardless of who the final translator would end up being. It is unclear whether or not Gorman and her team were presented with other options besides Rijneveld. While the portfolio of authors boasted by many publishers is starting to feature an increasing number of diverse voices, it is still very much unclear what their portfolios of translators look like. One thing that is clear, however, is that almost all CEOs of major Dutch publishing houses are of Caucasian heritage.

While progress is definitely being made – the portfolios of authors featured by publishers are growing more and more diverse – to say that there is still a lot of ground to be covered in terms of racial equality in the publishing world would be an understatement.

Besides BIPOC translators possibly not being on every publisher’s radar, the notable amount of time that has passed also seems to suggest there could be a relative scarcity of BIPOC translators with this specific specialisation. At the time of writing this essay, a month has passed since Rijneveld handed back the commission and the new translator for “The Hill We Climb” has yet to be selected. This speaks volumes about the difficulties of finding an experienced translator which would tick every box for every party involved – the publisher, the author, the readers as well as the translators themselves. Yet, most of all it reveals the result of a very complex net of factors such as longstanding systemic equality issues both in education and publishing. If Meulenhoff made a conscious decision not to work with someone who has translation experience or translation credentials, the more logical choice would indeed be a Dutch spoken word artist with a BIPOC background. Perhaps Meulenhoff thought Rijneveld was simply more marketable, being a recent Booker Prize alumnus

While progress is definitely being made – the portfolios of authors featured by publishers are growing more and more diverse – to say that there is still a lot of ground to be covered in terms of racial equality in the publishing world would be an understatement. The publication of the Dutch edition would have been an incredible opportunity to mirror the significance of Amanda Gorman’s performance at Biden’s inauguration. Meulenhoff could have used this opportunity to increase BIPOC visibility in Dutch publishing ventures the way Gorman’s performance provided BIPOC visibility at a major political event. It is up to publishers to have an intersectional portfolio of translators as well as authors, and to be mindful of its gaps in representation like any other company is, but also to make a conscious effort to broaden cultural participation. However, it is up to society as a whole to make sure that there is diversity to be added to said portfolio.

Photo by Ella van Driel

What are the characteristics a publisher could look for in a translator?

Finding the right translator involves more than just selecting someone who has a good grasp of the language the text is written in. Sufficient mastery of both languages involved in the process may seem like a very straightforward demand, yet in this case it may not have been at the forefront of the publisher’s mind. During a televised interview in Dutch talk show M., Rijneveld admitted to not having read the translation of their own book as their English is not great. Despite the fact that they are a skilled author of novels and poetry – another skill a publisher could consider when selecting a translator – should Rijneveld have been offered the job in the first place when we look at their CV, which is full of lauded poetry yet void of published, well-received translations or other translation credentials?

Should Rijneveld have been offered the job in the first place when we look at their CV, which is full of lauded poetry yet void of published, well-received translations or other translation credentials?   

Besides having mastered at least two languages, a translator needs to be aware of the cultural context. A translator may specialize in or prefer translating British-English literature, American-English or even Canadian-English literature. Though all three involve translating an English text, culturally these are quite different. “The Hill We Climb” is not just a spoken word poem in English, but it is heavily America-centric. This specific text alone already demands an understanding of references to historical events from the American slave trade and to the specific structure Martin Luther King’s poetic “I Have a Dream” speech (Gorman ll. 95-100) as well as the storming of the US Capitol on the of January 2021 (ll. 55-6) . The translator also needs to have an understanding

Photo by Ella van Driel

of (Afro-) American pop culture, as it alludes to Lin Manuel Miranda’s rap-musical Hamilton on multiple occasions (ll. 64, 43-5), yet recognize that the latter is also a Biblical reference (ll. 43-5). Not every translator of English literature would automatically be qualified to translate “The Hill We Climb”.

In this case perhaps even more than in some others, the translator also needs an extraordinary sense of sound and structure. “The Hill We Climb” would benefit from having a translator with experience within the area of spoken word poetry, a genre of which the essence is by its very definition harder to capture on paper. It features many instances of homonymy, alliteration, rhyme, and wordplay, and having a translator who knows what to look for and has experience with these concepts in Dutch spoken word poetry would hopefully benefit the end-product.

Reducing the selection of a suitable translator to a simple game of matching a translator to the author they share the most traits with, whether that be socio-cultural status, race or any other trait, is a false framing of issues, as well as damaging to the practice of literary translation as a whole.

Reducing the selection of a suitable translator to a simple game of matching a translator to the author they share the most traits with, whether that be socio-cultural status, race or any other trait, is a false framing of issues, as well as damaging to the practice of literary translation as a whole. There are not many Elizabethan playwrights x around x nowadays x that would qualify to translate

Shakespeare’s texts, and following the logic behind this framing of the problem, none of those would ever be translated. Furthermore, by expecting people only translate what is most familiar to them, we risk losing a world of wealth concealed in books written in languages we do not comprehend. Each author, translator, and reader – even those who may seem similar on the surface – will bring something uniquely their own to a text. We must be mindful of the necessity of translations and the way they allow people broaden their horizons and experience different cultures despite the initial language barrier. It is not merely a question of who can and may translate certain texts, it is a question of the knock-on effects of systemic equality and visibility issues. There are some amazing translators who will do a great job, especially if the aforementioned qualifications are taken into account during the selection process. The search for someone who does not exist – the mythical perfect translator – should not become a reason to not translate texts altogether. It would be a tragedy indeed, to see so many voices silenced.


Kayleigh Herber is an MA Literary Translation (EN-NL) graduate currently working as a freelance translator. She specialises in texts that incorporate more than one (eye-)dialect of English and literary fiction. Her other interests include the metatext and real-life context of historical fiction as well as contemporary multi-media poetry on women’s issues. 

Photo by Kayleigh Herber


References:

Gorman, Amanda. “The Hill We Climb.” Performance transcript. 20 Jan. 2021. Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

Nzume, Anousha. Ebissé Rouw & Marian El Maslouhi. “Trigger Warning: Racisme, het n-woord & tatta ontbijt.” DIPSAUS podcast. 22 Juni 2019