Good to know that Dutch novelists earn so much money that they can afford to turn down a prestigious award because the prize money isn’t worth being picked up.
That is exactly what a certain Jeroen Brouwers – novelist, short story writer, essayist and playwright – has done.
The Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren is awarded every three years by the Dutch and Flemish language promotion body Taalunie and includes a cash payout of €16,000 – a sum dismissed as a trifle by Brouwers.
‘This award is known as the Nobel prize of the low countries, and the Dutch and Belgian governments give it a mere €2,666 each a year to fund it,’ Brouwers was reported as saying.
Other Dutch literature prizes do give higher amounts to winners – the Gouden Uil brings with it €25,000, the AKO literature prize €50,000 and the PC Hooft prize a princely €60,000.
Brouwers has apparently already won the Gouden Uil twice, as well as the Vijverberg prize, the Multatuli prize and the Constantijn Huygen prize.
Perhaps the real problem is that the Netherlands just has too many prizes for literature?
Forget the honour of winning. It’s the money that counts. And so the likes of Brouwer can afford to be snotty about an amount which is, after all, more than a pensioner (as he is) gets to live on for an entire year.
If he really wants to make a point he could accept the award gracefully and do something useful with the money.
Later this month, the Netherlands sees the launch of a new charity, Room to Read, which aims to establish libraries and boost educational opportunities in developing countries. That €16,000 would have bought an awful lot of books.
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