‘Murder in Amsterdam’, the new book by Anglo-Dutch writer Ian Buruma, has recently been translated into Dutch under the title ‘Dood van een gezonde roker’ – the Dutch title refers to the murder of Theo van Gogh who was hardly ever seen without a cigarette in his mouth.
The book seeks to paint a picture of Dutch society following Van Gogh’s murder.
The author is currently enjoying lots of media exposure and there’s controversy too… next to a full-page interview with Buruma in Saturday’s NRC, is a list of ‘angry sources’ who claim they were either misquoted, misunderstood or misled.
What makes Buruma’s observations fascinating is the fact that he is both an insider and an outsider – he left the Netherlands 30 years ago at the age of 24 but still visits regularily. Although the Dutch consider themselves open and tolerant, Buruma believes they have a very strong sense of national identity and expect everyone to conform to strict but unwritten codes of conduct. The Dutch have a ‘club mentality’ and aren’t keen to accept new members. He seems to have them pretty well sussed. Even the NRC felt it necessary to say Buruma speaks Dutch ‘almost without an accent’. Clearly he’s no more than an honorary member of the club.