the publishers invited in June 2010
the famed entry to the Antwerp railroad station
Letterenhuis (The House of Literature)
Boerentoren (the farmers' tower)
Antwerp City Hall and Guild Houses
In June 2010 I was invited, along with publishers from several countries*, to Antwerp to explore Flemish literature and meet with publishers of Flemish writers. I have long enjoyed Flemish writing, and had already published Stijn Streuvels, Maurice Gilliams (on both Sun & Moon and Green Integer), Paul Snoek, and Hugo Claus, and had made commitments to publish Ivo Michelis and Paul van Ostaijen. Yet I had never been to Belgium or even to the more popular Amsterdam!
Yet the moment one reaches Antwerp by train, the architecture overwhelms everything else. Barbara Epler, head editor of New Directions, saw the station so wonderfully described in W. B. Sebald's The Emigrants. Having not yet read that Sebald book, I, moving up the dark swath of the escalator, was hit in the eyes by the visage of a gold insigniaed and glass wall of stunning beauty as if I'd suddenly arrived in a great cathedral instead of a mere place of passage. And for a few minutes, the aches I had been feeling disappeared.
The next morning we walked again, this time at 8:30 in the morning, to the Antwerp Museum of contemporary art, where we were lectured to by the boek.be distributors—a truly uninspired event, during which, for the first time in my life, I kept nodding off—followed by a round table discussion by Flemish critics Tom Van Imschoot, Jos Borré, and Matthijs de Ridder. In the afternoon the Fund had scheduled more publisher meetings with Amstel, Contact, Wereldbibliotheek, De Geus, and Podium. In short spaces where we were allowed free time between meetings, I walked down to the galleries of the museum, which were displaying a vast array of Flemish contemporary art, some pieces of which appeared like imitations of other European work, other pieces of which were quite fascinating.
After some soup and quiche at Patine's, we were taken to a beautiful house, now rented out for just such events, where we heard readings and saw films by writers Rodaan Al Galidi, Paul Bogaert, Rachida Lamrabet, Jeroen Olyslaegers, Koen Peeters, and Paul Verhaeghen, all published by one of the largest Flemish-Dutch publishers, Meulenhoff/Manteau. A lovely dinner followed with, once more, a long trek back to Elenveld.
*The other publishers were Asbjørn Øverås (from Aschehoug in Norway), Giovanna de Angelis (from Fazi in Italy) Seid and Sibila Serdarvić (from Fraktura in Croatia), Marek Seckar (from Host in the Czech Republic), Christine Popp (from Luchterhand in Germany), Babara Epler (from New Directions in the US), and Beata Stasińska (from W.A.B. in Poland).
Amsterdam, June 5, 2010
Los Angeles, June 10, 1010