CROSSING BORDER ANTWERP 4 & 6 NOV 2022
Kies de taal
Natasha Brown - 3 - Meetings
6 November 2021
Illuminated in a cone of hazy blue light, Colson Whitehead appears ethereal, almost spectral. We’re in the Korzo Theatre Raven room again, the same place as last night, though now it’s reconfigured for a live band performance. The graduated rows of seating have disappeared in favour of a large dance flooresque area — standing room only, both of Whitehead’s events today have completely sold out — packed with people staring up at the double Pulitzer Prize winning author.
The crowd is hyped, courtesy of the evening’s emcee, who bounded on to the stage in a leather jacket and delivered rousing Dutch into a handheld microphone. Whitehead looks easygoing, smiling as he walks out from behind a curtain to cheers and applause. Introducing the reading from Harlem Shuffle, his quip about a character who comes from “Dutch money” meets knowing chuckles. There’s something of David Foster Wallace, perhaps, in Whitehead’s affably American irreverence. After the readings, he jokes about the Golden Girls, and then Star Wars oddities — fair point, why can’t R2D2 speak? — under the guise of revealing his work in progress. The vibe shifts from literary lounge to comedy club. Dry ice, swirling in the stage light, becomes smoke-thickened air. “Back to normal” — that phrase is bandied around so often, but I feel it now, almost, maybe, as Whitehead wraps up his talk.
Today’s schedule was jam packed. I met my Dutch publisher, De Geus, for lunch. Speaking with Bijeen’s translator, Nadia Ramer, was surprisingly emotional. It’s such a privilege, I realise, to have your work read, interpreted, understood, and translated. I felt she knew the book as well as I did. Also, finally getting to know my incredible editor, Jacoba, was a delight. Bijeen is Assembly, yes, but it’s also something new. I’m so grateful to Jacoba and the whole De Geus team for publishing it.
Next, a writer’s dream: I met with thirty students of English and American literature, from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, to discuss Assembly. Brilliantly moderated by a student mentor, Manon, we had a wide-ranging and wonderfully in depth conversation about the book. Their enthusiasm, interest, and generosity was infectious (though not airborne!). My thanks to Manon and Amber for the invitation, and to all the students for giving my writing such thoughtful consideration.
Finally, there were lots of wonderful events featuring my fellow Chroniclers tonight. At Schuilkerk, a “clandestine church” that appears nondescript from the outside, but is gorgeously ornate within, I watched Jens read from De Lichtjaren in Dutch, and Pajtim read from his third novel, Bolla, in Finnish. In place of understanding their words, the other elements of each performance engaged me. Jens’ style was deadpan, yet warm, he drew the audience into his confidence. Pajtim read with an electric intensity, his words charged the air.
After that, we crowded into an underground coffeeshop, simply named as “The Basement” on the festival timetable. From a little raised platform in the corner, I read two extracts from my own novel. It had the feel of an unofficial jazz club in there; the small, dark room had painted-black walls, with a bar at the back, and a real cool cat atmosphere. I loved it!
So, after another fantastic day at the festival, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s events.
WAT HEEFT DIT VERHAAL GEÏNSPIREERD?
Lunch with De Geus, a discussion with students, and an evening of readings.
Meer van Natasha Brown en Nevorice Matheu
14 November 2021
Natasha Brown - 5 - Back to normal
“Rail replacement bus” — three of the most depressing words in the English language. I heard them two days ago while on my way to Bridport, a lovely market town in the south of England, for the BridLit festival. Dutifully, the other passengers and I filed off the train to wait in the drizzle for the promised bus. It was more than worth it in the end; I arrived in time for my event, and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and conversation at the festival.
7 November 2021
Natasha Brown - 4 - Goodbyes
By 7:15pm, Juffrouw Idastraat is abuzz. A considerable queue of literary enthusiasts extends back from the Schuilkerk door, where security guys check wristbands and wave people through. We’re here to see the 2021 European Literature Prize awarded to Saša Stanišić and Annemarie Vlaming for the Dutch translation of Stanišić’s novel Herkomst, crowned “the best contemporary European novel translated into Dutch” of the last year.
5 November 2021
Natasha Brown - 2
Warren Ellis doesn’t need an interviewer, per se. He knows how to command a stage. By my count, host Roderik Six only squeezes in three questions during the hour-long talk. From those jumping off points Ellis riffs, amiably and interestingly, across years and cities, occasionally referring back to the titular piece of Nina Simone’s chewing gum ...
4 November 2021
Natasha Brown – 1
Since about March 2020, unprecedented restrictions have been imposed on everyday life. The world, for many of us, shrunk down to our immediate physical area, a sort of hyper-locality that was completely unimaginable ... until it became reality.
Zie The Chronicles live tijdens Crossing Border 2021