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Renate Dorrestein

Renate Dorrestein - foto Serge Ligtenberg
Renate Dorrestein - foto Serge Ligtenberg

(Amsterdam, NL, 1954) wanted to "shake up the world" as a journalist for magazines like Panorama, Opzij, Viva and De Tijd. Her successful debut novel Buidenstaanders (Outsiders) was published in 1983. Her international breakthrough came with 1998's Een hart van steen (A Heart of Stone), which was translated in 15 countries. Dorrestein was called the first Dutch "female gothic" writer because of typical gothic themes like suppressed memories, family secrets, and ghostly apparitions. In her world, evil usually lurks close to home. The balance of power within families is one of her favourite subjects. Her life and work have been strongly influenced by her sister's 1979 suicide, and by the chronic fatigue syndrome from which she suffered for a decade. A report of her correspondence with the Chinese dissident Liu Di, Penvriendin in China (Penpal in China), was published in 2015. Dorrestein was one of the founders of the Anna Bijns Foundation, a biannual prize honouring "the female literary voice.". She died in 2018.


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  • Winternachten 2016

    Opening Night: Free the Word!

    With: Alaa al Aswani, Dick van der Harst, Dilek Dundar, Farah Karimi, Guy Danel, Habtom Yohannes, Jennifer Clement, Jung Chang, Lex Bohlmeijer, Manon Uphoff, Reinier Voet, Renate Dorrestein, Toine Heijmans, Ton van de Langkruis

    On opening night, the spotlight is on freedom of speech.The Sino-British writer Jung Chang knows what it means to be unable to speak freely in one's country. Years after she left Communist China, her world-famous book Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China was banned there. Tonight she delivers the Free the Word! keynote speech. With the following presentation of the prestigious Oxfam Novib PEN Awards, the festival honours contemporary authors who seek and propagate truth at the risk of their freedom and lives. The award-winners are the Turkish writer and journalist Can Dundar (who is now in prison in Turkey and will be represented by his wife Dilek Dundar), the Eritrean poet and songwriter Amanuel Asrat, who will be represented by Habtom Yohannes, and the Egyptian poet Omar Hazek. He would have been present in The Hague to receive the award, but was stopped on his way to The Netherlands at Cairo airport by the authorities. His fellow-countryman writer Alaa Al Aswany will represent him. After the ceremony, Lex Bohlmeijer will lead a discussion on how good intentions can founder when we raise issues of injustice, such as censorship. How can we really help threatened writers? And what is the point of good intentions when they have the opposite effect? Musical interventions by musician-in-residence Dick van der Harst switch up this English-language event.