Longlist International Booker Prize 2021

Amazing news! Summer Brother is selected for the longlist of the International Booker Prize 2021! It feels like someone surprised me with a completely unexpected birthday. And gave me a fantastic storm as a present!

‘A deeply humane novel centred on a disabled man, his heroic younger brother and an unreliable, partly criminal father living on an all but derelict site. The book is generous to all its flawed characters, is beautifully written and humanises lives of abject poverty on the edge of squalor and disaster.’ – Jury of the International Booker Prize 2021

Summer Brother is published by World Editions and translated by David Doherty. The book was planned for May, but will be available in the bookstores at the 8th of April.

Summer Brother in The New York Times

Just a few days after Summer Brother was published by WorldEditions in the US and Canada, The New York Times published this raving review.

‘Robben is wonderful at drawing characters with just a few deliberate strokes. One standout description comes in a passing reference to Maurice’s mother: “In my memory, smoke came out of her mouth even when she didn’t have a cigarette between her lips. There was always something smoldering inside her.”

Most fascinating to Robben, however, are the prickly relationships between men, which oscillate between moments of tenderness and brutality before reaching a painful climax. Robben depicts men who regularly cycle between carelessness, cruelty and compassion, which makes Brian’s ultimate rank-breaking toward benevolence all the more uplifting.

Like a photographer shooting a portrait, Robben captures his subjects in “Summer Brother” in a focused close-up. It’s intimate, even claustrophobic at times, just as life must be for an isolated boy like Brian, looking with wonder to the lights on the hill.’ The New York Times (Tacey Rychter)

Translation ‘Das Neinhorn’

Almost everyone did something during the lockdown months that they didn’t get around to before. Jaap translated the picture book ‘Das Neinhorn’ (The No-corn) – by German author Marc-Uwe Kling and illustrator Astrid Henn – into Dutch. It’s a book that cannot be compared to any other picture book and is bound to put a smile on your face.

The book sold over 100,000 copies in Germany and in the Netherlands the book is also making quite a splash. In three months more than 10.000 copies have been sold.

‘An exceptionally humorous picture book. Jaap Robben has made a magnificent translation.’ Friesch Dagblad

To Poland with the silencemen

The 18-part series Po Polska appeared in Trouw newspaper, where Jaap wrote about the ‘silencemen’ a.k.a. the four Polish handymen who helped renovate his house. To conclude his quest for contact, Jaap travelled home with them to Poland in December 2019, to meet their families. A kind of driving-home-for-Christmas experience in a speeding Polish handyman van.

Biography of a fly

De Nieuwe Oost Wintertuin – a cultural production company – came up with an idea that is as simple as it is brilliant. And absolutely corona-proof. In the bus shelters you would normally find posters announcing their festival, but these are replaced with the individual chapters of a story. Last summer, I received the honourable request to write such a story: ‘Biography of a Fly’. By bike or on foot, you can follow three different routes through the city along the 25 chapters of my story about the life of a fly.

From November 2020 onwards, the chapters will be on display the whole month.
Here you can find more information, including the Nijmegen route map.
And it’s a double celebration: ‘Biography of a fly’ goes on tour immediately. During Explore the North the story can be read by foot or bike in the streets of Leeuwarden from 17 to 24 November. More news will follow

Heritage festival

In the summer of 2020 Jaap investigated ‘the border’. At the request of the Erfgoedfestival and the Grenslandmuseum in Dinxperloo he took to the road. In search of the line that we now carelessly cross. That line that is hardly visible in the landscape anymore. For years Jaap has been passing the former German border building between Beek-Ubbergen and Wyler and so he went looking for the people who now live there. Thisis how he came into contact with a Syrian woman named Delvin. She and all her fellow residents had to risk their lives to cross the border into Europe. And now they live here, right on a border. How does she experience this line that is invisible to us?

Together with musician Typhoon, Jaap presented his story on 27 September in the Musis Sacrum in Arnhem. Afterwards, they were interviewed by the always enticing Andrea van Pol. 

The story ‘Our invisible neighbours’ was subsequently published in AD Magazine and can be read here. 

Literarischer Sommer Festival in Neuss (D)

Jaap was a guest for the third time during the German literature festival Literarischer Sommer in Neuss. This time he will be interviewed in connection with the series Kriegsende oder Befreiung that he wrote in the spring of 2020 for the Neue Rhein Zeitung and Deutschlandfunk. On 3 September he will talk to Christine Breitschopf in the Stadtbibliothek Neuss.

Click here for more information.  

Read here how journalist Claus Clemens described the evening in the Zeitung Neuss Grevenbroich.

Poetry on TV

Last year Jaap joined a Dutch chat show monthly to read poetry. For each episode he
went to the Dutch poetry centre in search of poems around a particular theme. All
episodes can be found on Uitzending Gemist (Missed Broadcast)


Poet on the line

Many people go to sleep these days without anyone wishing them goodnight, so I started the project Dichter aan de Lijn (Poet on the Line) together with VPRO MONDO TV and Poetry International. On 11 April I talked about it on TV and a clip was shown of a series VPRO television is making about these conversations. Since then, the requests have been pouring in, you can sign up here.

Together with poets Iduna Paalman, Ellen Deckwitz, Neske Beks, Ingmar Heytze, Elfie Tromp, Vrouwkje Tuinman, Ted van Lieshout, Edward van de Vendel, Tsead Bruinja, Paul Bogaert, Mark Boog, Anneke Brassinga, Maria Barnas, Roberta Petzoldt, Alfred Schaffer and Hannah van Binsbergen, I will be phoning you in the near future, in the evenings between eight and ten o’clock, you can expect a call.

On the trail of Market Garden

In recent weeks and months, I’ve been working on a special writing project. This year the 75th anniversary of operation Market Garden to liberate Holland from the German occupiers will be commemorated and celebrated.

For this special occasion I will be walking from Lommel to Arnhem in 8 stages and write about the encounters I have, about traces of war in the landscape, how we deal with commemoration, with peace and war. About my daydreaming. It’s basically a kind of walking research into how Market Garden is still alive after 75 years.

The Literary Review

The American magazine The Literary Review published a glowing review
of the English translation of Birk, made by David Doherty.

‘Part of the brilliance of this novel lies in Robben’s ability to set up this
perfect metaphor for Mikael and his mother. Robben’s novel explores raw
and unsettling psychological territory. It’s a story that – once you’ve read
it – will stick with the reader for a long time.’ Elizabeth Jaeger – The
Literary Review

The entire Suzie series will be published in Chinese

Publisher PHEI  will be publishing the whole Suzie Ruzie series in a Chinese translation, after earlier translations in French and Danish. Last year ‘Suzie Ruzie in het diepe’ was awarded the Prize of the Children and Youth Jury in Flanders.

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