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David Van Reybrouck

David van Reybrouck - foto Stephan Vanfleteren
David van Reybrouck - foto Stephan Vanfleteren

(Belgium, 1971) became famous for his book Congo: A History (2010). This book mixes personal stories of child soldiers and smugglers with those of ministers and manioc sellers. Van Reybrouck came up with the idea for De Europese grondwet in verzen (The European Constitution in Verse, 2009), a poetic commentary by more than 50 European poets. He wrote the play De Siel van die Mier (The Ant's Soul) in 2004. A cultural historian and archaeologist, Van Reybrouck initially worked as a scientist before becoming a full-time writer. He regularly publishes opinion pieces in newspapers De Morgen, de Volkskrant and NRC. In Tegen Verkiezingen (Against Elections, 2013) he makes a compelling argument about what he calls democratic fatigue syndrome. He is currently working on a book about the Dutch colonial past in Indonesia.

(2017)

Archive available for: David Van Reybrouck

  • Winternachten 2018

    VPRO's OVT Live

    With: David Van Reybrouck, Ernst Reijseger, Jos Palm, Karwan Fatah-Black, Louise O. Fresco, Maarten van der Graaff, Madelon de Keizer, Nelleke Noordervliet, Paul van der Gaag, Rodaan Al Galidi, Wim Berkelaar

    Every Sunday morning, the topicality of history is the focus of one of the most popular radio programs in the Netherlands. Sunday morning 21 January 2018 OVT was broadcast, as usual, live from Winternachten festival in Theater aan het Spui.

    Writers from the Winternachten Festival, such as Louise O. Fresco and David Van Reybrouck, joined the live broadcast for interviews and discussion; famous musician Ernst Reijseger performed on cello. Further guests were Karwan Fatah Black, Madelon Keijzer, Nelleke Noorderliet and Wim Berkelaar. Hosts: Paul van der Gaag en Jos Palm. Program in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2018 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Book of my life: David Van Reybrouck

    Writers talks about their favourite book - the book that inspires or moves them; the book that formed their aristic, moral or intellectual compass; the book that they would recommend to anyone.

  • Winternachten 2018 – Friday Night Unlimited

    Fraternité! The Forgotten Value of Brotherhood

    The longing for a strong collective feeling has once again become a source of social movements around the world. That "we"-feeling feeds passionate new emancipation and indentity groups. It also causes social fragmentation and conflict.

    Brotherhood, the third pillar of democracy from the French Revolution, has long been viewed as a less inflammatory societal value compared with Freedom and Equality. But the comeback of a strong collective feeling is connected to high levels of polarization and conflict in society.

    Bas Heijne, winner of the P.C. Hooft Prize for his essays and a prominent NRC newspaper columnist, investigated why the power of a longing for Brotherhood is underestimated, with the help of Flemish cultural historian and writer David Van Reybrouck, Turkish poet and philosopher Efe Murad, German novelist Fatma Aydemir and Polish novelist and journalist Grazyna Plebanek. Together they looked for the contemporary words to express a sense of collective bonding.

    The conversations were accompanied by performances of poetry slam-talent Sanam Sheriff (India), by live drawn illustrations by Gerda Dendooven (Belgium) and by music performed by classical accordionist Oleg Lysenko (Netherlands) and soprano Elisabeth Sturtewagen (Belgium).

  • Winternachten 2018 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    The Rage of Europe - about the innermost outsiders of Europe

    Rage is wafting around Europe. Rage in many forms and voices, but perhaps also from a common source. Led by author and cultural historian David Van Reybrouck, writers from various European cities delineate and interpret this rage from their own environments and perspectives.

    Some Europeans think that our continent is denying its origins and heading towards cultural suicide by opening itself to the culture of strangers. Others believe that Europe is mired in colonial reflexes and prejudices, and falls short in terms of welcoming new citizens. Yet others see only a Europe of interference and technocracy, bereft of passion, imagination and democratic vitality.

    Multitalented author and playwright Van Reybrouck wrote high-profile books such as Congo: A history, and essays such as "A Plea for Populism" and "Against Elections". Fatma Aydemir's debut novel Ellbogen (Elbow), about escalating violence in the U-Bahn, recently divided critics and readers in Germany. Grazyna Plebanek, originally from Warsaw, lived in Stockholm for a few years and in Brussels since 2005, where she works as a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. Until 1989, art historian, poet and essayist Magda Carneci published under a pseudonym in Bucharest; these days, she is, among others, Editor of Revista ARTA.

    As counterpoints, Rodaan Al Galidi recites some of his poems, Gerda Dendooven creates illustrations and Stefka and Amer Shanati play their music.

  • Science Series

    Syria, What's Next?

    With: David Van Reybrouck, Ghayath Almadhoun, Ghayath Almadhoun, Laila al-Zwaini, Lieve Joris, Nihad Siries

    Watch the video-registration of this programme. What will the future of Syria look like once the war has come to an end? Moderator and writer David Van Reybrouck discussed this question with the Syrian novelist Nihad Siries and the Palestine/Syrian poet Ghayath Almadhoun. Both are in exile. They read from their work, and met Laila Zwaini, a researcher on shari'a, rule of law, tribes, and social change in the Arab and Muslim World. They were joined by the Belgium writer Lieve Joris, who wrote a book about Syria. Will Syria go the same way as Iraq, where the attempt to establish a democracy has failed completely? Will it, in all its religious and ethnic diversity, ever become a stable state? Could it ever become the home that the Syrian authors in exile dream of?

    This evening is in English. A programme of B Unlimited, organised by Writers Unlimited in co-operation with The Hague Central Library, and with support of the Municipality of The Hague, PEN Netherlands and Theatre of Wrong Decisions. Curated by Tom Dommisse.

  • Winternachten 2015

    Opening Night: Free the Word!

    With: David Van Reybrouck, Dinar Rahayu, Farah Karimi, John Ralston Saul, Joris Wijsmuller, Karl Ove Knausgård, Leela Corman, Mano Bouzamour, Manon Uphoff, Mohammed Benzakour, Nelleke Noordervliet, Pauni Trio, Petra Stienen, Razan al-Maghrabi, Ton van de Langkruis

    A special opening night featuring a keynote speech by Karl Ove Knausgård, the Oxfam Novib PEN Awards for Freedom of Expression, a debate moderated by Petra Stienen, and concluding words by David Van Reybrouck.

    Freedom of speech and the power of the word are central issues on the festival's opening night. The president of PEN International, John Ralston Saul, will introduce the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård, who delivers the keynote Free Word Speech. Farah Karimi, director of Oxfam Novib will announce the laureates of the prestigious Oxfam Novib PEN Awards for Freedom of Expression. The awards honour writers who seek out and propagate the truth, sometimes at the risk of their own lives. Razan al-Maghrabi was one of the laureates, who could be present at the festival to receive the award. After an interview with Manon Uphoff (president of PEN Nederland), there will be adebate, moderated by Petra Stienen, on religious extremism and the value of provocation. Panellists include writers Mohammed Benzakour, Mano Bouzamour, cartoonist Leela Corman and Dinar Rahayu (Indonesia). David Van Reybrouck rounds out the evening with one his poems. After the programme, Writers Unlimited chair Nelleke Noordervliet and Alderman for culture of The Hague Joris Wijsmuller adress founder and festivaldirector Ton van de Langkruis on the occasion of the 20th edition of the festival. This event was put together with the collaboration of PEN International, PEN Nederland and Oxfam Novib.

  • Winternachten 2015 – FRIDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    Writers Formerly Known as African

    Maaza Mengiste comes from Ethiopia, but emigrated the US as a child and studied in New York. Nii Ayikwei Parkes was born in London to Ghanaian parents. The novels of both authors point to a strong bond with the land of their parents. What does this bond consist of, and how defining is it in their work and identity? Africaphile David von Reybrouck leads the discussion. Toef Jaeger, the biographer of the South Africa-raised Henk van Woerden, starts off the programme with a commentary about reverse emigration—from the Netherlands to Africa. In English.

  • Winternachten 2015 – SATURDAY NIGHT UNLIMITED

    At the Home Front

    Is there still such a thing as "home" when you return after a war? How do you rebuild a life? How do you reconstitute a civilization? Ian Buruma wrote Year Zero: A History of 1945, about the immediate aftermath of WWII. Stefan Hertman's War and Turpentine describes World War I through the eyes of his grandfather. Both authors choose a notably personal approach; Buruma, too, used the experiences of a family member—his father—as motivation to delve into world history. How does it affect a story when the source is so close to home? Is it possible to reflect reality on the basis of a detail? David Van Reybrouck poses these questions to the authors. Louise O. Fresco starts off the programme with a commentary.

  • Winternachten 2013 – Winternacht 2 - schrijvers, muziek en film op vijf podia

    Burger King and Citizenship

    The debate on the role of the citizen in democracy is in the spotlights. But is the ordinary citizen waiting for such a king's role? Wouldn't he rather fulfil the role of consumer and doesn't he think that going to the ballot poll once every four years is quite enough? Isn't the call for more citizen participation first and foremost a flickering of a small elitist flame? Five writers in search of the answer. Nelleke Noordervliet opens with a column, diving into the history of Dutch democracy. In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2013 – Winternacht 2 - schrijvers, muziek en film op vijf podia

    The Third Chamber of Parliament

    Third Chamber chair Ruben Maes invites you to debate, interrupt, and introduce amendments. Bring true democracy closer. Even if it is just for one evening. Five guests will spark off the debate: philosopher Maxim Februari opens with a column on the notion of citizen. Then cultural historian Thomas von der Dunk, journalist Paul van der Gaag and writers Christine Otten and David Van Reybrouck enter into a discussion with you, the audience. In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2013 – Winternacht 2 - schrijvers, muziek en film op vijf podia

    The Medium and the Message

    The social and political implications of the new media and the world wide web have both been extensively praised as well as severely criticised. But one important promise keeps recurring: that of democratisation. The 20th century has seen a succession of optimistic and open media. And all of them, from the telegraph to the telephone and beyond, ended up being closed and controlled industries. A discussion about the hopes and dreams of changing the world, of moving people and the (im)possibilities that the Internet provides in achieving this goal. Including a performance of composer, performer and poet Jaap Blonk. In English.

  • Winternachten 2013 – Winternacht 1 - schrijvers, muziek en film op vijf podia

    Forget it!

    Writers commenting on the black pages in their country's  history. How to deal with the painful questions of the past. Is it the task of writers to investigate them? And if so, are they doing a good job? Isn't forgetting and starting again with a clean slate more effective in order to get ahead? Hanaan as-Sjaykh wrote about the civil war in Lebanon, Alberto Manguel did the same about the dirty war in Argentina while Hans Goedkoop in his book De laatste man (The Last Man) sheds a new light on the Dutch East Indies of the police actions in  the late 1940s. David Van Reybrouck talks to them. Musical intermezzo by Kenyan musician Ngwatilo Mawuyoo accompanied by Serigne Gueye and Mark Tuinstra. In English.

  • Antillen 2012

    Krusa Laman - Villa Maria Curaçao

    With: Cathleen Giterson, David Van Reybrouck, Favell Maduro, Frank Martinus Arion, Grupo Serenada, Guineta de Palm, Helon Habila, Lucille Berry-Haseth, Merietza Haakmat, Petina Gappah, Rodaan Al Galidi

    A wonderful evening full of stories, poems and songs in a beautiful open air theatre in Curaçao, Villa Maria. Merietza Haakmat & Favell Maduro will be the MC's for the Belgian writer David van Reybrouck, the poet from Curaçao Lucille Berry-Haseth, writer Petina Gappah from Zimbabwe, the singers of Serenada, the stories by Guineta de Palm, writer Helon Habila from Nigeria, author Cathleen Giterson from Curaçao and poet Rodaan Al Galidi from The Netherlands. All authors will perform in their own language. Translations to English and Papiamentu will be projected on screen simultaneously.

  • Antillen 2012

    Literary debate in Teatro Luna Blou - Curaçao

    With: David Van Reybrouck, Helon Habila, Mario Kleinmoedig, Miriam Sluis, Petina Gappah, Rhazul and his Group, Richenel Ansano, Rodaan Al Galidi, Sheila Payne

    An evening with storytelling, writers conversations and readings. The evening opens with storyteller Sheila Payne. Then Mario Kleinmoedig will moderate to talks with writers on the theme 'The Power of Memory'. Helon Habila (Nigeria/USA) and David van Reybrouck (Belgie), author of 'Congo, A History', will meet  Miriam Sluis, who published several books on the history of the Dutch Caribean. The second talk brings  together the Curaçao poet Richenel (Muz) Ansano, the Dutch/Iraqi poet Rodaan Al Galidi and writer Petina Gappah from Zimbabwe. There is live music by Rhazul and his Group. All talks are in English.

  • Antillen 2012

    Crusa Lama - Aruba

    With: Caresse Isings, David Van Reybrouck, Dora Lauffer-Mathilda, Elisabeth Pope, Helon Habila, Jacques Thönissen, Jossy Tromp, Petina Gappah, Rodaan Al Galidi, Ryan Maduro, Sharon Rose, Victor Mathilda

    An evening with writers, poets and musicians from Aruba, with four foreign guests from Writers Unlimited. Readings of prose, poetry, storytelling and music in a beautiful surrounding, the garden of the library of Aruba.

  • Antillen 2012

    Crossing the Seas - Sint Maarten

    With: David Van Reybrouck, Gino Olivacce, Helon Habila, Marianne Tefft, Petina Gappah, Rodaan Al Galidi, Stephen Rodney

    The four authors who visit the eiland of St Martin on behalf of Writers Unlimited, will perform together with local authors and muscians Marianne Tefft, Giovanni Olivacce en Stephen "Stretch" Rodney. The morning after this performance, the writers will perform at secondary schools on the island.

  • Winternachten 2012 – Winternacht 2

    Burger King & Citizenship

    Since the crisis there has been a lot of talk about consumer confidence. But what about 'citizen confidence'? The 21st century citizen seems to be adrift. He feels powerless, unheard and misunderstood. The expressions of discontent, the analyses of the causes and the attempts at a solution are endless: From Occupy to the Tea Party. In Burger King & Citizenship a debate on the citizen in the present democracy. Does the notion of 'citizen' still exist or has democracy slowly turned into a plutocracy acting as democracy? Who possesses the power and the laws: the citizen or the banks? Tonight the citizens speak, in the greenhouse in front of the theatre. You can watch and listen outside.

  • Winternachten 2012 – Winternacht 1

    How to be a Dictator in Africa

    Writers put themselves in the shoes of African dictators. They take us with them in the spirit of the once so optimistic leaders who, after the independence of their countries, turned into dictators one by one. In doing so these writers try to give an insight in the world they left behind, from Somalia to Nigeria, and from Sudan to Congo. In English.
    David van Reybrouck replaces Mansoura Ez Eldin, who had to cancel for familiy reasons.

  • Winternachten 2011

    Winternachten Lecture - Tim Parks

    With: Abdelkader Benali, David Van Reybrouck, Elif Batuman, Epi, Maaza Mengiste, Nelleke Noordervliet, Tim Parks

    'I have a problem with the growing internationalisation of literature,' the British writer Tim Parks recently argued in an interview with Bas Heijne in NRC Handelsblad. On Thursday 20 January he will open the Winternachten Festival. 

    'Writers don't aim at local situations and local issues, because an international audience isn't interested in them. That makes the literature change.' And that's what worries Parks. He fears that literature will deteriorate into an impersonal message for a readership of merely outsiders. 'When you read those kinds of books you don't have the feeling of looking in on someone else, of ending up in another culture. That makes a lot of literature superficial and untruthful.'

    In his Winternachten Lecture Tim Parks will elaborate on his disquieting observation. Because many questions remain to be answered. What choice do writers have? Do they have to restrict themselves to the same patterns? Are cultures still so isolated that this is the result? And what about writers who have become estranged and left behind their native soil and culture?
    Abdelkader Benali will talk to Parks after his lecture and put his views to David van Reybrouck, Maaza Mengiste and Elif Batuman.
    This is the first evening in the festival, and the official opening. Before the lecture by Tim Parks, writer Nelleke Noordervliet, chairperson of the festival board, will give the opening speech
    In English.

  • Winternachten 2011

    Oxfam Novib - PEN Awards

    With: Andrei Nekrasov, Arnold Karskens, David Van Reybrouck, Joris Luyendijk, Lionel Veer, Tom van der Lee, Xandra Schutte

    Winternachten is pleased that Oxfam Novib and Dutch PEN are announcing the winners of the Oxfam Novib PEN Awards at the festival. One of the laureates will come to The Hague to collect his or her prize.

    The Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards are given out annually. Prizes are awarded to writers and artists who refuse to remain silent but instead dare to make their opinions heard and get into difficulty as a result. Lionel Veer, the Dutch human rights ambassador, will present the awards.

    Straight after this the PEN Dispute starts, organised by Writers Unlimited in cooperation with Dutch PEN. In times of war, under dictatorial rule, and in extreme circumstances the governments involved try to control and manipulate news coverage. Propaganda and censorship are well-known methods to influence public opinion, but nowadays technological manipulation of the news is within the bounds of possibility. How are these novel methods of manipulation put into action and why must they be exposed? And how does manipulation of the media work here in the West? Raoul Heertje talks to writers and journalists Joris Luyendijk, Arnold Karskens, Xandra Schutte and David van Reybrouck about these issues. Award ceremony in English. PEN Dispute in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2011 – Winternacht 1

    The Other Colonial History

    Belgium had Belgian-Congo; the Netherlands had the Dutch East Indies. Both countries look back at this with shame and nostalgia. David van Reybrouck and Reggie Baay try to set themselves free from the creation of an image by looking for the perspective of the people in the countries who were witnesses of history. Historian Tjitske Lingsma, author of the Sorrow of Ambon, talks with them about their quest for the Other History of the colonies. In Dutch.