Alma Mathijsen (b.1984) studied Image and Language
at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and Creative Writing
in New York. She has published plays, a short story
collection and various novels. Mathijsen writes essays
for the NRC Handelsblad newspaper. In 2020, she
published her most recent novel, Save the Summer.
Into the Outside World
I’d almost forgotten that it still existed. I belong to that group of people who locked themselves away. If you live alone, that is pretty easy. You have no housemates to ask you lovingly, but also intently, whether it might not be a good idea to get out a little more.
No, I stayed inside, I bought a Nintendo and baked lasagnes exclusively for myself. Between the walls of my own apartment, I didn’t have to be frightened about infecting anyone, I didn’t have to ask a friend for the twelfth time whether they’d washed their hands for twenty seconds, I didn’t have to be irritated to distraction by a husband with his nose hanging over his face mask. It was calm at home, and that was all I needed. At least, that’s what I thought. I was invited to stay at the Ambassade Hotel for two nights, and naturally I could also bring someone with me. For the first time, there was somewhere I could invite my new love to.
The café terraces had just opened and the sun put in an appearance too. I saw people everywhere taking bites of their food, or eagerly drinking from their glasses. When they weren’t doing that, they were talking excitedly. The manager was standing ready at the entrance, and he welcomed me so warmly that I thought for a moment he must have confused me with an oil baron, or an influencer with 500,000 followers. In the room, there was a bottle of Cava waiting for us on a laid table that looked out over the canal. I drank from the glass, as eagerly as the people I’d seen earlier that day. I wanted to join in with them.
Thomas Heerma van Voss was also sitting on the terrace; he’d been invited to the hotel too. I’d barely seen any other writers for a year and a half, and I was seized with an enthusiasm that I couldn’t shake. I wanted to talk — it didn’t matter about what. A little later, Jessica Durlacher and Solomonica de Winter drifted over the terrace, returning from a massage; they were also staying in the hotel. And I wanted to chat with them too. I grabbed what was there to be grabbed. All of those months in solitary meant I was hungrier than ever for small talk. The sillier the better — I didn’t need any deep discussions.
It seemed almost like a literary festival, but with an élan that I’d dreamed about all of my life. No pallets in a mud pool as a so-called backstage. Here, we had marble floors, chilled bottles of bubbly and downy bathrobes with slippers. I couldn’t have wished for a better re-entry into life after sitting inside for months. I didn’t realise it, but it was everything I’d needed.
View the column on the website of ‘Het Parool’.
What is a writers’ hotel without writers? A pen without ink? For a period of six months in 2021, one author a week was invited to stay at the Ambassade Hotel and describe their writing lives at that time. Throughout the period May to November 2021, the newspaper Het Parool published the Writers’ Hotel columns in its weekly Arts Section.
Would you like to stay at the writers’ hotel as well? Enjoy a unique experience in the Ambassade Hotel with these special offer packages or come and admire the library after a visiting our sunny terrace on the Herengracht!
Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’.