(The Netherlands, 1982) is a poet, columnist, and a highly regarded guest and presenter at literary events, including Writers Unlimited. For De steen vreest mij (2011), she was awarded the C. Buddingh' Prize for the best poetry debut. Her collection Hogere natuurkunde (2019) is part travelogue, part myth and part testimony, and the outcome of countless conversations Deckwitz engaged in with individuals whose roots also trace back to the former Dutch East Indies. In 2022, Eerste hulp bij poëzie was published, an omnibus containing her collections Olijven moet je leren lezen (2020) and Dit gaat niet over grasmaaien (2021). Deckwitz writes columns for the daily NRC Handelsblad and is a frequent guest on radio programs. In her NPO Luister podcast Poëzie vandaag, she presents a Dutch or translated poem every workday morning and shares why the poem resonates with her.(WU2024)
Archive available for: Ellen Deckwitz
Writers Unlimited International Literature Festival The Hague welcomed you to the Ypenburg Library for a wonderful literary-musical evening focused on a young generation of writers and poets with Indonesian roots. Watch and listen to the stories, poetry and music of Ellen Deckwitz and Robin Block.
This generation of people with familial roots in the former Dutch East Indies learned the stories of the past from their grandparents and others. Ellen's "steel grandma" -- Grandma Koos -- lived next to the family and told her what she had experienced in the Japanese internment camps from 1942 to 1945. Her book Hogere natuurkunde (Higher Physics) - part story, part poem - is the result of numerous conversations Ellen Deckwitz had in the following years with people whose roots also lie in Indonesia.
Ellen was joined by her contemporary, the poet, musician and theatre artist Robin Block. His grandparents left Indonesia in 1949. They crossed the ocean to build a new live in The Netherlands, a country of which they were official citizens but where they had never been and which did not receive them with open arms. Block tells their stories in poetry and music. In his recent poetry collection Handleiding voor ontheemden (2023, Manual for the Displaced) Block reflects, while balancing between various cultures and nationalities, his own quest for identity to that of his grandparents. Two worlds come together: stories about the old colony and the discovery of modern-day Indonesia.
Ellen Deckwitz (1982) has been unstoppable since she made her entrance into the literary world: the past few years have seen the publication of award-winning collections, books on writing (the acclaimed Zo word je een geweldige dichter) and the bestseller Olijven moet je leren lezen. She also presents poetry slams, won countless herself and writes columns in Dutch national newspaper NRC. The poetry collection Hogere natuurkunde is published in 2019 and the omnibus Eerste hulp bij poëzie in 2022. Ellen is a regular guest on radio programmes and reads a Dutch or translated poem in her NPO Luister podcast Poëzie vandaag every working day morning.
Robin Block (1980) is a poet, musician and performer. Block often writes about the shared history of the Netherlands and Indonesia, about displacement, migration background or an upbringing between different families and cultures. Block has released several albums of dreamy indie folk; the past year he did a musical tour on the Indonesian isle of Java. After Bestialen (2005) and the bilingual In Between, Di Antara, in his collection Handleiding voor ontheemden (2023) he is looking for a new balance between The Netherlands and Indonesia. The translated version of this collection will be published in Indonesia by February 2024. Robin is also a columnist for Dutch magazine Moesson.
Festival tip: we had two further events with Indonesian roots in store: on Saturday afternoon, 20 January, at Theater aan het Spui: Je bent wat je eet (You Are What You Eat). Together with well-known cookbook authors, indluding Vanja van der Leeden (Indorock and Indostok), we dived into the tasty world of culinary tales. Later that day in the same theatre, during the great festival evening Saturday Night Unlimited: Oude banden, nieuwe verbindingen: Indonesië en Nederland (Old Bonds, New Ties: Indonesia and The Netherlands) with writers Adriaan van Dis, Maddy Stolk, Ellen Deckwitz, Robin Block and Lara Nuberg. How do they see Indonesia, the country of lore with which they've started a new relationship through their books and stories?
From 18 to 21 January 2024, the festival could be found in theatres, libraries and schools throughout The Hague: from Theater aan het Spui, Filmhuis Den Haag, Koninklijke Schouwburg and Paard to Theater Dakota, the Nieuw Waldeck, Schilderswijk and Ypenburg libraries and Haagse Hogeschool. With over ninety writers, poets and spoken-word artists and musicians from the Netherlands and abroad. With readings, prose, poetry, storytelling, spoken word, author interviews, topical talks, films and music.
Writers tell us about their favourite book: the book that inspires or touches them, that set their artistic, moral or intellectual compass. In short, the book they would recommend to everyone. Interview: Hassnae Bouazza.
Ellen Deckwitz chose as her favorite The Evenings (De avonden, 1947) by Gerard Reve, his 1947 debut novel about Frits van Egters, a 23-year-old failed grammar school student plagued by terrible dreams. He is annoyed with his father, his mother and with his friends.
The ties between The Netherlands and Indonesia is a complicated history, and has strongly influenced generations of people with roots in the Dutch Indies. How do writers from generations born in The Netherlands view the land of their (grand)parents? The country they only know from lore, and with which they have built a new relationship of their own? Old Ties, New Connections is about having roots in another country and another time, about displacement and fresh ties to Indonesia.
Adriaan van Dis' work leads back in part to his Dutch Indies background. His 2023 novel Naar zachtheid en een warm omhelzen (To Tenderness and a Warm Hug), deals with his youth with his grandfather and Ommie, the woman who cared for and brought him up when Van Dis could not go home because his father struggled with the trauma of having been in a internment camp.
Maddy Stolk wrote in her autofiction novel Soedah, laat maar (Soedah, Never Mind, 2023) about her mothers past in an internment camp and how it affected her whole youth while she empties the house after her mother's death. In this way, she confronts the ghosts of her youth one more time.
Authors Ellen Deckwitz, Lara Nuberg and Robin Block belong to the third generation of Indonesians in The Netherlands. How do they look at the preceding generations? What is their view of the country where their ancestors were born?
With a presentation by Adriaan van Dis, Ellen Deckwitz, Lara Nuberg and Robin Block.
In his latest book De kampschilders (The Camp Painters, published by Atlas Contact), Jan Brokken weaves together the story of his parents, Han and Olga, with that of prominent artists from Bali, Willem and Maria Hofker, and Rudolf Bonnet, who ended up in the same Japanese internment camps in colonial Dutch East Indies during World War II, alongside Brokken's parents.
In the midst of the camp's hardships, these artists depicted their fellow prisoners and managed to create beauty in those circumstances. Brokken not only portrays life in the camp but also delves into the pre-war artist community in Bali and explores how the trauma from the camp continued to affect his parents' lives after the war. This impactful book, illustrated with work by Bonnet and the Hofkers, has been well-received and was longlisted for the Libris Geschiedenis Prijs and for the Boekenbon Literatuurprijs.
Writer and poet Ellen Deckwitz's grandmother, who had Indonesian roots, was also held in Japanese internment camps. Following her grandmother's passing, Deckwitz realized she was the only family member who had learned her life story. Her poetry collection Hogere natuurkunde (Higher Physics, published by Pluim) emerged from conversations with individuals of Indonesian heritage. The collection combines elements of travel narratives, mythology, and testimonies. Deckwitz was awarded the E. du Perron Prize for this work, and it was acclaimed by publications like Trouw, de Standaard, and NRC as the best book of the year.
Writers Unlimited brought together these two acclaimed Dutch authors for a conversation. They explored the role of art in the history of the Dutch East Indies and discussed what motivated them to transform these historical events into art. They shared their creative processes, offering insights into their journeys through the past. Additionally, both authors read from their impressive works, which are characterized by depth and imagination.
Poet and musician Robin Block participated in this program with poetic and musical performances. He published Handleiding voor ontheemden (Guide for the Displaced. 2023), a poetic exploration of Block's family roots in Indonesia. His work resides at the intersection of language, music, and performance. Block often writes poetry about the shared history of the Netherlands and Indonesia, as well as themes of displacement and belonging, as experienced by individuals with a colonial family history, a migration background, or an upbringing in diverse families and cultures.
This Writers Series program was in Dutch.
After the event: book sale by De Vries Van Stockum, along with an opportunity for book signing.
Programme presented and curated by Shantie Singh (Writers Unlimited)
Writers Series: Ellen Deckwitz in conversation with Jan Brokken
Wednesday, October 11, 2023, 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM Central Library Podium B, Spui 68, 2511 BT The Hague
Writers Unlimited organises the Writers Unlimited International Literature Festival The Hague every year in January (2024 dates: 18-21 January) and monthly Writers Series programmes throughout the year at various locations in The Hague, including the Central Public Library (Centrale Bibliotheek) The Hague. The festival, featuring more than 100 writers, poets, spoken word artists and musicians from the Netherlands and abroad, will take place over four days at venues including Theater aan het Spui, Filmhuis Den Haag, Paard, Koninklijke Schouwburg, neighbourhood libraries, Hague universities and secondary schools.
Yippee, WWZ was back at Winternachten! We ordered a drink and got carried away by today's top spoken-word artists and poets.
WWZ is a popular platform for authors, spoken-word artists and musicians that has, with energy and a deep love of language, staged the most beautiful performances and loveliest music for sold-out venues for many years. During Winternachten we joined forces with WWZ and PAARD. Besides Dutch poets and spoken-word artists, international festival authors let their voices be heard at WWZ x Winternachten Festival 2022 in an extra-long, high-profile program. Good vibes guaranteed!
During this event you saw and heard performers such as: WWZ-founder and spoken-word artist Elten Kiene, writer and musician Aafke Romeijn, poet Derek Otte, spoken-word artists Kelvin Allison and Amara van der Elst, poet (and former Amsterdam poet laureate) Gershwin Bonevacia, poet Ellen Deckwitz, and Iranian-Swedish poet Athena Farrokhzad.
Every Sunday morning, the topicality of history is the focus of one of the most popular radio programs in the Netherlands. On Sunday morning, 19 January 2020, OVT will be broadcast live from Writers Unlimited festival in Theater aan het Spui. You can listen to and watch discussions, interviews and stories by festival authors and others. Hosts: Paul van der Gaag and Jos Palm. Program in Dutch.
The NRC Live Reading Club is a festival tradition. The panel featured two NRC columnists, the poet Ellen Deckwitz and the journalist Clarice Gargard, who discussed Hella Haasse's Oeroeg (1948) with the help of moderator and NRC Editor-in-Chief of Books Michel Krielaars. They came up with new arguments for reading this classic - for new readers or those already familiar with the novella.
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 with Robin Block and Adriaan van Dis at Saturday Night Unlimited in Theater aan het Spui. She will perform at the festive Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January and 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).
Winternachten festival 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: poet, musician and theatre maker 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 Winternachten 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.
With: Adriaan van Dis, Angelina Enny, Antjie Krog, Cynthia Mc Leod, Ellen Deckwitz, Goenawan Mohamad, Hassnae Bouazza, Jolyn Phillips, Karin Amatmoekrim, Nelleke Noordervliet, Petina Gappah, Reggie Baay, Rosabelle Illes, Shailesh Bahoran, Sigrid Kaag, Simon(e) van Saarloos, Ton van de Langkruis, Vamba Sherif
A fantastic line-up of fifteen Dutch and international authors provided 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). The festival was opened by Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.
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 28 wonderful pieces of writing edited by Toef Jaeger and published by Jurgen Maas. It is available 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 presented (inter)national writers that have developed a special bond with our festival and its audience. These included: Goenawan Mohamad (Indonesia) and Nelleke Noordervliet - who both performed at the first Winternacht in 1995 -, Adriaan van Dis, Antjie Krog (South Africa), Reggie Baay, Manon Uphoff, Vamba Sherif and Cynthia McLeod (Suriname). Tip: be sure to look up these writers in our online video and sound 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: Angelina Enny (Indonesia), Rosabelle Illes (Aruba), Jolyn Phillips (South Africa) and, from the Netherlands, Karin Amatmoekrim, Simon(e) van Saarloos and Ellen Deckwitz. We awaited their appearances and recitations with bated breath.
Theatre maker, choreographer and hiphop innovator Shailesh Bahoran performed parts of his dance solo Heritage that was inspired by his Hindostani background; a short video of The Theatre of Wrong Decisions was shown and the Hesce Mourits Quartet of the Royal Conservatory The Hague also performed.
The Opening Night was hosted by Hassnae Bouazza.
The performance of Manon Uphoff, announced for this programme, has been canceled due to illness.
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 and poetry 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.
Poet, musician and theatre maker 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 Winternachten 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.
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 nine 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, poet Angelina Enny (Indonesia) and poet, musician and theatre maker Robin Block.
Tip: Antjie Krog, Reggie Baay, Ellen Deckwitz and Jolyn Phillips will also read from their contributions to the 25th anniversary Winternachten festival anthology during the Opening Night - A Free Mind on Wednesday, 15 January at Theater aan het Spui.
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.
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.
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.
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.