In a darkened TV studio, a father and son’s tumultuous relationship comes to a teetering peak as a country watches through their screens. A woman scales the mountain that loomed over the apex of her childhood, a pair of tourists befriend a serial killer. No, it’s not the next coveted Guillermo del Toro release – it’s VERZET. The newest set of chapbook translations from Strangers Press, VERZET brings some of the finest Dutch writers working in the Netherlands today together with translators from all over the world.
The Netherlands. Known on the surface for its bulb fields, the winding canals of Amsterdam, its windmills and famous painters, the streets and mountains between the pages of the VERZET chapbooks are quite different – vivid, real, invigorating and sometimes even devastating; if streets had more than mouths, the streets of Ijmuiden, Amsterdam, would sing, speak, and scream.
Launching this September, the VERZET list includes an array of award-winning and nominated writers, some of whom are long overdue their English translations – Sanneke van Hassel and Jamal Ouarichi among them. If you haven’t heard of them, you will. Van Hassel, essentially the Dutch Maggie O’ Farrell, is the author of five short story collections and four novels, and her work in VERZET with its focus on the search for home in an increasingly fractured society is nothing less than masterful short fiction.
Many of these writers and translators also have a particular connection with Norwich, where Strangers Press is based as an imprint of UEA Publishing Project. With Norwich being England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, many have studied, visited or taught in the city, where fittingly now this new collection of chapbooks will be launched.
VERZET is many things; an amalgamation of gritty stories told in graceful prose, writing that is at once alienating and heart-breaking, lifetimes condensed with perfect, lyrical skill into three pages. But it is also truth, and microcosms made macro. The snow-capped peaks of the remembered mountain of her childhood rise further than the pages of her autobiographical essay; they’re a living, breathing force as she explores ideas of love, nostalgia, childhood and hope.
The chapbooks are a prism through which ideas of the Netherlands seems reimagined; one of the most developed countries in the world, it is a picture of innovation and progress in the satellite view of economic and social prosperity. In the words of Ben Coates, “the Netherlands is a place about which everyone knows a little, but no one knows very much.” A hub of innovation and forward-thinking design, you couldn’t walk through any home store without seeing the signature clean lines of Dutch industry.
VERZET forms loops in the often seemingly straight line of Dutch history; these writers take on the complex multiculturalism of a country whose immigration policy has come under recent fire, and none shy away from the complex and often stark issues of self and society. As politicians the world over shut the door on difficult conversations, these writers and translators bust them wide open. Delve into the private lives of couples sabotaging each other’s reputations in front of their friends; cut your teeth on a lovers-to-enemies story with all the complex consequences of real life relationships, feel your way in the dark parts of your soul, searching for shelter in an ever-changing city, the threat of an all-consuming sea looming before you.
VERZET is more than just a set of stories and essays. VERZET is the fine, cutting edge of Dutch writing; a symphony of diverse voices singing lyrical and often startling melodies of truth, inner turmoil, hope and longing in a world that often feels like it’s collapsing inwards. Rendered into English by a new generation of translators, these beautifully designed chapbooks are for lovers of translated work and newbies alike.
Strangers Press presents VERZET: New Dutch Writing Chapbooks Online Launch.
In partnership with the National Centre for Writing and New Dutch Writing
Tuesday 22 Sept | 7-8pm | Online
VERZET is coming this September to Strangers Press, and you can keep up to date with pre-orders on their website: https://www.strangers.press and on their socials: