‘We need stories’: that is the motto of the ILFU International Literature Festival in this bizarre, turbulent year of 2020.
Every age needs its own stories. Stories that tell us what’s happening in the world and that help to illuminate current events. But also personal stories; stories that celebrate imagination, stories that illustrate the diversity, obscure, complexity, banality or horror of life and that try to explain the unexplainable. Stories that record our time, in addition to being the products of it.
The ILFU has asked 50 authors, poets, essayists, screenwriters, songsmiths and artists to contribute to the project ‘50 Stories for Tomorrow’, an anthology of stories that try to shape the world of today.
And that world is far from simple. We’ve found ourselves in an annus horibilis, where a vicious virus determines our days and a racist murder has transformed the discourse in society. How can one tell about things that have multiple causes and consequences? How can you formulate things that hide out of view; whispers, doubts or oddities?
Writers are uniquely adept at looking below the surface, perceiving that which others would rather ignore or trivialize; to illustrate in words that which is too easily disregarded.
“The role of the artist is exactly the same role, I think, as the role of the lover”, according to writer James Baldwin. “If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.”*
The ILFU passed on Baldwin’s words to the 50 writers to use as inspiration for their stories. But his statement is also a mission for readers, because Baldwin’s love implies a mutual obligation. “I will not see without you, and vice versa, you will not see without me.”
You can read their 50 stories (in Dutch) here. We have also asked some of the writers to present their stories themselves. You can find the videos (with English subtitles) below.
*James Baldwin, ‘The Black Scholar Interviews James Baldwin,’ Conversations with James Baldwin, 1989
Pelumi Adejumo (1998) is an author and poet. She studied Creative Writing at ArtEZ, and in early 2020 NRC Handelsblad named her as one of the 101 most promising artists in the Low Countries. She has performed onstage at festivals such as The Great Wide Open, Perdu, Mensen Zeggen Dingen and Wintertuinfestival. She has also hosted ‘shower readings’ in her student apartment, written stage plays, and published online at Hard//Hoofd and the blog hosted by Lebowski publishers.
Rashid Novaire (1979) writes prose and stage plays. He debuted in 1999 with the collection of short stories Reigers in Caïro (De Geus), and has since published several novels, including Het lied van de rog (De Geus, 2007), Afkomst (De Geus, 2008) and Zeg maar dat we niet thuis zijn (Ambo|Anthos, 2015). His work has twice been nominated for the Libris Literature Prize. His latest novel, De vooravond, will soon be released by Ambo|Anthos.
Maxime Garcia Diaz
Maxime Garcia Diaz (1993) is a poet and student of Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. In 2018 the performing poet toured the Netherlands and Flanders aboard the Poetry Bus, and in 2019 she won the Netherlands Poetry Slam Championship. Her poetry has been published in several periodicals, including De Optimist, De Internet Gids and Samplekanon. Her short story ‘Maagd_(sterrenbeeld)’ was included in the anthology Rebel, rebel – Nieuwe literaire stemmen (Prometheus, 2019). Her debut poetry collection Het is warm in the hivemind will soon be published by de Bezige Bij.
Vrouwkje Tuinman (1974) has published four novels and six collections of poetry. Her most recent novel, Afscheidstournee (Uitgeverij Cossee), appeared in 2016. In September 2019 she presented her poetry collection Lijfrente (Uitgeverij Cossee), which won the Great Poetry Prize for 2020. Tuinman regularly pens scripts and lyrics for musical theatre productions. In May 2020, she joined with composer Vincent Cox to write the piece Mijn hart zingt door for Het Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and the Netherlands Radio Choir. She has also authored articles, columns and reviews for publications including Trouw, Opzij, Hollands Maandblad and Preludium, and in 2005 the City of Utrecht presented her with the C.C.S. Crone Stipend.
Florian Myjer (1992) studied at the Toneelacademie Maastricht Institute of Performative Arts. Together with Kim Karssen he produced the play Bloomsbury in 2017, about the bohemian Bloomsbury Group, and in 2019 they brought Tolstoy’s War and Peace to the stage for Frascati Productions. This production has been nominated for the BNG Bank Theatre Prize that will be awarded later this year, and it will be performed at the Netherlands Theatre Festival 2020. They are now working on a new production on the beauty of banality.