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A good reason to learn Dutch

A good reason to learn Dutch

Required reading

Who: Rein de Wilde, Faculty dean at Arts and Social Sciences

Book: Badal by Anil Ramdas

Target: students of Arts and Social Sciences and European Studies

“This is a Dutch novel, not a translation. It helps if you know something about the coalition of liberals (blue) and social democrats (red) in the Netherlands (called "Paars", or purple, after the colour obtained by mixing the two), the rise of Pim Fortuyn and the change in thinking at the end of the last century. Suddenly people were talking about the ruins created by this coalition, about fucking Moroccans; there was a sense of repugnance to multiculturalism and there were those in migrant communities who felt unsafe in this once so tolerant country.

“The main character in this autobiographical novel is called Harry Badal. He is a progressive intellectual of Surinam-Hindustani origin, a celebrated journalist and television maker, who is invited everywhere until social ideals suddenly turn 180 degrees. Not in the least by the publication of Paul Scheffer's essay The Multicultural Drama. These elements constitute the setting for the novel. Suddenly Badal, who shows clear similarities with the writer Anil Ramdas, is a stranger, someone who only gets assignments from local newspapers, such as the Noordhollands Dagblad, whereas he used to be a welcome guest author in the leading weekly paper de Groene Amsterdammer and newspaper NRC Handelsblad. He takes to the bottle, allows his marriage to fail and like a proud Hindustani feels so ashamed. He regards the loss of his ideals as a personal failure, they same way he saw his alcoholism, failed marriage and career as a personal failure.

“Towards the end, Badal lives in a gloomy hostel in the seaside town of Zandvoort, he has hardly any work, but is trying to give up the booze. Then one day he goes to the pub again and gets blind drunk. The next morning he walks into the sea and commits suicide, just like Anil Ramdas does less than a year after his novel has been published.”

As far as Rein de Wilde is concerned, Badal is one of the best Dutch novels of the last thirty years. “It is a ruthless self-portrait. So honest, and therefore also so wry and at the same time so magnificent. It shows students that culture occasionally suffers huge natural disasters. Such an earthquake can completely knock down or even crush an individual – also or maybe especially if he is a product of the equal rights movement and belongs to the cultural elite.

“Our students often think that the world is makeable; this book clearly shows that fate exists and can strike home very hard. Values can change completely and one is never prepared for that. Then you have to go and search for a new course, to find another beacon. Our students read a lot about progress, emancipation, the rise of this, that and the other. This is about falling, about crashing. Badal is a good reason to learn Dutch. ”

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