Saturday, 1 June 2019

The Batavian in the press

Announcing my planned presentation of De Batavier on Saturday 8 June at De Kler bookstore, De Kempenaerstraat branch, Oegstgeest, a few press releases were published in regional newspapers in my area. De Oegstgeester Courant writes: "In the refurbished two-mast ship he sails towards the Mediterranean":

announcement in Oegstgeester Courant, 29 May 2019

The Leids Nieuwsblad also announces the presentation; Leiden and Oegstgeest border directly to each other and De Kempenaerstraat is a stone's throw from where I live in Leiden:

Announcement in Leids Nieuwsblad 30 May 2019
Finally, I found the first reader review of De Batavier on, by Erik Barth, who writes:
The Batavier is the beautifully written debut of Ted Polet. It describes the urgent, exciting quests of two individuals from completely different worlds who accidentally cross each other's paths.
When Mark is declared unfit for work against his will and almost simultaneously loses his last family, he goes looking for himself. After a bombing raid on her hospital in Aleppo, Leila decides to undertake the dangerous flight from Syria to safety and tranquility.

The book never elaborates too much. There might have been less seafaring terminology, because as a landlubber I often had to consult to the glossary at the end of the book. The somewhat sudden perspective changes are explained at the end. Without becoming pedantic, Ted describes events which many people in the Western world are actively looking away from. And that hits home.

Many thanks, Erik! The full review (in Dutch) can be found here.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Newspaper interview

On April 24th, local journalist Maarten Baanders published an interview with me in the cultural column 'Heilig Vuur' (Holy Fire) of the leading regional newspaper Leidsch Dagblad. The interview tells something of my approach in writing novels, and also gives some background information for my recently published book De Batavier (The Batavian).

Interview about De Batavier in the Leidsch Dagblad
Here is a summary in English of the interview, which is entitled I must have written this novel thirty times over.

It tells of my seafaring background and the parallels between the protagonist and myself. Some of the personages in the book have been modelled after people I have known. The book itself follows an established pattern I have seen in the work of British novelists such as Hammond Innes: a slow build-up of the story culminating in an adventurous tale. The canvas upon which the tale unfolds is the refugee crisis and the contested sea area between Turkey and Greece, both of which have been extensively researched. Finally, it mentions my translation of the book in English, which also served as an in-depth check on the text.

On June 8th I will give a short lecture on De Batavier, followed by a book signing session, at De Kler booksellers, De Kempenaerstraat 39B in Oegstgeest near Leiden.

More lectures are being planned.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

presentation at De Kler booksellers, Leiden

On Saturday 13 April 2019 I presented De Batavier at the De Kler booksellers in Breestraat in Leiden. There was a surprising turnout and in the end quite a few copies went over the counter.

After introduction by
Hanneke Tinor-Centi, my literary agent, I told my story, which takes about fifteen minutes. The reactions were heart-warming, some old acquaintances and totally unknown visitors came to have me sign a copy. Below are some pictures, once more. *

The local press
An interesting piece of news is that a local newspaper, Leidsch Dagblad, gave me an interview, which will be published in their cultural column 'Heilig Vuur' (The Holy Fire), on April 24th.

More presentations and signing sessions will follow in due course. Further information will follow.

ready to go...
Hanneke doing the introduction
the presentation
the public

signing my son's copy
*apart from close family, members of the public have been disguised in the images.

Friday, 29 March 2019

De Batavier formally launched

The formal launching of my book De Batavier (published in Dutch on March 16) has taken place in the public library of my home town of Leiden on March 23. I spoke for an audience of about 50 people, and it was great fun. Here are a few photos:
My agent, Hanneke, introducing me. 
Presenting the book and answering questions.
Signing copies for the audience.
The book is now on sale at various booksellers.

More presentations are planned.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Batavian published in Dutch

Today, 140 copies of my book De Batavier (The Batavian in Dutch) were delivered on my doorstep. The remainder is in store with the publishers, Palmslag in Groningen, for distribution to bookshops and through their own webshop. My copies will be used during presentations and for distribution in local bookshops.

It is a strange feeling to physically hold your book in your hands for the first time, 290 close-typed pages, and despite all my previous doubts it looks good. When I read back a passage it feels all right, a sense of accomplishment if you like.

Next Saturday I will formally launch the book at the Public Library (BplusC) in Leiden, as announced elsewhere, and in three weeks’ time I will repeat it at De Kler Booksellers, Breestraat, Leiden. My speech has been written. This is the end result of several years of writing, having it edited and published. I hope the book will be a success and give many hours of reading pleasure to my readers.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

My Huguenot ancestors

Refugees play a major role in my book 'De Batavier', which will be published in two weeks' time. In all the political bickering about refugees we would almost forget how many born and bred 'real' Dutch people are descended from, as they are called today, 'migrants'. Some sources mention huge percentages of foreigners in 17th century Dutch cities: French, Polish and Germans as well as Portuguese and German Jews.

I also am a refugee. More precisely, I am descended from refugees.

In 1610 Jean Polet and his wife Marie Baisseur left Tourcoing on the border between France and the Spanish Netherlands with their children, bound for Leiden in the Dutch Republic. I do not know about their journey, nor of the dangers they had to endure. They were French Protestants, Huguenots fleeing persecution by the then French state. Tourcoing and Lille did not belong to the places de sûreté in which the Huguenots, according to the Edict of Nantes of 1598, knew self-government and security. The Spanish Netherlands, through which they had to travel north, were equally unsafe for the family.

Throughout the 17th century, French Protestants would flee their country as Cardinal Richelieu and his successor De Mazarin gradually stepped up persecution. In 1685 Protestantism was declared illegal by Louis XIV in the Edict of Fontainebleau. The destination of this migration wave? The Republic of the Netherlands, Württemberg, Brandenburg, Prussia, Switzerland, England, eventually even the Cape Colony. The estimates range from 200,000 to half a million displaced people.

Persecution of Huguenots in La Rochelle, 1661
Image from Wikipedia

Interestingly, the Dutch Republic, which initially received the Huguenots with open arms because they brought with them money, knowledge and activity, and also strengthened the rather strict Calvinist church of the 17th century, eventually began to impose more restrictions. This had a political and economic background: some of the more liberal-minded authorities didn’t like the stiff-necked Calvinists, and in addition, financial guarantees were increasingly demanded of the newcomers. In that sense, the attitude towards refugees has changed little in four centuries. 

An interesting article about the Huguenots can be found on Wikipedia.

Jean and Marie Polet had five children. In 1608 their son Jacques was born in Tourcoing, who would later succeed his father in his small business as a fuller on the Vollersgracht in Leiden. Jacques Polet and his wife Judith Carette (also of French descent) are my ancestors, through their son Anthoine, born 1645.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Sailing to Kalkan and Kastellorizo

Almost six years ago, my wife and I sailed with friends along the Turkish coast from Göcek to Cold Water Bay, Kalkan and the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

This journey was an important factor in creating my new book, The Batavian, which to a large extent is set in these waters. Off
the Turkish coastal town of Kalkan, the protagonist Mark Schouten rescues a group of Syrian refugees from the sea, after their leaking boat has failed. The book moves slowly, but inexorably towards that moment, which will prove to be a turning point in Mark's life.

During our trip in 2013 I made video, from which a selection has appeared on YouTube. The first one shown below pictures Cold Water Bay, the deserted Greek town of Livissi and the journey from there to Kalkan.

The second video (below) shows the journey from Kalkan to Kastellorizo, during which the drama in the book takes place.

The other videos of this series, six altogether, can be found on my YouTube channel.