It may not have been the Toppers, but with a performance by Dries Roelvink who sang ‘A little love’ by André Hazes, we came pretty close. The entrance of influencers Bas Smit and Nicolette van Dam – they wrote a book about how nice the Netherlands can be – also seemed to detract from the ‘elitist’ and mystical aura that always hangs a bit around this writing festival.
In any case, it was a nice contrast to the stylish and brave reception of Boekenweek author Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer with his mother (his beloved Stella had stayed at home in Genoa), essayist Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (the double names were an advantage this year), poet Bart Moeyaert and the State Secretary for Culture and Media Gunay Uslu. At the entrance of the disco, everyone was welcomed by theater maker Nina de la Parra, who put together a podcast on the spot and asked everyone about his or her ‘first love’, theme of this Book Week.
Hanna Bervoets, Raoul de Jong, Femke van der Laan, Splinter Chabot and Bregje Hofstede, among others, submitted themselves to her fire of questions. But writer Jamal Ouariachi, who recently published the novel Autumnal Thread about the horrors of woke culture, commented on the socials: “The book week theme is consistently infantile and sentimental and always a cliché, archenemy of literature.” He therefore liked to keep his private life private.
The last Boekenbal dates from March 6, 2020, exactly a week before corona paralyzed the country. Whether it was another superspread event this year remains to be seen. The guests had been given a time lock for entry in advance, but there were no longer any measures inside. There was a gentle hug.
Pieter Omzigt shook hands again vigorously. It was his first Book Ball. His children had laughed at him for saying ‘Daddy went to the disco’, he said. The politician confessed that he reads many pages every day, but always parliamentary reports and never novels. His D66 colleagues Sigrid Kaag and Robbert Dijkgraaf from The Hague also walked around on the dance floor.
The British writing duo Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who write thrillers like Nicci French, were also there. “No, we are not each other’s first love. We were already in our thirties when we fell in love. But it’s about being each other’s last love, right?”
Nicci Gerrard had borrowed a pink suit from her daughter especially for the occasion, which looked great on her. However, the duo could not stay long. After their festive red carpet moment, the couple was taken away from the side again to the studio where the talk show Jinek is being recorded. “We are there first. Maybe if we’re not too tired after the TV interview, we’ll throw ourselves into the partying later on.”
Bart Chabot said with a smile that he had recently won a prize again, having previously received the Jip Golsteijn prize. “Now I have also been awarded by Sociëteit de Witte in The Hague.” In the meantime, numerous colleagues walked into the room, from Connie Palmen and Nelleke Noordervliet to Toine Heijmans, Yvonne Kroonenberg and Robert Vuijsje. “There is a lot of kinnesinne in the literary world,” says Chabot, who prefers to be in the rock ‘n roll world.
Actually, this Boekenweek was supposed to take place again in March, but the organizing foundation CPNB opted for a one-month delay to be even more sure that corona measures were no longer required. The Stadsschouwburg – nowadays called International Theater Amsterdam or ITA – could not adapt its programming to this: Hans Kesting was already on stage with Judas. But the lack of an indoor program was actually a relief for the guests, who had come to catch up, drink and dance. CPNB director Eveline Aendekerk fully understood this, as was apparent from her opening speech, after Berget Lewis and Wouter Hamel had interpreted a special version of Pastorale.
“For two years we have dreamed of new times, of going back to the old normal,” said Aendekerk full of emotion. “These new times have arrived, but they are not normal: certainly not in Ukraine. Love is the ultimate answer to war and hate. Love is our escape, the night is of love.” Nice words, which were added luster by the announcement that the CPNB is donating €5 to Giro 555 per Boekenbalgast. An ultimate excuse to let loose on the dance floor.