Dutch prizewinners

We have written before about the usefulness of the Libris Geschiedenis Prijs longlists and shortlists for helping us to choose suitable books on Dutch history for our collections. This is a topic that we have not revisited since 2019 so in this post I will highlight some of our relevant purchases from the last three years and also consider a couple of other new prizes worth keeping an eye on.

Our budget for Dutch books is small so we have to be selective in our decision-making. This is reflected in our choices in 2020 when we bought just two of the ten longlisted books:

  • De kolonieman: Johannes van den Bosch (1780-1844), volksverheffer in naam van de koning by Angelie Sens (C217.c.537), a biography of an important political figure of the early 19th century.
  • Katholiek in de Republiek: de belevingswereld van een religieuze minderheid 1570-1750 by Carolina Lenarduzzi (C216.c.9984), a study of the Catholic minority in the Dutch Republic.

The 2021 lists contained more books relevant to our collections and we selected six out of the ten books in the longlist, including the eventual winner of the prize, Erasmus, dwarsdenker: een biografie by Sandra Langereis (C217.c.6812), an in-depth biography of the Renaissance humanist scholar. The other five books are:

  • Tussen utopie en crisis: Nederland in het interbellum 1918-1940 by Frits Boterman (C217.c.6811) about the inter-war years in the Netherlands.
  • Willem Drees: daadkracht en idealisme by Jelle Gaemers (C217.c.6815), a biography of a post-war Prime Minister.
  • Nederlands slavernijverleden: historische inzichten en het debat nu by Henk den Heijer (C217.c.2530), examining past and present views on Dutch participation in the slave trade.
  • Revolusi: Indonesië en het ontstaan van de moderne wereld by David Van Reybrouck (C217.c.6814), the story of Indonesian independence based on five years’ research and interviews.
  • Het landschap, de mensen: Nederland 1850-1940 by Auke van der Woud (C217.c.6813), a look at changes in land use at a crucial time.

Last year, scrutiny of the prize lists led to us buying five titles, again including the eventual winner, De zwijger: het leven van Willem van Oranje by René van Stipriaan (C218.c.1231), a lengthy biography of the 16th century William of Orange, a leader of the Dutch Revolt against the Spanish (not to be confused with the later William of Orange, also William III of England). The other four titles are:

  • De politiek van het kleinste kwaad: een geschiedenis van de Joodse Raad voor Amsterdam, 1941-1943 by Bart van der Boom (C218.c.9764), examining the organisation representing Jews under German occupation.
  • De strijd om Bali: imperialisme, verzet en onafhankelijkheid, 1846-1950 by Anne-Lot Hoek (634:64.c.202.1), about the island of Bali with particular focus on the fight for independence.
  • Merdeka: de strijd om de Indonesische onafhankelijkheid en de ongewisse opkomst van de Republiek 1945-1950 by Harry Poeze en Henk Schulte Nordholt (634:25.c.202.1), more on Indonesian independence.
  • Leven in de verbeelding: Hella S. Haasse 1918-2011 by Aleid Truijens (C218.c.9768), a well-researched biography of an important 20th century Dutch writer.

A new prize, awarded for the first time last year, is the Prijs voor het Belangrijkste Boek van het Jaar (PBBJ) – the most important book of the year – created “to stimulate the reading of non-fiction and to show and celebrate the social importance of non-fiction.” From 400 entries of books published during 2021 the winner was a book surveying thirty years of postwar immigration in Belgium by Tom Naegels, a journalist who spent six years researching in archives. The original book, Nieuw België: een migratiegeschiedenis 1944-1978, was translated into French and we chose to purchase the French language version as this is accessible to more of our readers: La nouvelle Belgique: une histoire de l’immigration 1944-1978 (603:25.c.202.1).

We bought two other books in the PBBJ longlist, Maar dat mag je niet zeggen: de nieuwe generatie radicaal- en extreemrechts in Nederland by Nikki Sterkenburg (C206.d.9363), about right-wing extremists in the Netherlands, and De Doorsons: op zoek naar een Afro-Amerikaanse slavenfamilie in het Caribisch gebied by Roline Redmond (C219.c.2488) in which the author has pieced together the story of her own enslaved family. This book also won the 2022 Brusseprijs, an annual prize for the best Dutch-language journalistic book, awarded since 2006. We tend to prefer academic treatments of subjects rather than journalistic ones but will make exceptions for books that we can see are well-researched in areas of interest to us.

While we now only buy a handful of Dutch fiction titles we do still buy the annual winners of the Libris Literatuur Prijs, awarded to the best original Dutch literary novel of the previous year. Here are the last three winners:

  • 2020: Uit het leven van een hond by Sander Kollaard (C217.c.1318)
  • 2021: Cliënt E. Busken by Jeroen Brouwers (C206.d.6662)  
  • 2022: Wormmaan by Mariken Heitman (C207.d.2210)

Katharine Dicks

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