MARIËT  MEESTER

Mariët Meester spent her childhood in Veenhuizen,  a secluded prison village in the north of Holland, nicknamed Dutch Siberia. She studied at the Minerva Academy of Fine Arts in Groningen. During the internship year she traveled in a self-built gypsy caravan through France, together with Jaap de Ruig. She published the travelogue Een spoor van paardemest (A Trail of Horse Dung).


After working for a while as a visual artist and free-lance journalist, she published in 1990 her first literary novel Sevillana, situated in Andalusia, Spain. A young woman, longing for spiritual deepening, submerges herself in Sevilla's Holy Week.

The same year she went for the first time to Romania, where she contacted Roma (gypsies). In 1991 she stayed again with Romanian Roma, which led in 1992 to the book De stilte voor het vuur (The calm before the fire). In this travel story her compassion is visible on every page.


In 1994 her second novel Bokkezang (Bucksong) was published. This poetical book tells the story of two lovers, one of them representing art, the other nature. Bokkezang has been translated into Russian by Irina Michailova and was published by Amphora, St. Petersburg. Passages of this novel have been translated into English, German, Spanish and Portuguese.




 



In 2000 Meester was invited to participate in the Literaturexpress, a train journey from Lisbon via St. Petersburg to Berlin, with more than a hundred European authors as passengers. After the Literaturexpress she wrote a short story which has been translated into German and Spanish. (Photo: Mariët Meester with the Flemish author Kamiel Vanhole. © Oliver Möst)

In the same year the author collected travel stories about Romania, Mali and India in De verdwaalde nomade (The lost nomad). Read an interview about one of these stories.

 

Being a special guest at the World PEN-congress 2002 in Ohrid, Macedonia, she wrote the essay Oblomov as a woman (translation Alissa Leigh). It was published in the Macedonian literary magazine Blesok, both in English and Macedonian.


In 2003 the novel De overstroming (The Flood) was published. This strong and touching book deals with a young woman who survives a big flood in modern Holland together with five other people. They are all living on a man-made hill in the typical Dutch polder landscape. In her diary the woman describes how their mutual relations are changing. A passage of this novel has been translated into English by Diederick Abbink.


Mariët Meesters novel De volmaakte man (The Perfect Man) appeared in November 2005. Two young people buy an apartment in Amsterdam. The owner (and their neighbour) is an eccentric old Jewish lady who has survived World War II in Veenhuizen, the secluded prison village where they both come from. Watch the video (English subtitled).

In May 2006 Mariët Meester finished a non-fiction volume in which she included everything she has written about her Roma-friends in Romania,  Sla een spijker in mijn hart - Roemeense Roma na de revolutie (Drive a Nail through my Heart - Romanian Roma after the Revolution). This book was reprinted in 2007. Watch the video (English spoken). For Italian readers a passage of the book has been translated. See: Piantami un chiodo nel cuore - I Rom Rumeni dopo la rivoluzione.







October 2009 a new novel has been published, Liefdeslied van een reiziger (A Traveller's Love Song). Watch the English video on YouTube.


In January 2012 De mythische oom (The Mythical Uncle) appeared. The American uncle of Mariët Meester suffered from leukemia, but survived thanks to a stem cell transplant, of which his brother – the father of the writer – was the donor. In De mythische oom she immerges herself in the pioneer life of her uncle in the U.S., his religious ideas and his extraordinary healing.


Mariët Meester lives in Amsterdam. From January 2015 to March 2016, she collected material for her non-fiction book ‘De tribune van de armen’ (The Tribune Of The Poor) in the Spanish city of Málaga. It appeared April 2017.


For an overview of the books, click here.

Check her contributions on Facebook.

Read Mariët Meesters weblog.



In short

Mariët Meester writes both fiction and non-fiction. She lives in Amsterdam with documentary filmmaker Jaap de Ruig. Her early years were spent in Veenhuizen, a prison village where a thousand inhabitants and a thousand inmates lived surrounded by 'No Trespassing' signs. Mariët studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Groningen and has published seven novels. One of them, Bokkezang ("Buck Song") was translated into Russian. Her non-fiction book Sla een spijker in mijn hart ("Drive a Nail Through My Heart") is about her experiences among the Roma in Romania. De mythische oom ("The Mythical Uncle"), was published in January 2012. The protagonist is her expatriate uncle, who lives in an American town where half the population is of Dutch descent. In 2011 Meester returned temporarily to the prison village of her childhood and stayed there for sixteen months in a former parsonage. September 2014 the novel Hollands Siberië (Dutch Siberia) was published, the house and the prison village playing a major role. Her latest non-fiction book De tribune van de armen (The Tribune Of The Poor) is a personal investigation into the tradition of releasing a sentenced criminal in Málaga during an Easter procession.

In 2012 Mariët Meester took the initiative to change the parsonage where she had stayed into a Writers' Residency. September 11, 2014 a novel was published in which the house and the prison village are playing a major role, Hollands Siberië (Dutch Siberia). The book was received very well, and has been reprinted immediately.


In 2011 Mariët returned to the prison colony where she grew up. In a vacant parsonage she wrote ten stories about the twentieth century in this strange village, based on the memories of former residents – and her own. It resulted in the book Koloniekak. Leven in een gevangenisdorp. (Colony Posh, Life in a prison village.)



 





In 1997 the novel De eerste zonde (The First Sin) appeared. The main character,  a girl of twelve, lives in the Dutch prison village Veenhuizen. Because of her concern with an escapee, she inevitably loses her innocence. This bright and colourful novel has been reprinted five times.