I am back in the Wassenaar library and have paid my 40 cents for returning two books late. Yesterday it rained heavily non-stop – it could have been Manchester, so I sorted through my books here in the caravan, and put a dozen or so in a bag for the recycling (Kringloop) shop.
Het volgende verhaal by Cees Nooteboom has been translated into many languages. I’ve read this novella several times over the years. This edition comes with a glowing introduction by David Mitchell. I savoured it this week one evening, finishing just before 1am.
When I was an adolescent in Holland I wanted to be Cees Nooteboom. It seemed marvellous to get paid to travel and write about it… Back at home in Manchester I’m sure to have written a poem on not being Cees Nooteboom…
I’m blogging in the Wassenaar Library while the The Dutch Dixieland All Stars are playing in the corner! Just after I arrived last week I dashed to the Museum Beelden aan Zee in Scheveningen – my annual museum card was going to run out the next day and the replacement hadn’t arrived. Body and Soul is the first retrospective in Europe of Zhang Dali: the Chinese sculptor, graffiti and performance artist. Visitors enjoying coffee and cake on the terrace faced the 18 marble nudes of ordinary Chinese people sitting, kneeling, some of them in contorted poses. Inside were the white sculptures of the so-called urban peasants, all of them with white doves attached to them. I found them deeply moving – their bent backs, little rugsacks, small caps, socks, plimsolls.
For Zhang Dali they represent the 300 million or so people who worked in the construction industry in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and who were sleeping in sheds or containers. I visited Beijing in late 1990 when the demolition of the old urban districts and historic housing had just started; people being cleared, often at short notice. Zhang Dali has given each of these sculptures a number.
My new card arrived this morning, so I’ll be going back to Beelden aan Zee soon and (if the weather is good) will go for a walk on the beach afterwards.