Raoul de Jong: ‘Rotterdam really shows what we believe in now’

Rotterdammer of the week

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Rotterdam – The author Raoul de Jong (37) notices that his audience is growing and thus also the opportunities he gets. He’s going on tour through Belgium, he’s working on a podcast series, and he’s working hard on a screenplay. It almost seems as if he is writing something next to it. “Oh yes, my new book Conversations with Grandpa is coming out in March,” he laughs. In almost all of his works, something of the city of Maas is reflected. Raoul de Jong is our Rotterdammer of the Week.

by Nynke Vermaat

How are you in Rotterdam?

“Well, I was born in Rotterdam and I live there. In addition, I spend a lot of time in Paris and Marseille, with my boyfriend or mother. Last time it felt like a relief to come back to Rotterdam despite the bad weather and “The city feels like a part of me. It’s my base. There’s almost no place in the city that I can not remember.”

Where have you all lived?

“I was born in the West, near Middellandstraat. Then we moved to different places in the West. I lived in Noord for a long time and now I live in Zuid, near Maashaven. It’s a beautiful view. My high school was Erasmus High School. We went to buy joints on the Nieuwe Binnenweg and smoked on the roof of the Het Nieuwe Instituut. ”

Have you always written?

“Yes, that’s how it went despite myself. In high school, I wrote for the school newspaper just because I liked it. Then I was asked if I would write columns for the website Spunk. These were at one point also published in NRC Handelsblad. After high school it was click-click-click, one thing after another came my way. That’s how it continues. I’ve always been able to do what I wanted, but these days I sit down with the big adults because my latest book Jaguarman has been nominated for all the big literary awards. Then suddenly I have something of ‘prestige’. If I say something now, people will listen faster. “

Are you already recognized?

“In Holland yes, but it’s never annoying. I write for people, so I see it as a sign that what I’m doing makes sense, that it matters.”

Do you ever get harsh reactions to your books?

“Never from people who have read them. And certainly not on Jaguarman. I’m half Surinamese, and I discovered how little I knew about the country and its history. For the book, I began to find out why and what else I did not. knew.It’s about the history of Suriname and how people have survived that story.It’s also an ode to the writers who came before me.And a kind of detective story.

What I notice is that people who have not read the book often do not understand it. When talking about Suriname and Surinamese heroes, some already feel attacked, even if it does not intend to be offensive at all. And many bookstores put Jaguarman on a shelf with books about Suriname, not literature. I know I am not the first Surinamese writer to have experienced this. The Dutch canon could be much richer and more diverse, and people might be a little wiser if all the books associated with literature were included in the literature. “

Does Rotterdam appear in it?

“Rotterdam is in every book because it occurs in me. It is my point of reference. Here I understand who I am talking to, what reality is and what could be changed to make that reality better. Rotterdam is also the Netherlands. Dutch, because the city was bombed and then rebuilt according to the modern ideal. So Rotterdam is very much now, you can see here what we believe in now. “

And then there’s a new book.

“Actually a booklet. Conversations with Grandpa are coming out in late March. It’s a little tribute to my grandfather from Groningen. While working with Jaguarman and my Surinamese ancestors, he was admitted to a nursing home. We were both very sad. he felt thrown in the trash. I visited him every month for a year to talk to him about his life. I wanted to prove to Grandpa that his life still had value. The columns I wrote about it for the NRC are collected in this booklet. “

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