Marjolijn de Cocq

Marjolijn de Cocq (b.1967) graduated in Translation
Studies in Amsterdam. Since 1994, she has worked
as a journalist. She reported on the Yugoslavia
Tribunal and the Lockerbie trial and led various
editorial boards at the GPD press agency. De Cocq
is the head of books and a columnist at Het Parool
newspaper and an author with the publisher
De Bezige Bij.

Today, an extra ‘Writers’ Hotel’ column appears in ‘Het Parool’, written by Marjolijn de Cocq, author and book coordinator for the Dutch newspaper ‘Het Parool’.

We are proud to announce that the 26 ‘Writers’ Hotel’ columns have been collected and a book has been published. ‘The best place for you to stay is ultimately a book, twentysix stories from the writers’ hotel’ is published by Samsara Books and not for sale in bookstores.

An Extraordinary Collection

There is always the same sigh from photographers when another writer’s interview has to be done at the writers’ hotel. They’ve already used up all of the backgrounds and locations. The library, the brasserie, the blue salon. Every sofa and canapé. Every alley around the corner, every bridge over the canal. What else could they do now?

This was the case when I first came to the Ambassade Hotel more than twenty years ago, it was the same two years ago — and I can only hope that it will be the case again, sometime.

My first interview in the writers’ hotel took place around the corner from the entrance, in the lobby. It was 1998, and Arnon Grunberg was the author of the Book Week Gift. I was young, he was even younger. Last week, he was awarded the P.C. Hooft Prize, 2022, for his ‘novelistic universe’. He is still younger.

I know his favourite room number now. It was whispered to me last week by the hotel librarian, who curates the circa 5,500 signed books by their writer guests. I was briefly in there again. Because I’d been given the honour of accepting the first copy of an extraordinary collection.

The bookshops had closed during the winter lockdown early last year. Writers no longer had any tours, no readings, no signings, no award ceremonies. Let alone a Book Ball. And without writers, the writers’ hotel was no longer a writers’ hotel, when it had grown quiet and remained quiet even longer.

And so, a project was conceived within the walls of the Ambassade Hotel, under the working title Sheltering in the Writers’ Hotel. Writers were invited to come and stay, and to write about the effect of this stilled time on their writing lives. Unique stories were created, which each week found their way to the newspaper Het Parool to be the Writers’ Hotel column.

The launch of these collected columns was attended by a (very) small committee, with a (very) small number of followers online. Maybe, we thought, we’ll be able to hold a big party later, when it’s spring… My eyes flitted across the spines in the library, the titles calling to mind interviews from bygone years.

As the book coordinator of Het Parool, I was the cat with the cream once again this year. I travelled all over the world in books, unhindered. Hence the words that conclude Adriaan van Dis’s contribution, which are also the title of this lovingly produced book: ‘The best place for you to stay is ultimately a book.’

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’ .

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 visiting Brasserie Ambassade.

Stine Jensen

Stine Jensen (b.1972) is a philosopher, writer and programme
maker. She writes philosophical children’s
books about such issues as feelings, child rearing,
saying goodbye, identity and happiness. She also
writes books for adults, such as the recently published
Daring to Fail and Other Philosophical Contemplations.
Her children’s book Dear Stine, Do You Know? won
a Silver Pencil award in 2015.

What a Plunge

What a feast! What a plunge! For the first time in ages, I go to a theatre performance. I’ve been looking forward to it, yearning for it even, because my favourite book, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, is being staged in Dutch. The book interweaves the lives of three women: Virginia Woolf at the end of the 1920s in London, Laura Brown in 1949 in Los Angeles, who reads Virginia Woolf ’s Mrs Dalloway in bed, and the New York publisher Clarissa Vaughan at the end of the twentieth century, who is organising a party for her boyfriend, Richard. He calls Clarissa ‘Mrs Dalloway’ because she has the same Christian name as Woolf ’s Mrs Dalloway. The Hours is a complex, post-modern novel, full of allusions. I find it such a wonderful book because it shows how three women, all born in another time, wrestle with the same questions. Have I made the right choices in life? What is important in life? As a woman, can you derive pleasure from ‘banal’ things like baking cakes and buying flowers, or do you want to do other things such as write books, or poems?

The Hours on stage is a challenging undertaking for another reason. After all, there is a superb film version of the book that a lot of people have already seen. The three lead actors, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore were jointly awarded the Silver Bear in Berlin for the best female actor. How can you break free from that famous film?

But something magical happens in this stage performance, directed by Eline Arbo. From the first minute, she grabs all your senses. The actors are stood on a revolving platform; it’s a daring exploit in itself, standing on a revolving platform for two hours. At a few spectacular moments, the women walk nervously, irritated or even bristling with energy through the city, and the speed at which the platform revolves increases. What a feast, what a plunge…!

The Hours on stage is phenomenal, wonderful, unique. But I’m not yet entirely convinced because I wonder whether my favourite quote has been included? Yes, luckily: ‘There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.’

I once met the writer, as it happens. Michael Cunningham was staying at the Ambassade Hotel — where else? He had many female fans, and told me that he longed for the gaze of men. He went into the city. He was ready for a plunge.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’ .

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 visiting Brasserie Ambassade.

Schrijvershotel Ambassade Hotel Jeroen Thijssen

Jeroen Thijssen

Jeroen Thijssen (b.1959) is an historian and writer.
He lives in ’s-Hertogenbosch. At the publisher Nieuw
Amsterdam, he has published Johannes van Dam:
The Biography (2018), The Hidden Village (2019),
and the novels Solitude (2014) and Hazer (2017),
as well as the novella The Return (2021). Books by
Thijssen have been on the longlists of the Libris
Literature Prize and the Brusse Prize.

Schrijvershotel Ambassade Hotel Jeroen Thijssen

Viewed from the Terrace

A young woman is walking on the other side of the Herengracht canal, with a candy-cane-pink hairdo, and a little dog on a leash that’s dragging its feet. The dog is wearing a white suit, with an Elvis collar. Its firm balls dangle from its long johns.

‘Come along, Katia,’ the young woman calls.

That’s a strange name for a dog. Maybe the animal is in transition. That’s the way big city life can be.

Many dogs around here are carried by their owner, probably handicapped animals that can no longer walk. In Paris, dogs have their own vagrants. Cats live in apartments with their private valets. Even pigeons have privileges, with their luxury apartments above the roofs, and daily catering on the street.

But over the last year, pigeons have been through a tough time. The tourists have stayed away, with dramatic results: no tourists, no pigeon catering.

That’s a business model with defects.

Writers also have a comparable business model. They sometimes write a book, they sell a few copies of it, they read from it. It doesn’t generate much money, but that’s merely incidental. They receive prestige and satisfaction as their psychological fee.

But suddenly, an invasive virus brings the whole world to a halt. Bookshops close, libraries close too, all podiums are shut down. And so, the psychological
fee disappears too. And the income, however modest that may be.

And there you go with your business model. It had been dealt a few vicious blows already by the first Rutte government. Minister Halbe the Destroyer, later better known as Halbe the Liar, his name generating the grinding of teeth.

Their disdain was even worse than the financial cuts. ‘Art is a hobby,’ said Minister Wiebes, who has also departed now. The government shouldn’t set aside money for hobbies, everyone ought to be able to pull their own weight.

His excellency often seemed to be a sound hole for his party, the conservative VVD.

For the sake of convenience, the sound hole forgot that the same government does actually subsidise other hobbies. Olympic swimmers, gymnasts, Keirin cyclists all receive an income from the government, which is so generous it enables them to get a mortgage.

Try saying that about artists. They get a kick in the teeth for their ‘hobbies’. Even the king prefers sport to reading.

And then you get a f***ing pandemic on top of it. Book sales gone, appearances gone, and afterwards, see above. The prestige that is already damaged now totally goes down the drain, together with the satisfaction and the most minimal of incomes.

The dog across the canal is now doing things that a human would use a toilet for. The owner keeps an eye out, and quickly walks on when she imagines she hasn’t been spotted, The dog trails behind her.

The lonely writer on the Ambassade’s terrace, on the far side of the Herengracht, goes up to his luxurious room, where he’s been given two nights stay. For nothing. Because he’s a writer and his hobby is more than a pastime, it has significance. Luckily, there are still places where they realise that.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’ .

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 visiting Brasserie Ambassade.

Abdelkader Benali

Abdelkader Benali (b.1975) writes novels, poetry,
drama and journalistic pieces. His work, which has
been published internationally, was awarded the
E. du Perron Prize in 2010, and in 2020 the prestigious
Golden Goose Quill. 2021 saw the publication of his
4 May reading, The Silence of the Other, which he held
in Rotterdam. He is currently working on a new novel.

Well-Kempt Toes

The first time that I came to the Ambassade Hotel was with the Indian writer, Kiran Desai. She was the daughter of the famous writer Anita Desai, whose books were published worldwide. The talent proved to be hereditary, because her daughter’s debut appeared from my publisher, Vassallucci. I was asked if I’d have a conversation with her at the Bijenkorf department store. Fine!

We met at the Bijenkorf. To my great surprise, Kiran Desai was wearing an Indian sari and matching sandals. She had well-kempt toes. I felt terribly underdressed. Was I expected to come in a Moroccan djellaba?

The conversation went smoothly. Kiran Desai answered everything beautifully, as English-language authors tend to do — I suspect that only authors who can speak in complete sentences are eligible for translation. Afterwards, we walked to the Ambassade Hotel, where she was staying. While she strode across the canals, my eyes flitted to her toes. Weren’t they
cold?

It was warm in the Ambassade Hotel. After she’d signed her novel, it was placed on one of the bookshelves. My publisher, Oscar van Gelderen, told her how all visiting writers stay at this hotel. It was a writers’ hotel. Later, a foreign writer would tell me that Amsterdam was the best city to come to and to leave again. I intuitively understood what he meant. The city is small, compact, and free-spirited. And when you leave, you know that when you come back again you’ll find everything the way you left it.

And then it was my turn to sign my novel for the collection. When I was added to the ever-growing arsenal of novels, I joined all those other authors who had donated a book to the hotel. By now, the hotel must have the biggest collection of signed books in the world. Not long after, I spent a night at the hotel. The publisher offered me this because the next day I would be in conversation with a visiting author. The receptionist who brought me to my room told me that Cees Nooteboom had also spent the night in the room. I hoped that our stays wouldn’t coincide. The room was empty. Cees Nooteboom was elsewhere.

The next morning, I was sitting at breakfast. I copied what I do at home as best I could. I always eat a slice of bread with peanut butter, a slice with cheese and a slice with jam. Sometimes also a slice with Nutella chocolate spread. I’ve followed this morning ritual for more than twenty-five years. I drink two cups of coffee, sometimes more. Muesli, fruit and omelette look tempting, but I skip them now because I can’t give up my ritual. Sleeping alone goes well; having breakfast alone in a hotel goes less well.

The last time I spent the night at the Ambassade Hotel, I was seated next to a German couple with two children. The children had enormous appetites. They ordered crêpes and eggs, as if there were no tomorrow. An appetite you’d like to applaud.

In 2006, Kiran Desai won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for her second novel. Since then, she hasn’t published any more books. I still sometimes think of her toes. Well-kempt toes.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’ .

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 visiting Brasserie Ambassade.

 

Special Offers Hotel Amsterdam

Roxane van Iperen

Roxane van Iperen (b.1976) is an author and jurist.
She debuted in 2016 with Scum of the Earth (Hebban
Debut Prize), followed by The High Nest in 2018
(published internationally as The Sisters of Auschwitz),
which has already sold more than 200,000 copies.
In 2021, Van Iperen wrote the Book Week essay
The Genocide Fax, and delivered the 4 May reading.
In 2021, she published Letters to the High Nest.

Sixteen-Year-Olds

The most beautiful child in the world was born sixteen years ago in Amsterdam. It was the month of September, and the city was showing itself off in its Sunday best, in anticipation of her arrival. The nervousness of the summer had evaporated, but a blanket of warmth remained. Instagram didn’t exist yet, otherwise countless photos and films would have travelled around the world of canals rippling in rosegold light and cyclists in shirt-sleeves.

With my bottom in the grass and my gaze turned inwards, I shared my impatience with the trees in the Sarphatipark. Each day they changed colour like a lava lamp as we counted down together, ready to let go. On the second Tuesday of the month, when the newspapers wrote that rich and poor countries were quarrelling over the abolition of trade-distorting agricultural subsidies, and eBay paid a sum of 2.6 billion dollars for the acquisition of Skype, the most beautiful child in the world was born in a delivery room in the VU Hospital on De Boelelaan 1117. All of my boyfriend’s colleagues, who worked in the gynaecology department, came out to admire her. My knees were still up beside my ears, but they meant well, and I realised that decorum was the least
I had to lose from now on.

The most beautiful child in the world has turned sixteen and is walking along the canal with her friends on a lovely autumn day. It is always warm on her birthday, although you should never trust eye-witnesses. I sit on the terrace of the Ambassade Hotel, on the other side of the canal, and stare at them as they go. Bony bodies like foals, and childlike motor skills, which I know they will adjust in the shop windows between the Wolvenstraat and the Berenstraat, with inhibited self-consciousness. In the basement of the vintage store, Episode, they will rummage through the racks, apparently bored, and then spend their salaries on something that’s been lying neglected in my closet since 1998.

In the evening, we sit on her bed and watch an episode of Sex Education, in which a class of teenagers with weltschmerz are travelling to France on a school bus to the strains of La ballade des gens
heureux. A teacher is trying to encourage a boy who’s just been given a bad fail. ‘Everyone is good at something; you just have to find out what.’ ‘I’m good at imitating Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings,’ he answers. The awareness dawns on him that what adults have been telling him all this time is an illusion: that everything is possible and the world is waiting for him.

I look at my daughter in her third-hand sweater, which she wears with the allure of a film star, and I know one thing for sure. As long as I’m the world, it will be true.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’ .

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 visiting Brasserie Ambassade.

Ian Buruma

Ian Buruma (b.1951) is an internationally renowned
essayist, historian and Asian specialist. The Churchill
Complex, about the rise and fall of the Anglo-American
order, appeared in 2020. In September 2021, he published
After the Murderin Amsterdam, about the murder of Theo
van Gogh and the consequences for the Dutch debate on
the multicultural society.

Corona Nostalgia

I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but I already feel a little nostalgic for the early Corona age: the empty planes, never having to wait for your luggage, a wonderful old city centre with no tourists, and delightful days and nights at the Ambassade Hotel. I shouldn’t be saying this because millions have died of the pandemic.
My nostalgia rests on great privilege: I am in reasonable health, I have enough money to get by, and I’m a writer.

The Corona age was a good time to write books. You had all the time in the world to read and write. The gigs that you say yes to, out of listlessness, or greed, or vanity, conferences and such like, were all put on hold.

Some people I know said it felt as if time had stood still, or as if their sense of time had been warped. This is an illusion, of course. Time never stands still. The world keeps on turning, even during a pandemic. But the pandemic takes away another illusion: namely, the idea that you can control time, or to put it another way, that you can control yourown life.

Even under ‘normal’ circumstances, we are the playthings of fate, but we prefer to forget this. Through a series of everyday, and often unconscious,rituals, we give ourselves the impression that we have our fate — and our time — somewhat under control.The unpredictability of fate in a pandemic makes this harder to pull off.

People start feeling anxious. They become neurotic. A psychiatrist friend in New York told me that he’d never had so many patients before, and we’re still far from the end. People do all sorts of things to recover some sense of control over their lives. Some do this by hiding away, by going underground in their own home, as it were. Others seek salvation in conspiracy theories. If everything can be explained as a plot by Bill Gates, then we can deal with life a little better.

Writers already do this naturally. Fiction is a kind of conspiracy theory: the confusion of human behaviour is fitted into the new order of the literary imagination. But non-fiction, too, is a way to create order in the chaos of the world around us, and the disorder of our private lives.

While disease raged around me, I loved to flee into the imaginary world of French writers of the nineteenth century, or the Japanese of the early twentieth century. I also took pleasure in creating a world of my own on my laptop through words, to dispel the unpredictability of life for a little while. But everything has to come to an end. I want the pandemic to be over. It’s been enough. Not least because I’ve started hankering after those little gigs that I mostly say yes to out of listlessness, or greed, or vanity.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’.

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 visiting our sunny terrace on the Herengracht!

Ronald Giphart

Ronald Giphart (b.1965) debuted in 1992 with the
novel I Do Too, an instant classic in Dutch literature.
Giphart received the C.C.S. Crone Prize in 2004 for
his oeuvre. In 2021, his novella Applause: Love in the
Time of Corona was published, intended as an ode
to the care and support of local bookshops.

The Chelsea

Until 2011, the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan was the illustrious meeting point for hundreds of artists, actors and musicians. Madonna lived there (Room 822), Leonard Cohen (424) and Janis Joplin (411). Sid Vicious’s girlfriend was stabbed to death there (100), and The Sex Pistols’ bassist himself died of an overdose (also in 100).

Artists such as Christo, Robert Mapplethorpe (1017), Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol paid for their stays with works of art, paintings that were hung all over the hotel.

Numerous writers bivouacked there: from Mark Twain to Jack Kerouac, from William S. Burroughs to Jan Cremer (who lived there for quite some time), from Arthur Miller to the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Room 205). When the latter returned one evening in 1953 from The White Horse Tavern, his nearby local, he died from the eighteen straight whiskies that he’d just drunk.

It was a pilgrimage to Dylan Thomas that brought my friend Dylan van Eijkeren (known from the newspaper Het Parool) and me to the Hotel Chelsea in the mid-90s. We were actually able to book room 205, at least that’s the story we told everybody later (in reality we stayed in room 434).

The Chelsea was everything I’d imagined it would be: the lobby was hung with works of art, the hotel was populated by a motley gathering of eccentric weirdos, and behind the tiny reception desk sat two men twenty-four hours a day in turbans, both named Singh.

In the aeroplane to JFK, Dylan and I had met two Dutch girls, and when we said goodbye at the airport, Dylan called out that we’d see each other at ten o’clock in The White Horse Tavern. This was before the mobile-phone age, so we had no idea whether the women would actually show up. They did, and ultimately Dylan and one of the girls would hook up.

The three of us ended up at the Chelsea. But as I didn’t feel like lying in my queen-sized bed listening to the playful exchange of genetic material in the bed next to me, I decided to take a nap in the lobby with the Singhs, lying on one of the old couches that Jimi Hendrix had once sat on (there are even photos of it). I asked the receptionists if I could rent an extra room, but sadly the hotel was fully booked that night.

After I’d explained my awkward predicament, they glanced at each other and sympathetically shook their turbans. One of the Singhs stuck his hand into a drawer and gave me a key to an unappealing little staff room with a bed on the twelfth floor. Later, I’d often claim that Mark Twain had once stayed there, but that probably wouldn’t be true.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’.

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 visiting our sunny terrace on the Herengracht!

Jan Mulder

Jan Mulder (b.1945) was a professional footballer
with Ajax and Anderlecht. He has focused on journalism
since 1975. He has written short stories and
reportage, including for the publications de Volkskrant,
Elsevier and Humo. In addition, he was a
regular columnist for years at the newspaper
de Volkskrant,
forming the partnership Camu
with the poet Remco Campert.

 

The Arts’ Hotel

A beautiful, old building, situated on a canal. A fine lobby, and then you walk inside stories. Here, anecdotes were born, famous gossip spread, quarrels and reconciliations written about.

I take the lift to the first floor. A passage. My room is at the end of the passage. I don’t make it down, although it should be physically possible: I can still walk all right, and the space between the walls is more than a metre wide, while I’m only about sixty centimetres.

Halfway down, my legs won’t go on: my eyes catch behind a painting. Works by the artist Theo Wolvecamp are hung on both walls. I’ve seen these for decades now, and not once have I walked past without feeling moved. A beautiful unknown woman who lures me to her room through a chink in the door, the tiredness that overwhelms me after hard work, an American couple asking the way to the Rijksmuseum: maybe I want to, but it all escapes me, I’ve disappeared into painted wrapping paper.

What many owners don’t appreciate is the value of art in the attractiveness of their hotel. What you generally come across is what you see in the dentist’s waiting room. Good paintings give a hotel allure, ahem, an identity. A fine subsidiary value of an arts’ hotel is the writers who like to be interviewed there. They have taste and they feel at home in an arts’hotel.

The predicate writers’ hotel appeals more to the imagination than arts’ hotel does. For inexplicable reasons, my arts’ hotel is also fonder of writers (sensitive types) than painters (rough hunks) with their salacious followers. Mostly, you get two for the price of one though. If there’s good art on the walls, there’ll be writers in the guestbook. We can read their signed books in the library annex-bar. The bartender could write a great book about the endlessly arriving and departing art folk, but he hasn’t yet. To conclude, I’ll add an anecdote about my hotel.

A few years ago, while I was checking in, a young man was dragging two heavy suitcases out of the lift. I knew him from his political commentaries on the television programme The World Keeps Turning. ‘Hey, Sywert.’ To be able to earn a little extra on the side,

Het predicaat schrijvershotel spreekt meer tot de verbeelding dan kunsthotel. Om onnaspeurbare redenen is mijn kunsthotel zelf ook meer gesteld op schrijvers (fijnzinnige types) dan op schilders (ruwe binken) met hun wulpse aanhang. Meestal krijg je de twee voor één prijs. Is er sprake van goede kunst aan de muur, staan er schrijvers in het gastenboek. Hun gesigneerde werken kunnen we in de bibliotheek annex bar lezen. De barkeeper zou een mooi boek over het eeuwig komende en vertrekkende kunstvolk kunnen schrijven, hij deed dat nog niet. Tot slot zou ik een anekdote aan mijn hotel willen toevoegen.

Enkele jaren geleden, ik was aan het inchecken, sleurde een jongeman twee zware koffers uit de lift. Ik kende hem van zijn politieke commentaren in het televisieprogramma De Wereld Draait Door. “Hé, Sywert.” Om wat bij te verdienen, werkte hij in het schrijvershotel als manusje-van-alles. Achter Sywert stonden de gasten die naar Schiphol moesten, hij groette me snel, en met zijn laatste krachten tilde hij hun koffers in de achterbak van de taxi, haastte zich daarna naar een enorme zak met vuil beddengoed. Ik bewonderde hem.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’.

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 visiting our sunny terrace on the Herengracht!

Schrijvershotel Pieter Waterdrinker

Pieter Waterdrinker

Pieter Waterdrinker (b.1961) is a journalist and
author of great, panoramic novels such as Lenin’s
Balsam, Poubelle and the successful The Long Song
of Tchaikovsky
Street. His latest novel The Rat of Amsterdam has been widely lauded.
His work hasbeen translated into English, German and Russian.

Schrijvershotel Pieter Waterdrinker

Hotel Children

I grew up in a hotel. Are there any other hotel children in our national letters? There are certainly enough hotel people. With Arnon Grunberg as Joseph Roth’s ultimate standard-bearer. Although Roth was born in a house in Ukraine, he wrote, drank, and lived in hotels until his death. What is a ‘hotel person’? Ultimately, and I don’t mean this unkindly, it’s someone who allows themselves to be served.

Hotels, like seaside resorts, are places where people feel slightly detached, adrift from normal life, which is frequently a mess. Materially, existentially, erotically. Spaces to be filled in various ways. Fine material for novelists! We worked in the service industry in the small hotel, café, restaurant, reception room, and mostly ‘work-house’ that my grandfather began after the war. My three uncles, Jacob, Benno, and Simon Waterdrinker. And my father, who after years as a cook’s mate in the merchant navy to South America, got his own ‘fire’, or stove.

Hotel Zomerlust in Zandvoort. It no longer exists. Those were strange years. The years in which I grew up. One million… what am I saying? Six million wienerschnitzels, that’s what my father fried for German seaside visitors in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. In theory, that was for the Wehrmacht soldier, too, who shot him in the leg when he was a boy in the Haarlemmerhout, in the final year of the war.

At the age when young writers these days can already boast of a prize-winning oeuvre, I was still washing plates, and cooking and serving in Zandvoort. In the meantime, I am now someone who is served. Perhaps that’s the only real transformation in my life: from server to served. But you never get used to it. I still turn my head away in slight embarrassment when a glass of wine, a cup of soup or a plate of pasta is set down in front of me. I never leave a hotel room without making my bed first, even though I know the chambermaid will be coming along in a little while with clean sheets. It’s a tribute to my mother. One million… what am I saying? She’s changed six million sheets in her life. Many small business people at that time were labourers for themselves.

Meanwhile, I’ve been ‘offshore’ for thirty years. What is Holland to me now? Apart from the cemetery of those I’ve loved? A hotel room. ‘Show me your hotel room, and I’ll tell you what sort of writer you are!’ In Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Baku, Grozny, Tashkent, Odessa, Yalta and other places, I grew accustomed to the sumptuous luxury of hotels on my work trips. But once back in Holland, a gammy guest bed or a low-class hotel would be waiting for me. It took about seven novels before publishers, patrons and programme makers in the fatherland greeted me with a hospitality that is usually only reserved for foreign writers. And so, dear reader, I ended up at the Ambassade Hotel in Amsterdam. My home in the Netherlands. The only one. Reason enough to make the literary fire smoke, roar and crackle.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’.

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 visiting our sunny terrace on the Herengracht!

Tommy Wieringa Schrijvershotel Ambassade Hotel

Tommy Wieringa

Tommy Wieringa (b.1967) is the author of books
such as Joe Speedboat (F. Bordewijk Prize), Caesarion
(shortlist International IMPAC Dublin Literary
Award), These are the Names (Libris Literature Prize)
and The Blessed Rita (BookSpot Literature Prize).
He was nominated for the International Booker Prize
for The Death of Murat Idrissi.

Tommy Wieringa Schrijvershotel Ambassade Hotel

Ante Diluvium

There are two gentlemen in their mid-sixties sitting at a table by the window. They’re praising the view and the wine. The view: the canal, the elms, the houses on the far side. The wine: Apostelhoeve Cuvée XII, 2019. They study the label at length. Such a lovely, bone-dry, home-grown wine, their amazement doesn’t cease.

They know many of the same people, the oil of their conversation. What a pleasant subject of conversation it is, an acquaintance who failed in both his career and his marriage; and doesn’t their pity for his failure feel good and warm. ‘And, naturally, he had the bad luck that his parents have grown to be so old,’ one of them says. The other agrees. ‘If only one of them would die, then something might fall his way for once, eh.’

But they were bathed in the comfort of their own investments. This included their marriages: an investment that paid out in children and grandchildren. Not everything turned out equally well, take the apartment in Bangkok. The man sighs. ‘You can’t speak the language, the jet lag gets worse and worse, especially when you travel from west to east.’

So, they sold it and bought something in Dubai instead. From north to south is better. ‘It’s twenty-four degrees there now, and you don’t pay a cent in salary tax, or income tax. Ideal.’

The other had bought an Amsterdam apartment for his son for 350,000 euros, and recently sold it for half a million. You’re robbing yourself if you don’t.

Two men, spreading in the autumn of their lives. They’ve managed to get the best out of things, there’ll never be another generation that has it better. Fortune was their just desserts; ill fortune would have been dumb bad luck. And how they’d leave the world behind them wasn’t their concern. ‘Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man,’ a Canadian writer lamented on Twitter a couple of years ago. A sentence that took off;

today, too, it iswritten in invisible ink above a table by the window of the hotel restaurant.

‘It’s a lovely city when it’s like this, eh?’ they say to each other, their eyes on the Herengracht.

Yes, a lovely city, I concur in silence. But so uncertain, because this week the papers are full of the results of the big climate report. And ever since, the water has been seeping over the edges of the quaysides, the pavements, the steps of the canal-side houses. These rooms, everything that we’ve built. This hotel, where it’s already risen to the first floor. When the flood comes, it will splash against the ceiling. I open the hotel Bible in bed, with the sea around the bed’s legs. People: their days are like the grass, they bloom like flowers in the open fields; then the wind blows, and they’ve disappeared, and no one knows where they ever stood.

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.

Read more about this column project in collaboration with ‘Het Parool’.

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 visiting our sunny terrace on the Herengracht!