Surinamese-Dutch Writer Astrid Roemer Returns After 15 Years

Copyright: In de Knipscheer: Astrid Roemer
"Why do I write? I hate the way society is structured; it seems there is no way out for black people, and this is my way to build a world I would like to live in. So my novels are just like music -- they give comfort to blacks and to others who are not part of the status quo," replied Astrid Roemer in an interview.

If you’re not Dutch you may not have heard of Afro-Dutch writer Astrid Roemer. But she is considered one of the best Surinamese-Dutch writers. Her main obessions are the mystery of being of woman and Suriname. Just recently she endend a fifteen year self-imposed retreat from publicity, but as the classic goes, 'don't call it comeback, she is been here for years'.

Roemer was born in Paramaribo, Surinam, in 1947 and emigrated to the Netherlands in 1966, where she made her debut as a poet in 1970. She now has a considerable oeuvre to her name, including poetry Noordzeeblues (North Sea Blues, 1985), a play Dichter bij mij schreeuw ik, (Closer to Me I Shout, 1991), a novella Levenslang gedicht (Lifelong Poem, 1987) and several novels. Her two latest novels, Gewaagd leven (Daring Life, 1995) and Lijken op liefde (Looks Like Love, 1997), were greeted with universal enthusiasm by the Dutch press.

The German translation of Lijken op liefde (1997), the second novel in a trilogy, was awarded the LiBeratur Prize

Her work is translated in German and English, see more information here.

In 2008 the group 'Flower To The People' turned some her poems into music, one of her poems ' Omhels mij (Embrace me) is performed in the video below.

And to finish, the story Arnold. 

“Arnold . . . !”

By Astrid Roemer

She's wondering how to tell his children when an immense silence numbs her. It's as if her thoughts can no longer be captured in words, as if words are refusing service.

The briefcase sits in the hallway, in the exact same spot where it used to be left every day around 7 PM. She looks at it: the attaché case of a medical representative. She and the boys had been in fits of laughter when he turned up with the thing: leather, with copper finishing and a secret combination lock!

But forbearing and irresistibly charming as he could be, he had merely chuckled and taken them out for dinner that night.

During such nights of genuine togetherness, she felt her family life with him was like a chocolate cream she ought to savor very slowly indeed.

She's wondering whom she ought to tell first: his mother or his children … and whether there might be anyone in their circle of friends who could help her come to terms with all this? But again her thoughts grind to a halt because of this vast emptiness that crushes all her words.

Into this hole drops a still-fresh memory: the funeral of a former classmate in Groningen. She had taken the train on a Wednesday morning and he had booked her a room in a hotel close to the railway station. It would allow her to spend some more time with the family. And so she had; around one o'clock that night, her deceased friend's brother had driven her back to the hotel.

The sounds come back to her now: the creaking bed, the tap being turned on and off again, the running water … and indescribable sounds of intimacy.

She had tried not to listen, but what had taken place just above her had been too intrusive, and even though she had pulled the duvet well over her head, thoughts and feelings of physicality continued to haunt her.

So instead of feeling sad about a woman who had died too young and instead of reliving the pain of her surviving relatives, the smell of sorrow had been ousted by the sounds of carnality.

How she had longed for the strength of his thighs and the tenderness of his tongue there in that hotel room!

The following day, they had breakfast at a nearby table: a man and another man. They were dressed for the office and their gestures betrayed nothing of what had passed between them that night. To be absolutely certain, she had gone over to the reception desk to ask if there were any other guests. But the man's eyes had put her in her place, before he glanced at the two men and said defiantly: "It's quiet this time of year; we're happy to get the occasional visitors just for the night …!" Her eyes lowered she had unfolded the table napkin, and all choked up she had tried to make herself a sandwich. But nobody showed her any consideration. The two men shared the things for which the night had been too brief and she learned that one of them would travel back to his wife and children.