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Frank Westerman

Frank Westerman - foto Keke Keukelaar
Frank Westerman - foto Keke Keukelaar

(Emmen, NL, 1964) studied tropical agricultural engineering and was a correspondent for the Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad newspapers in Belgrade and Moskow. He wrote about his time there in 1994's De Brug over de Tara (The Bridge over the River Tara). Together with journalist Bart Rijs he wrote 1997's Srebrenica, Het zwartste scenario (Srebrenica, the Blackest Scenario). Ingenieurs van de ziel (Engineers of the Soul) was published in 2002, an inquiry into the foundations of the Soviet system and the role of writers. De Graanrepubliek (The Grain Republic), about the struggle between rich gentlemen farmers and communist workers in Groningen, was published earlier. Westerman's novel El Negro en ik (El Negro and Me), inspired by a preserved South African in a Spanish museum, was published in 2004 and won the Gouden Uil prize. His revised and augmented 2015 edition of De Slag om Srebrenica (The Battle for Srebrenica) won the Prinsjes Book Prize for best political book. Een woord een woord (One Word One Word) appeared in 2016, in which he tests the strength of free speech under the pressure of terrorist threats. As a child, he experienced the Molukkan train hijacking at close quarters; as a correspondent, he witnessed Chechen terror in Russia. Drawing on these gripping experiences, he describes a series of hostage dramas.


Archive available for: Frank Westerman

  • Winternachten 2018

    Frank Westerman meets Mohsin Hamid

    With: Chris Keulemans, Frank Westerman, Mohsin Hamid

    Mohsin Hamid's novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) is educational: it shows how hurtful our way of doing things can seem to an outsider. And how the sheer power of the West - apart from the question of whether it is justified - creates much bad blood among people who want to take part in it with their talent and intellect, but who continue to feel shut out. This was written by Leonie Breebaart in Trouw newspaper in a discussion of Hamid's bestseller.

    Now, one decade later, Mohsin Hamid had a conversation with journalist and writer Frank Westerman. The latter takes his readers back - among others in Srebrenica, the Blackest Scenario and especially in A Word, a Word - to terrorist acts from the recent past.

    Which are the right words and deeds to win the battle of ideas with the fundamentalists? The conversation was hosted by Chris Keulemans.

    Right after the performance, Mohsin Hamid and Frank Westerman were at Van Stockum Bookshop in the foyer for a booksigning session.

  • Winternachten 2017 – Saturday Night Unlimited

    IS: The Counter-Narrative

    The so-called Islamic State is more than a band of rebels or a terror network. Their campaign of terror in conquered villages and cities, their terrorist attacks in Europe, and their written and visual propaganda looks and sounds like a coherent horror story of "the enemy" as well as a recruitment campaign for potential international jihadists. IS publish a glossy magazine and put masses of energy into the recruitment of sympathizers among youth who are seeking identity and meaning in the virtual world. And they don't limit themselves to Muslim youth. In short, IS understands the power of the word and greatly emphasizes the imagination.

    In IS: The Counter-Narrative, Hassnae Bouazza directs the conversation about how to counteract the horror campaign and propaganda machine. Dutch-Kurdish Beri Shalmashi offers up a video essay about similar groupings, visual representation and propaganda. Frank Westerman takes us into the past and shows how we in the Netherlands have reacted to extremist acts, and how we could now choose the right words and actions to win the battle of ideas. Arnon Grunberg gets under the skin of jihadists from the West, and wonders whether their existential motivation diverges fundamentally from that of an average Western military on a mission. Rodaan Al Galidi shows us the bigger picture of the relationship between Europe and the Middle East and presents his vision of how to understand IS as a symbol of today's transnational world. He also provides the night's finale in the form of a performed poem; the musical epilogue is by Jeanine Valeriano and her Spoken Beat Night.

  • Hoe ver reikt de macht van het woord?

    With Words of Bombs? Frank Westerman and Jutta Chorus

    With: Frank Westerman, Hassnae Bouazza, Jutta Chorus

    Kun je wie vatbaar is voor extremisme - zoals jihadistische terroristen - op andere gedachten brengen door in gesprek te gaan en te blijven? Of missen woorden hier hun doel en zijn geweld en repressie de enige middelen? Het zijn vragen die journalist/schrijver Frank Westerman en ook journaliste Jutta Chorus bezighouden. Ze gaan in gesprek onder leiding van Hassnae Bouazza.

    In zijn nieuwe boek Een woord een woord onderzoekt Frank Westerman de veerkracht van het woord. Hij wil weten of de pen niet alleen spreekwoordelijk maar ook daadwerkelijk machtiger is dan het zwaard. Hij neemt de lezer mee naar een reeks spraakmakende gijzeldrama's van Bovensmilde tot Beslan. Hij mengt zich onder terrorisme-experts in Parijs en drinkt muntthee met een oud-treinkaper die dichter is geworden. Om aan den lijve te voelen wat taal kan uitrichten tegen terreur volgt hij een training tot gijzelingsonderhandelaar in een oefendorp van de politie. Jutta Chorus was de eerste journalist die na de moord op Theo van Gogh contact zocht met de geestverwanten van Mohammed B. Ze bleef de Hofstadgroep volgen. Tien jaar na de moord tekende ze uit de mond van een van de 'broeders' het volgende op: 'Wij waren praters. In onze tijd spraken we alleen over de jihad. Slechts een enkeling koos voor het geweld.'

    Een avond in samenwerking met Bibliotheek Den Haag. Boekverkoop door Van Stockum Boekhandel.

  • Winternachten 2016 – Friday Night Unlimited

    It's the War, Stupid!

    How do extreme circumstances turn normal people into monsters capable of heinous crimes? In her book They Wouldn't Hurt a Fly, Slavenka Drakulić looked into the background of Yugoslavian war criminals to find reasons for their later misdeeds. Frank Westerman experienced these crimes up close. This year, his Balkan reports were published in De slag om Srebrenica (The Battle for Srebrenica). And what about us: how do we deal with atrocities perpetrated by earlier generations? The writers discuss this subject under the guidance of Johan de Boose. In English

    This event replaces "It's the System, Stupid," which was cancelled since Tariq Ali is unable to attend the festival.

  • Wetenschap is ook maar een mening

    Science is Just a Matter of Opinion

    With: Chris Keulemans, Frank Westerman, Geert Munnichs, Katinka Baehr, Roel Coutinho

    Productiegegevens Watch the video-registration of this programme. A discussion between Roel Coutinho (virologist) and Maarten Keulemans (head of the science department of De Volkskrant newspaper) on criticism on scientists.
    Moderated by Katinka Baehr. In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2014

    Opening Night: Free the Word!

    With: Farah Karimi, Frank Westerman, Ian Buruma, Laura McVeigh, Manon Uphoff, Marente de Moor, Marjolein de Jong, Oksana Chelysheva, Petra Stienen, Trio Mäshräp

    On the opening night of the festival the freedom of speech and the power of the word are highlighted. The opening speech will be held by Dutch writer and journalist Ian Buruma. With the award ceremony of the prestigious Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards for Freedom of Expression PEN and Oxfam Novib honour international writers, journalists and film makers who, sometimes risking their own lives, seek the truth and make it known. The three winners are announced in January and one of them will take delivery of the prize.

    The award winning ceremony is followed by a debate on social media in the struggle against repression, with among others Dutch writers Marente de Moor and Frank Westerman. Social media form an increasingly influential stage for the cultivation of the free word. Through their own sites, facebook pages and blogs writers, journalists and other citizens can give their opinions outside official channels, expose evils and fight forms of repression and corruption. How can we, as citizens of a growing 'Global Community' guarantee this freedom of expression? How can we prevent governments from curbing that freedom? Meanwhile in many places worldwide internet papers are controlles and bloggers prosecuted and detained.

    The Alderman for Culture of the Municipality of The Hague Marjolein de Jong welcomes the audience. Arabist Petra Stienen presents the evening and leads the discussion. With music by the Uighur Trio Mäshräp.

    The programme is in English, and organised in cooperation with PEN International, PEN Nederland and Oxfam Novib.

  • Winternachten 2013

    VPRO OVT Live

    With: Denise Jannah, Frank Westerman, Lucas Hüsgen, Mathijs Deen, Nelleke Noordervliet, Onno Blom, Paul van der Gaag

    One of the best listened to programmes of Radio I is VPRO's O.V.T, present perfect tense, or open past. Every Sunday morning the topicality of history occupies centre stage. It's a tradition now that the programme makers move to the heart of The Hague during the festival to broadcast live from Café Brasserie Dudok. This time the focus is on Lucas Hüsgen (writer of Nazi te Venlo), on the Dutch author Gerrit Komrij, who died last year,  and on the work of Polish writer and journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski. There is live music by jazz singer Denise Jannah, accompanied by guitarist Robby Alberga. Paul van der Gaag and Mathijs Deen are the familiar hosts. Open to the public, admission free, including coffee and cake. In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2013 – Winternacht 2 - schrijvers, muziek en film op vijf podia

    Frank Westerman: The text of my life

    Dutch Writer Frank Westerman reads a two-line quote to you to explain what to him is the text of his life. Do you want to know why the novel Chevengur by Andrei Platonov means so much to him? Come to the Greenhouse, and talk to him and hosts Manon Uphoff and Aleid Truijens about his choice. In Dutch.

  • Winternachten 2013 – Winternacht 2 - schrijvers, muziek en film op vijf podia

    Lying the Truth

    The world famous Polish writer and journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski (1932-2007) reported numerous historical events in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with a great deal of attention to human detail. The work of writers like Lieve Joris and Geert Mak carries traces of his influence. Artur Domosławski wrote a controversial biography. Wim Brands (VPRO Boeken) talks to Artur Domoslawski, Joris van Casteren (Lelystad, The Bride's Sister) and Frank Westerman (Animal, Upper Animal, Ararat) on the slippery slopes of journalism and literature. Are writers allowed to lie the truth? In English.

  • Turkije 2009

    Presentation of the Kurdish novel Sivane Kurmance

    With: Abdelhay Moudden, Diana Ferrus, Frank Westerman, Lasana M. Sekou

    Hoogtepunt van het bezoek van de schrijvers aan Diyarbakir was de slotavond waarin alle auteurs voorlazen uit de zojuist verschenen eerste editie in het Koerdisch van wat wordt gezien als de eerste Koerdische roman, 'Koerdische herder', van Ereb Semo.

    Met İnci Aral, Markar Esayan Lasana M. Sekou, Diana Ferrus, Abdelhay Moudden, Frank Westerman, Mueyed Teyib Şêrzad Barzanî, Vecdi Erbay, Irfan Babaoğlu, Azad Zal, Evrim Alataş, Kesk müzik grubu, Dengbejler Dicle-Fırat. In aanwezigheid van en deelname van de burgemeester van Diyarbakir. Dhr. Osman Baydemir.

  • Turkije 2009

    Diyarbakir - Sümerpark - debate

    With: Abdelhay Moudden, Diana Ferrus, Frank Westerman, Lasana M. Sekou

    Twee debatprogramma's in Diyarbakir.

  • Turkije 2009

    Dyarbakir - opening programme

    With: Abdelhay Moudden, Diana Ferrus, Frank Westerman, Lasana M. Sekou

    In Diyarbakir traden de auteurs samen op met Turkse, Iraakse en Iraanse auteurs, o.a. Mueyed Teyib, Şêrzad Barzanî, İnci Aral. Arjen Arî, Aslı Erdoğan, Vecdi Erbay, Evrim Alataş, Markar Esayan, en Ayça Damgacı.

  • Turkije 2009

    Istanbul - Winternachten reading

    With: Abdelhay Moudden, Diana Ferrus, Frank Westerman, Lasana M. Sekou

    Voor studenten gaven de schrijvers een lezing in Mavikum Bookshop in Istanbul.

  • Turkije 2009

    Istanbul - Literature Café with Hare - City and the Other

    With: Abdelhay Moudden, Diana Ferrus, Frank Westerman, Lasana M. Sekou

    In het ITEF Festival in Istanbul gingen de schrijvers in gesprek in een literair café, Kaktus Cihangir Café.

  • Winternachten 2005 – WINTERNACHT 2

    Look, a Negro!

    Up until 1997 one could admire a preserved and mounted human being in a museum in the Catalonean town of Banyoles, 'El Negro' was a black South African who, after persistant worldwide protest, was returned and buried in Africa. This little bit of history inspired Frank Westerman to write El Negro en ik (The Negro and me).
    The South African Diana Ferrus wrote a poem about Saartje Baartman, also known as the 'Hottentot venus', a South African Khoisan, who in the nineteenth century travelled through Europa as a fairground attraction. Her skeleton, genitals and brain were kept in a French museum. In 2002, on request of Nelson Mandela, these remains were brought back to her native country and buried in the Cape. How did the white man look upon the black man then, and how does the white man look upon the black man now? Annie M.G. Schmidt's biographer Annejet van der Zijl writes about this matter in her novel Sonny Boy, acclaimed as 'the best novel in 2004'. A discussion about 'us and them', chaired by Noraly Beyer.

    Dutch/Afrikaans spoken

  • Winternachten 2004 – WINTERNACHT 1

    VPRO - De Avonden, live radio from Winternachten

    In the second hour of the live radio broadcast of VPRO'S De Avonden, presentator Wim Brands talks with amongst others the writers Antjie Krog, Wim Westerman and Henk van Woerden. The new book by Antjie Krog, Liederen van de Blauwkraanvogel (Songs of the Blue Crane), (published by Podium and Novib), will be presented during the programme.

  • Winternachten 2004 – WINTERNACHT 1

    For happiness and fatherland

    A surpressed people walks towards the New Land. But is new always better? When does an ideal become an obligatory ode or a failure? Should we abolish ideals and is it better to allow dreams to remain dreams? Writers Thomas Rosenboom and Frank Westerman on the future of idealism and writing for a illusion filled society.