Some 300 writers, poets, publishers and literary critics have slammed the decision to devote next year’s book week to the theme of ‘the mother, the woman’.
In an open letter in the NRC, they argue that the Dutch book sector lobby group CPNB is ‘confirming gender inequality’ and ask why the organisation did not opt for identifying women as ‘a doctor or a postal delivery worker’.
The signatories, who include thriller writer Saskia Noort and AFTh van der Heijden, also question the choice of Jan Siebelink and Murat Isik to write the traditional book week gift and the book week essay.
‘Just four female writers have been asked to write the book week gift in the past 20 years,’ they wrote. ‘It is depressing that in 2018, we still have to argue why women have something to say, even if it is about women.’
‘Only letting sons talk about their mothers is part of the painful tradition of ignoring women’s words and letting others speak for them,’ the letter went on. ‘Readers don’t just want to know how men look at their mothers, they want to hear daughters, and the mothers themselves.’
The phrase ‘de moeder, de vrouw‘ is the title of a poem written by Dutch poet Martinus Nijhoff in 1934.
The CPNB said in a reaction to the row that it had not wanted to cause controversy. ‘We are now going to decide what we can do to give this a positive twist,’ the organisation said.
The Netherlands has celebrated Dutch literature with a book week (actually 10 days) every March since 1932. Every year, an author is selected to write a short book which is given away free to everyone who buys a different book during the event.
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