And then people suddenly drank coffee for breakfast instead of beer

And then people suddenly drank coffee for breakfast instead of beer

1. Fons Dellen: The art, the girl, the city

In The art, the girl, the citythe second novel by writer and journalist Fons Dellen, you’ll rush into the wild life of Tom Derckx. This reporter from the music magazine Modern lives in the same (squat) building as his buddy Mink Wildeman. It is the early eighties and in addition to work there is a lot of drinking, it is normal to drive a car under the influence (‘I drive much better with a few beers’) and some people are crazy high from horse riding. The meeting with two girls who squat in a studio together in a former Pencil Factory on the Gelderskade completes the staging. Dellen knows how to make the tragicomic story hilarious from the first short chapter and develop it into an exciting, musical script about Amsterdam, its junkies and the Dapperstraat. In those short chapters the lives of the men and women alternate. From the moment they cross, Mink goes off the rails while Tom reflects on his sins and fights against deadlines. The art world, the tabloids as well as the serious media are shown in a questionable light in this committed, well-written novel. Dellen put together a great two-hour playlist on Spotify or Tidal to support the story with music from, among others, TC Matic (Elle adores Le Noir pour Sortir Le Soir), Cocteau Twins (Shallow Then Halo) and Lou Reed (PerfectDay).

Fons Dellen: The art, the girl, the city. Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 240 pages. €20.99

2. Tineke Hendriks: The sea, the sea alone

The impressionist portrait on the cover of the (art) historical novel The sea, the sea alone written by Tineke Hendriks, is very similar to the portraits that the French painter Manet made of his muse Berthe Morisot. However, it is a portrait of the main character in the book: the Norwegian-Dutch painter Betzy Rezora Berg (1850-1922) and was painted by Sientje Mesdag-van Houten. The very enterprising Betzy Berg came to the Netherlands from Christiania in Norway in 1885 as a painter to learn to paint the sea after her great example, the sea painter Hendrik Mesdag (1831-1915). She is taken under their wing by the Mesdag couple, after which she hopes to join the Hague artists’ circle Pulchri – the way to exhibit and sell works of art. But even through the intercession of Sientje Mesdag who portrayed her, this was not possible. There would always be too few votes for the Norwegian painter during the balloting. She decides to travel again to gain ideas and submit her work to various European museums. Back in the Netherlands, she marries the older widower Akersloot and they settle in a very remote place on Vlieland, remembering Mesdag’s words: ‘If you want to paint the sea, you have to see it in front of you every day’. Because a biography of Betzy Akersloot-Berg was also published this year on the occasion of the centenary of Betzy Akersloot-Berg’s death, Hendriks decided to put Betzy’s painting career into a novel. Fortunately, Hendriks stayed close to the traceable traditions from both the Netherlands and Norway, creating a lively, enthusiastically written story about an emancipated woman who continued to paint her own seas, although it turned out to be difficult to excel because – as Hendriks seems to suggest – Mesdag saw her as a competitor started to see. Betzy Akersloot-Berg is also being commemorated on Vlieland this year.

Tineke Hendriks: The sea, the sea alone. Orlando, 286 pages. €23.99

3. Gwen Strauss: The nine

The American writer Gwen Strauss wrote with The nine the true story about nine young resistance women in the Second World War, including two Dutch ones, who were arrested in France and eventually ended up together in the Leipzig HASAG camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald. From her great-aunt Hélène (nom de guerre ‘Christine’), who was one of the nine, Strauss heard how the women managed to escape from the column of a death march on April 14, 1945. They broke away from the line when there seemed to be less surveillance and hid in a ditch until the way was clear. After four days without food, Yugoslav prisoners of war provided them with potatoes, milk, water, bread and jam for the first time. Strauss describes the difficult journey and how the women support each other not to give up. At the same time, the life story of each woman is discussed and how they survived the camps. On the seventh day on the road to Colditz they came across two American soldiers – they made it out. But you’re not home yet; Strauss also follows the women after the liberation. The fact that the story has been described before, that films and documentaries have been made about it, does not detract from the story told by Strauss. It is precisely her many own interviews – starting with ‘Aunt Hélène’ – that The nine enrich. Two of the nine women themselves wrote a book about the flight: the Dutch Madelon L. Verstijnen (‘Lon’) wrote My war chronicle and the French Suzanne Maudet (‘Zaza’) wrote Neuf filles jeunes qui ne voulaient pas mourir, which she wrote immediately after the war, but which would not be published until 2004. Strauss, in turn, wrote a moving and very well-documented novel.

Gwen Strauss: The Nine. (The Nine). Translation Irene Goes. Library, 398 pages. € 20.99

4. Leonie Wolters: Hans Achterhuis: Search for meaning

Historia Leonie Wolters has had many conversations with philosopher Hans Achterhuis since 2016. For the series The words of she developed it into an impressive palette of Achterhuis’ thoughts about today’s life, which he links to thoughts of philosophers from the past. A well-known example, and previously also used by him NRC described is how he tries to understand, almost explain, violence committed by young people such as in Mallorca, using Hegel, while of course he thoroughly condemns the violence. He previously published two books about violence Search for meaning he talks about more than that, for example about the role of civil servants in the benefits affair, about his interview with Ischa Meyer about ‘technical philosophy’ and of course about his intention, which has existed for fifty years, to write a book about Hannah Arendt because Achterhuis uses her ideas in all his books. Interviewer Wolters states that Arendt has now become a very well-known thinker, which seems to mean between the lines that it may be a bit late. Achterhuis has an appropriate response to this: ‘I am going to say in my book that Hannah Arendt has been taken in too much by my professional brothers and sisters and I try to present her as a non-philosopher.’ The dialogue that follows is exemplary of the entire book: mutual interest, sharply formulated questions and Hans Achterhuis at his best.

Leonie Wolters: Hans Achterhuis: Search for meaning (The words of…), 224 pages. € 17.50

5. Jona Lendering: Hannibal in the Alps

The question of which pass the Carthaginian general Hannibal took in 218 BC. marched through the snow over the Alps with 20,000 men, 6,000 horsemen and 37 elephants to invade Italy, is ‘as unimportant as it is fun’ writes historian Jonah Lendering in Hannibal in the Alps. But the question has occupied people’s minds for about three centuries, he also writes, and that is precisely why Lendering refutes or adopts existing research on the basis of facts. As he said in a 2020 interview with NRC said: “I don’t consider myself a scientist, I write about science. A sports journalist does not participate in the competition himself. I have never had the ambition to present conclusions myself.” That analyzing of the facts – which Lendering also did in other books, such as in Xerxes in Greece – begins by comparing the two historians who described the journey: The World History of the Greek historian Polybios and the description by the younger Roman Titus Livius, which also subtly includes Lendering’s own observations (‘Hannibal could have taken a shortcut’). . That is just the beginning of Lendering’s research – other sources will then be tapped as well as climatological and landscape reconstructions used to clarify what is and what is not plausible. You may not get an answer to the question of which pass Hannibal took, but you will participate in expert research into Antiquity. Fascinating and educational for anyone who enjoys historical puzzles.

Jona Lendering: Hannibal in the Alps. A puzzle from antiquity. Omnibook, 190 pages. € 20,-

6. Leendert Alberts: Hop

It has been seven hundred years since beer was brewed with hops for the first time in the Netherlands. Now beer without hops is unthinkable and the herb is even a mandatory ingredient according to the Commodities Act. Historian Leendert Alberts received his PhD from Leiden University on the medieval beer industry of Amersfoort, is a history teacher at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences and at Stichting Beeropleidingen Nederland (StiBON), where you can follow the training to become an official beer sommelier. Published in the now Hop Alberts goes back to the roots of the Dutch beer industry: starting with the golden age of beer breweries in the late Middle Ages (1300-1600), then the downward trend due to competition with tea and coffee in the seventeenth century (‘At breakfast one of these hot drinks was increasingly enjoyed instead of beer’) to a new revolution that started in the twentieth century: in 1980 there were only about fourteen breweries, but now the Netherlands has hundreds of breweries again and the market is flooded with new beers. Hop is a broadly (historically) ode to both the process of beer making and the more than a hundred types of beer described by Alberts. And a little aside: we sang the carnival cracker Have a drink, let yourself be driven(1966) not all like Glass of Hop, Let You Drive?

Leendert Alberts: Hop. The first beer revolution in the Netherlands. Prometheus, 392 pages. € 22.50




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