Well, finally I took the plunge. Much of the delay
is due to a lack of confidence in my command of the English language being up
to what I planned for several years. I finally published my first novel THE BATAVIAN
in English, on Amazon/Kindle, at $4.03, or GBP2.87.
The Batavian was published in Dutch as De Batavier, two years ago, before the world was rocked by the greatest crisis since WW2. I held lectures and the book was a fair success, mainly because it was accepted by the Dutch public libraries’ organisation. It even warranted a small second impression. A year on, the world went in lockdown, and even though I published my second book Het Transport (The Cargo) in Dutch last October, I never managed to launch that book like De Batavier, with all public gatherings forbidden.
|giving a lecture about De Batavier in 2019|
I learned English over half a century ago. As a teenager I had access to my parents’ collection of English novels, and the ones that appealed to me most were C.S.Forester’s Hornblower series, set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. At age 15 I started reading them, having had two years of English at school, and by trying to make out the context from the words instead of using a dictionary, I quickly advanced to the stage where my English teacher, good old Mr Van Overbeeke, stopped asking me after my homework, wondering what happened to me.
|sailing frigate of the 1800s|
Despite all, there is a difference between being familiar with English and feeling quite at home with day-to-day vernacular. Being in regular touch with many friends in the UK and even beyond, in the USA and Australia, made a difference. I have written and still write many a magazine article in English, but that is of a technical nature.
After I write a book in Dutch, my native language, the first thing I do is write a translation in English. But the first translation of The Cargo, which will be published next, frankly looked awful after I read it back a few years later. So I largely re-wrote it. Perhaps it is easier to think and write in English before writing in Dutch!
The Batavian is the second manuscript I wrote following The Cargo. Some elements are autobiographical, but most is fiction. The stage is largely set on the Turkish coast and the Greek isle of Kastellorizo, where I sailed a rented boat with my wife Henriette and friends in 2014. Shortly afterwards in 2015 and 2016, the huge flow of refugees from the Syrian war gained momentum, an exodus through Turkey and Greece and beyond into the Balkans. The idyllic coast and islands were swamped with refugees, and I followed the news, horrified by all the deaths at sea. I still have folders of data taken from various news sources all over the world.
The Batavian tries to tell the story of the refugees. Probably I haven’t even touched the essence by half, but even so I hope I managed to come close enough to paint a picture of what happened, and still happens in the Mediterranean on a daily basis. There are real people out there, people like you and me with emotions and fears and hopes. No wonder that Leila Hammadi, when she encounters Mark as he pulls her out of the sea, recognises him for another lost soul, and loses her heart before they’re torn apart once more. The aftermath of that affair take up the second half of the book, as in the ensuing years he goes after her in the chaos of the Greek refugee camps.
Will he find her again? I suggest you read the book...