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Ellen Deckwitz

Ellen Deckwitz | foto Merlijn Doomernik
Ellen Deckwitz | foto Merlijn Doomernik

(Netherlands, 1982) is a poet and columnist. Her prize-winning debut De steen vreest mij (The Stone Fears Me, 2011) humorously exposes family relations. Hoi feest (Hurray, Party, 2012) contains poems on adolescence, rabbits and the corporality of religion. She performs in many contexts, including with the Dutch Wind Ensemble and the Scapino Ballet. Deckwitz has been a member of the band Asfaltfeeën since 2009 and publishes her columns in NRC and De Morgen. In 2019, she was the primary speaker of the third generation of descendants during the National Commemoration of 15 August 1945 at the Dutch East Indies Monument in The Hague. Her new poetry collection Hogere Natuurkunde (Higher Physics) addresses the Dutch East Indies, colonialism, and its consequences for the present-day Netherlands.

(WU 2019)

Archive available for: Ellen Deckwitz

  • Winternachten 2020

    NRC Live Reading Club

    With: Clarice Gargard, Ellen Deckwitz, Michel Krielaars

    The NRC Live Reading Club is a festival tradition. The panel features two NRC columnists, the poet Ellen Deckwitz and the journalist Clarice Gargard, who discuss Hella Haasse's Oeroeg (1948) with the help of moderator and NRC Editor-in-Chief of Books Michel Krielaars. They come up with new arguments for reading this classic - for new readers or those already familiar with the novella.

    Everone is welcome at this gathering and you, the reader of the book, can also add your opinion to the discussion.

    Oeroeg is a novella by the Dutch writer Hella S. Haasse (1918-2011) which was first published in 1948. It first appeared as the national Book Week present and became an important work in Dutch literature. It has been reprinted and translated many times. Haasse found inspiration in her own longing for the Dutch East Indies, where she was born and spent a large part of her youth. The Dutch first-person narrator recalls his friendship with a boy named Oeroeg. As boys there were inseparable, but due to their differences, including above all their nationalities, they grew apart. As adults they face each other as colonial overseer and freedom fighter.

    Hella Haasse's Indonesian novels are about the former Dutch colony of the Dutch East Indies. Oeroeg was the first and Sleuteloog (2008) the last. One of the common themes is colonialism, especially the relationship between the Netherlands and its former colony, the Dutch East Indies. Colonial issues come to the forefront in Oeroeg.

    Tip: Ellen Deckwitz also appears at Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January at Theater aan het Spui; at the Writers Unlimited event "Indonesian Roots in Poetry and Music" at the Nieuw Waldeck Library on Friday, 17 January; and at Saturday Night Unlimited on Saturday, 18 January in Theater aan het Spui and Filmhuis Den Haag for the "The Inheritance" event with Adriaan van Dis.

  • Winternachten 2020

    Indonesian Roots in Poetry and Music: Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block

    With: Ellen Deckwitz, Robin Block

    Writers Unlimited once again welcomes you to the Nieuw Waldeck Library for a wonderful literary-musical evening featuring a young generation of writers and poets with Indonesian roots. Come to watch and listen to the stories, poetry and music of Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block.

    This generation with a family background in the Dutch East Indies sometimes learned the stories of yore from their grandparents. Poet, thespian and performance poet Ellen Deckwitz (37) processed these in her new volume of poetry, Hogere Natuurkunde (Higher Physics). When she was a child, her "grandmother of steel", Grandma Koos, lived next door and told her about her experiences in the Japanese internment camps from 1942 to 1945.

    Deckwitz appears alongside a generational contemporary: the writer, performer and musician Robin Block (38). His grandparents fled the Dutch East Indies in 1949. They crossed the ocean to build a new life in the Netherlands, a country of which they were official citizens, but where they had never set foot and which did not provide a warm welcome. Block tells their stories via text and music.

    The Writers Unlimited International Literary Festival The Hague is celebrating its 25th anniversary! From 15 to 19 January 2020 it takes place in theatres, libraries and schools throughout The Hague: at Theater aan het Spui, Filmhuis Den Haag, the Institute of Social Studies, the Zuiderstrand Theatre and Paard, as well as the Dakota Theatre and the Schilderswijk, Ypenburg and Nieuw Waldeck libraries. More than 100 local and international writers, poets and spoken-word artists will appear for recitations, prose, poetry, storytelling, spoken word, author interviews, topical discussions, films and music.

    The jubilee edition of the festival has a special focus on liberation and, more specifically, on the decolonization of Western thought. How free is our mind, what does freedom mean, and are we truly free or caught in the framework of our culture, society and history? This theme connects the festival with its beginnings, when it focused on the relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia, Surinam, the Antilles and South Africa.

    Tip: Ellen Deckwitz appears at the festive Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January in Theater aan het Spui; at the NRC Live Reading Club, when she will discuss Hella Haasse's novel Oeroeg with Clarice Gargard and the public (Saterday afternoon, 18 January at Theater aan het Spui); and at Saturday Night Unlimited with Adriaan van Dis and others, on 18 January at Theater aan het Spui and Filmhuis Den Haag. Robin Block will also appear at Saturday Night Unlimited.

  • Winternachten 2020

    Opening Night

    With: Adriaan van Dis, Angelina Enny, Antjie Krog, Cynthia Mc Leod, Ellen Deckwitz, Goenawan Mohamad, Jolyn Phillips, Karin Amatmoekrim, Manon Uphoff, Nelleke Noordervliet, Petina Gappah, Reggie Baay, Rosabelle Illes, Shailesh Bahoran, Simon(e) van Saarloos, Ton van de Langkruis, Vamba Sherif

    A fantastic line-up of fifteen Dutch and international authors provide a preview of the festival with their new poetry and prose, mixed with dance performances by Shailesh Bahoran. This festive evening celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Winternachten festival with the presentation of the (Dutch language) anniversary anthology De verovering van Jupiter (Over de dekolonisatie van de geest) (Conquering Jupiter: On decolonising the mind).

    At the behest of Writers Unlimited, all contributors wrote a short essay, story or poem for the anthology to reflect on the festival theme. It is a unique collection of - no surprise here - 25 wonderful pieces of writing edited by Toef Jaeger and published by Jurgen Maas. During the festival it will be available at the on-site De Vries Van Stockum bookstore and from 14 January 2020 at regular bookstores and online.

    In the same venue in which the first Indonesian Winternacht (forerunner of Winternachten Festival) took place in 1995 - the Theater aan het Spui - on this jubilee opening night we proudly present (inter)national writers that have developed a special bond with our festival and its audience. These include: Goenawan Mahamad (Indonesia), who performed at the first Winternacht, Adriaan van Dis, Antjie Krog (South Africa), Nelleke Noordervliet, Reggie Baay, Manon Uphoff, Vamba Sheriff and Cynthia McLeod. Tip: be sure to look up these writers in our amazing online video archive!

    Writers Unlimited will always continue to seek out talent, and in 25 years has presented many debuting local and foreign writers. How wonderful, then, to welcome on this evening - once again, or for the first time: Petina Gappah (Zimbabwe), Angelina Enny (Indonesia), Rosabelle Illes (Aruba), Jolyn Phillips (South Africa) and, from the Netherlands, Karin Amatmoekrim, Simon(e) van Saarloos and Ellen Deckwitz. We await their appearances and recitations with bated breath.

    Theatre maker, choreographer and hiphop innovator Shailesh Bahoran performs parts of his dance solo Heritage that was inspired by his Hindostani background.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Ellen Deckwitz and Adriaan van Dis: Inheritance

    A discussion about family, inheritance and whether or not it is possible to escape the transferral of history, and thereby your roots, and the good fortune or grief that goes along with them. Led by Fiep van Bodegom, with music by Robin Block.

    In her new collection Hogere natuurkunde (Advanced Physics), Ellen Deckwitz writes about the war, the Dutch Indies, and consequences thereof in today's Netherlands. The grandmother in the text is her Indonesian oma, who will only tell her story to her granddaughter.

    A major portion of Adrian van Dis' oeuvre addresses Indonesian influences on his family. His first novel, Nathan Sid (1983) and the novels Indische duinen (Indonesian Dunes, 1994), Familieziek (Family Illness, 2002) and Ik kom terug (I'm Coming Back, 2014) are about his mother and his family, and about how family history persists, generation after generation.

    Writer, musician and actor Robin Block follows the path of his grandparents, who had to flee Indonesia in 1949, in the other direction. This is the theme of his solo performance Samudra ("ocean") and the 2019 book he wrote together with Angelina Enny (from Indonesia) In Between, Di Antara.

    Tip: Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block also appear in the Writers Unlimited program at the Nieuw Waldeck Library on 17 January 2020, as of 20:15h. On Saturday afternoon, 18 January, Deckwitz, together with fellow NRC columnist Clarice Gargard and the audience, discusses the novella Oeroeg (1948) by Hella Haasse. Both events are in Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2020 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    Letters from Overseas

    In 1795, the once-enslaved but later freed Wilhelmina Kelderman sent a heartbreaking letter from Paramaribo to her former master. The letter never arrived, as it was on a ship hijacked by the English, ended up in an archive, and was only opened two centuries later.

    Writers Unlimited festival asked eight authors to write a letter to someone in a (former) colony, inspired by Wilhelmina's entreaty, and to present it at this event. They will recite them in their mother tongue or preferred language of writing; English or Dutch translations will be simultaneously projected.

    Participants are Antjie Krog (South Africa), Alfred Birney, Reggie Baay, Ellen Deckwitz, Rosabelle Illes (Aruba), Jolyn Phillips (South Africa), Jasper Albinus and, performing jointly, poet Angelina Enny (Indonesia) and writer and musician Robin Block.

    Tip: Antjie Krog, Reggie Baay, Ellen Deckwitz and Jolyn Phillips will also read from their contributions to the 25th anniversary Writers Unlimited festival anthology during the Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January at Theater aan het Spui.

  • Antjie Krog en Ellen Deckwitz

    Antjie Krog & Ellen Deckwitz: Dutch East-Indies and South-Afrka, history in poems

    With: Antjie Krog, Ellen Deckwitz, John Jansen van Galen

    How can literature serve a greater understanding of history? Ellen Deckwitz (1982) wanted to write a poetry collection about her grandmother's life during the dying days of the Dutch East Indies – and decided she could not do so without traveling to Indonesia herself. The resulting De Steen Vreest Mij (2011) earned her the C. Buddingh' Prize for best poetry debut. One of the most important poets of her generation, she is a welcome guest at literary venues. Deckwitz writes about history in poems that render its events palpable.
    Over her storied career, South African writer and journalist Antjie Krog (1952) has been deliberating on the question whether the power of words can stand up to the power of actions. Writing in Afrikaans and English, many of Krog's books and poetry collections have been published or translated into English, including Country of my Skull, A Change of Tongue, and Lady Anne: A Chronicle in Verse.
    After the end of apartheid, Krog started writing about the possibility of reconciliation with a great sense of faith. She believed it to possible as long as everybody's stories would be heard, yet now she encounters the limitations of language more and more, in both society as well as her own work. Krog's work has won many awards, such as South Africa's Hertzog Prize and, in the Netherlands, the Gouden Ganzeveer, which she accepted in 2018.

    On Friday 15 February, Ellen Deckwitz and Antjie Krog took the B-Unlimited stage to discuss what literature can contribute to historiography. Their moderator is John Jansen van Galen, who has made great contributions to the history of decolonization. (Dutch /Afrikaans spoken.)

    This program was curated by Toef Jaeger (Writers Unlimited).
    Book sales at the venue by De Vries Van Stockum.

  • Winternachten 2013

    Writers' Fest 2013

    With: Bart Moeyaert, Denise Jannah, Ellen Deckwitz, Guus Janssen, Jaap Cohen, Joke van Leeuwen, Lucas Hüsgen, Marja Pruis, Nico Dijkshoorn, Pieter Steinz, Roland Colastica, Ronald Giphart, Stephan Enter, Wouter Godijn

    The festival closes with a Writers' Fest in the Koninklijke Schouwburg. A programme around Dutch literature, with performances by among others Joke van Leeuwen, Nico Dijkshoorn, Ronald Giphart, Bart Moeyaert, jazz singer Denise Jannah and pianist and composer Guus Janssen. 


    What is the state of affairs in Dutch letters? At the beginning of the year we take stock. Writer and critic Marja Pruis gives her vision on how Dutch literature fares. With music and readings we honour three great writers and poets who passed away in 2012. Queen of jazz and singer Denise Jannah, accompanied by guitarist Robby Alberga, sings a poem by Gerrit Komrij, Holland's foremost poet and promotor of Dutch poets and poetry. Composer and pianist Guus Janssen honours the prolific Dutch writer  Bernlef with a composition for voice and piano. And we'll listen to a recording of poet Rutger Kopland, the grand old man of Dutch poetry. Curaçaoan writer and actor Roland Colastica, who made his debut last year with the children's novel Vuurwerk in mijn hoofd (Fireworks in my Head), tells us a story about his mother tongue, Papiamento, how as a child he got to know Dutch literature, on the importance of reading and telling stories. 

    Presentation of the The Hague literary prizes
    Four writers are awarded with a prize today: Stephan Enter is recipient of the F. Bordewijk Prize for his novel Grip, Wouter Godijn receives the Jan Campert Prize for his book of poetry Hoe H.H. de wereld redde (How H.H. Saved the World), and Lucas Hüsgen receives the J. Greshoff Prize for contemplative prose for his book Nazi te Venlo (Nazi in Venlo). Multitalent Joke van Leeuwen is recipient of the Constantijn Huygens Prize for her entire oeuvre. The afternoon closes with her theatrical word of thanks: a unique performance by Van Leeuwen,  this writer, poet,  illustrator and comedian. In cooperation with the Nederlands Letterenfonds, Stichting Lezen and the Jan Campert Stichting. The prizes are given by the alderman for culture of The Hague, Marjolein de Jong.

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

    Who's afraid of youth

    Pupils from schools in The Hague present their best poems. They've had over ten hours of poety lessons behind them. After a lot of writing and deleting, expanding and cutting they now bring their very best poems. Tonight Ellen Deckwitz performs with them. Programme in cooperation with Huis van Gedichten. In Dutch.

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

    Long live poetry!

    The best poets of the year read their poetry. Those nominated for the VSB Poetry Award, Luuk Gruwez, Ester Naomi Perquin and Menno Wigman perform together with Ellen Deckwitz (C. Buddingh' Prize 2012 for the best poetic debut) and Rodaan Al Galidi (Literature prize of the European Union) open the night with cheerful poems and thoughts. A programme in cooperation with Poetry International. In Dutch.