‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal


Since I went to Tunis two years ago, I became a fan of Arab-French literature again. This started as a student of French many years ago and got lost during the years… until I found the brilliant bookshop in Tunis, simply named Al Kitab. It has a diversified collection that reminds more or less the inspiration of Al Andalus: the time when cultures and religions lived next to each other and arts and science flourished. Al Kitab made me discover the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal. The first book I bought was Le serment des barbares (see a short note in this blog), and on my return to Tunis I found 2084 and Le village de l’Allemand in the shelves.
Boualem Sansal is a unique writer. When he wrote his first book Le serment des barbares, he was still working in a high position of Algerian industry. Boualem Sansal is an engineer and an economist. Since he started writing, he won many prices: many French ones, but also this German price. His books are not easy to read or light lecture. He is writing about the sharpest sides of humanity: the massive violence, cruelty, corruption, treason and dictatorship. Free thought and free speech are continuously in danger, as well as sincerity, trust and integrity. His books have a theme and an agenda. Boualem Sansal, although rather pessimist in his books, is a strong defender of enlightened mankind and for that he uses magnificent language skills.

Le serment des barbares (1999)
(The oath of the barbarians > only translated into Spanish?)
This was Boualem Sansal’s first book that brought him several prices. Boualem Sansal shows here the power and richness of his language skills in describing his country, Algeria, in decline. Thirty years after the independance of Algeria, the wounds of the fierce war they fought are still there. Factions of the army for freedom FLN, islamists and maffia-type politicians lead the country into a downward spiral of poverty and corruption while distrust shapes the day-to-day relations.
The leading story is about detective Larbi who starts the investigation of the murder of a poor guy, Abdallah. While doing so, step by step the actual way of life and the status of Rouiba, once the prosperous industrial suburb of Algiers, is revealed as if you walked there yourself. Le serment des barbares does not end well and that is a logical consequence of the story. When religious fanatism, anger, madness and greed reign, there is no hope.
Links you might want to read:
https://www.babelio.com/livres/Sansal-Le-serment-des-barbares/30900
https://www.lexpress.fr/culture/livre/le-serment-des-barbares_804680.html

Le village de l’Allemand, ou le journal des frères Schiller (2008)
In English: The German Mujahid
I found this a very good book, I could not stop reading. It is less descriptive than the other two and the plot is impressive. Malrich Schiller lives in a banlieu in France. His brother committed suicide six months earlier and left him a journal. The book develops over the gradual lecture of the journal. There is a lot to discover. Malrich finds out that his parents who lived in a village in the south of Algeria, were killed in one of the terrible raids of GIA islamists.
His father, a German, was a hero who fought with the FLN (freedom army) against the French for independance but was killed with all the others in their village. Then he finds out that his father was a former Nazi; his brother who had to clear the house of the parents, describes in the journal how he found multiple objects and memories of that period. Their father never destroyed them but hid them in a safe corner. This comes with so much guilt and also identity problems; who was my father? who am I? And it comes with resistance and anger as islamists are already active in the banlieu and are organised to take over. And with despair about the ever repeted cruelty and the mass killings: ‘My God, why have you created mankind like this? Who can save them?’ This book is the dark history of mankind made personal – and reverse.
Links you might want to read:
http://eveyeshe.canalblog.com/archives/2015/12/01/33008684.html
https://vmesny.wordpress.com/horizons/romans-contemporains/le-village-de-l’allemand-boualem-sansal/
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6570427-the-german-mujahid

2084 La fin du monde (2015)
In English: 2084 The End of the world
2084 is very descriptive. It tells about L’Abistan, a world that is stable and closed in itself. Religion is dominant in every aspect of daily life. To instaur the system, the past where this religion was not dominant has to be forgotten and free thought is seen as a major threat to the system. So there are many ways to check and control what people think and do. Every answer is given to the people. There is no reason for them to ask questions. However the book’s main character Ati got somehow ‘enlightened’ during a sick leave where he had time to think and to meet different people than usual. From that moment he is in constant danger.
I found the story of the book slow to go, too slow actually but I did continue reading because I wanted to know how it would end. Especially when Ati discovers a ghetto where life is more free, it becomes interesting. Step by step Ati finds out that l’Abistan is not the entire world as it pretends to be. And he does find his way out. I like books with a good ending and I did not persevere in vain, there is hope in the end.
https://la-plume-francophone.com/2015/11/02/boualem-sansal-2084/
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/10/2084-boualem-sansal-review-timely-tribute-george-orwell
https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/book-review-boualem-sansal-s-2084-the-bestselling-novel-where-isil-is-in-charge-1.90285

You might also like this blog about Albert Memmi: Portrait du décolonisé
Or this movie, playing in Algeria: Loin des hommes

Simone Veil: une vie

 

I found Simone Veil’s autobiography Une Vie while buying groceries in the Super-U. In France, culture and quality can be found everywhere, a characteristic that I adore in that country. It is a breathtaking book about a life that started in an ordinary, middle-class way and got heavily interrupted by the Second World War, went through the Nazi death camps and then on to government positions at the highest level of France and Europe. Compared to the intensity of that life, the book is short (343 pages Livre de Poche). There are many chapters where the reader would like to know more because her experiences are unique and give insights one rarely gets.
Simone Veil was a Holocaust survivor and she was also a major player in France’s after-war period. Une Vie tells a lot about the things she did, but her influence went much further than that because of who she was, a woman with clear principles that she followed in any function she would fulfill: ‘le sens de la justice, le respect de l’homme, la vigilance face à l’evolution de la société‘ (p. 262).
She says she liked politics but not the political game and indeed in her book the description of such games are rarely found. It is about the goals Simone Veil was going for and about what she achieved. The reader can only wonder how she did that. The same goes for all the positions she got – it seems to be just the natural flow of her life and it would be so interesting to learn more how she got there. The political part of Une Vie shows little relations or emotions; if I may criticize Une Vie, the only point by the way: this is not about living a (political) life, it is too factually descriptive for that (though very interesting).
Anyway I highly recommend this book that was translated in many languages; (just) some parts of the book that I found breathtaking:

* the description of the Holocaust, an inside story. ‘l’enfer‘ (p.53-89)

* the question whether governments should have stayed or left their countries during the Second World War. France hat the Vichy-régime that collaborated with the Nazis. Simone Veil always thought that was wrong, until she met Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands who told her how heavily her mother Queen Wilhelmina was criticized for leaving to Canada and thus ‘abandonning her people’. ‘aucun événement historique, aucun choix politique des gouvernants, surtout dans des périodes aussi troubles, n’entraîne des conséquences uniformément blanches ou noires‘. (p.46)

* the letters she got when she fought as Minister of Health for the first Law on Abortion in 1975. The verbal abuse was so terrible that her staff destroyed some letters. Simone Veil regrets that because these letters are witnesses of a history of reform and should have formed study material by now to remember that changes come with pain. ‘il faut rappeler aux esprits angéliques que les réformes de société s’effectuent toujours dans la douleur‘. (p.165)

* in the beginning of her European period she expected that in twenty years countries would go beyond their national frame. She found out that it doesn’t work like that and that everybody looks for their roots. Thus nowadays she compares the EU more to the aggregate of Russian matrushka puppets than a monolithic building. (p. 190)

* her ideas about human rights that she supported all her life; how militant activists rarely bring peace and rather increase human rights violations because their approach is too one-sided; that there are no universal human rights when it comes to business and other modus vivendi. ‘Au fond, ce sont toujours aux faibles que l’on fait la morale, tandis qu’on finit par blanchir les puissants‘. (p.194)

* Simone Veil concludes that she has become more and more a fighter for women’s rights because equal chances for women are not naturally based in laws or in the rules of the game. ‘Les chances, pour les femmes, procèdent trop du hasard‘. (p.258)

Links:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/30/simone-veil-funeral-paris-pantheon
http://www.theheroinecollective.com/simone-veil/
https://www.editions-stock.fr/livres/essais-documents/une-vie-9782234058170
https://www.trouw.nl/cultuur/simone-veil-succesvol-omdat-ze-een-vrouw-is~abb3e42e/

Other blogs you might like:
Mikve Israel-Immanuel synagogue: religious pearl in orange-loving Willemstad
‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal
Perceptions of power

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

  Today, November 12 2017, the well-known presentator Leila Prnjavorac read one of the great Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls in a gigantic bed in the Public Library of Amsterdam. It was a great act to observe, especially at the moment that all the children imitate the ‘camouflage’ that Queen Nanny (1686 – 1733) taught the Marrons at Jamaica to protect themselves from the English ennemy. See and enjoy the youtube I produced about that particular story (in Dutch, click on the image):

The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has now been translated for Dutch children under the title Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes. The stories of 100 special women are described in a nice, easy-to-go way in combination with beautiful and colorful images.
Is it possible to be inspiring and practical on a simple page? Yes it is.
For example the book describes the story of an Irish girl who wanted to be a sailor and a pirate. When her father told her that her long read hair would get stuck in the ropes of the sails, she just cut her hair off, leaving her father no other choice than to take her onto the ship. Girls learn that there are solutions to problems they might face and that they can take action all by themselves. And they see what can be achieved. The Irish girl ended up being personal friends with the Queen of England she initially fought against. It is a joy to read the different stories of the book, with women from all over the world, from many cultures.
No shortcomings in this book then? Yes, but just one. The choice was made to describe also the stories of women still alive. That always comes with the risk that they might still do less heroic things after the story was written. For example Myanmarese Aung San Suu Kyi is in the book as a Nobel Price winning political hero. However at this very moment her Nobel Price is heavily discussed due to her negative role in the immense drama of ethnic cleansing of the Rohinya in Myanmar – not exactly the good night story one would choose for one’s kid to tell…
However, this is a minor shortcoming that still leaves 99/100 inspiring stories in the book. Therefor I warmly recommend it for all rebel girls >>> and their mothers!

Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes
Geschreven door Elena Favilli en Francesca Cavallo
Uitgegeven 2017 door Rose Stories

Another blog you might like: Puteaux: a French world in pink and blue
Or this one: Left Handers Day and high giftedness

Investeer in jouw inclusief leiderschap!

 

Inclusief leiderschap is hard nodig in deze tijd. Niet jouw intenties die ongetwijfeld goed zijn, gaan het verschil maken voor inclusiviteit maar je deskundigheid en je vaardigheden. Investeer daarin!

Een vreemd verschijnsel in de organisatiewereld van diversiteit en inclusie is de wijdverbreide aanname dat het wel goed komt als je maar van goede wil bent. Geen enkele organisatie zou zijn financiële huishouding overlaten aan de goede wil van medewerkers alleen – er zouden meteen zorgen opkomen over de juistheid, de volledigheid, de rechtmatigheid van de financiële acties. Ook voor de juridische afdeling, de ontwerpers of de onderwijzers wordt het volkomen normaal geacht, zelfs een harde beroepseis, dat deze medewerkers een opleiding en/of ervaring in hun vakgebied hebben, vaak in combinatie met bij- en nascholingen.
Helaas komt het bij diversiteit & inclusie regelmatig voor dat dergelijke eisen niet gesteld worden. Er zijn benoemingen van diversity managers puur gebaseerd op de betreffende medewerker’s interesse voor het onderwerp; echt, dat is geen uitzondering. Blijkbaar wordt zoiets niet ingeschat als een risico voor de organisatie, en de keerzijde van die gedachte is dan ook dat het goed inzetten van diversiteit & inclusie niet kritisch is voor het succes van de organisatie. Toch is dat wel zo…
Deze blog is te beperkt voor het noemen van allerlei voorbeelden die dat aantonen. Mijn boek Voorbij het Verschil geeft er wel veel. Je kunt dat boek kopen en wellicht spreekt het je zo aan dat je mee wvoorbij het verschil coverilt doen met de masterclass Inclusief Leiderschap die Seba regelmatig geeft. In deze masterclass lopen we de hoofdthema’s van inclusief leiderschap door en is er veel ruimte om – vertrouwelijk – de casuïstiek van de deelnemers te bespreken. Daarom is de groep niet groot; bij veel aanmeldingen wordt niet de groep uitgebreid maar een extra datum gepland zodat de persoonlijke aandacht maximaal blijft.
De ambitie is om van diversiteit & inclusie het vak te maken dat het daadwerkelijk is; daardoor neemt de effectiviteit van interventies aanzienlijk toe! Zo creëren we organisaties waarin medewerkers van alle soorten en maten kunnen en willen werken; organisaties die het effect sorteren waar onze maatschappij blij van wordt…

Andere blogs over dit thema:
Palmpasen in Jordanië – daar waar je invloed hebt…
Diversiteit in Marokko en Tunesië
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi

Travels with Herodotus

Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski is an amazing book that was given to me as a second hand book by a friend already years ago. It ended up at a pile and stayed there for years. However since I travel a lot for my work in the Middle East these days, I am reading book by book through that pile while waiting at airports or flying in airplanes.
Travels with Herodotus is one of those books that I should have read earlier and that I couldn’t let go once I started reading. It is not a new book (published in Dutch in 2005 already) but who cares, nor is Herodotus who lived in the 5th century BC.
Kapuscinki proves that Herodotus has not lost any of his actuality in 2500 years for 2 main reasons:

1. He is the first known author to check and double check his stories, indicating for his readers how (im)probable the history he offers would be; that is tremendously interesting. His way of operating is amazing, checking stories in the 5th century BC cost him years but that didn’t stop him at all. He must have felt that he was not just writing for his contemporaries but for the entire humanity. So as readers in the 21st century we can follow pretty accurately the games of power of the ancient world.

2. Herodotus shows with facts the extreme cruelty of the rulers of his time – and of their advisers, family and the like. They make you think of some 20th century dictators; indeed not mankind has changed but the possibilities individuals get to apply their cruelty in daily reality. Herodotus describes the cities of Athens and Sparta as cities with a democracy where power was limited or should we say: diffuse, divided; no one was able to rule through fear and cruelty to the extent that it was found among Persians, Assyrians, Parths and many other people where the power was in the hands of one person or family. Somehow it is the system that allows humans to be cruel – or stops them. In the light of today’s debate about the value of democracy, these are intriguing thoughts.
The division of power leads to endless discussions, even on the battle field where the Greek leaders fight although the Persians are near. It is fun to read for those who have experience with democracy; nothing changed in the ‘way it is done’. And the surprise is that small Greek states without apparent unity win the war over well organized Persians who outnumber them and do not loose time in discussions about strategy. The book proves that it would have changed the course of history in Europe, had the Persians won the war. It is an encouragement to proceed on the way of checks and balances in the institution and execution of power!

Travels with Herodotus is not just about Herodotus, it is also about the author Ryszard Kapuscinski himself. He interwaves his personal story as travel journalist with Herodotus’ book Histories in an interesting and also meaningful way. I think Kapuscinski saw this book as his personal life story. On his first foreign trip that he undertook while he had always lived in closed communist Poland, Herodotus’ book accompanied him and did so on many other journeys that followed. It was not just a source of inspiration but also a method and a continuous challenge for reflection. Kapuscinski shares a lifetime outcome of that with his readers; this book has a depth that is rarely seen. It is a gift for humanity: buy it, in a second hand bookshop if no longer available, who cares.

Travels with Herodotus is a must-read for anybody who is interested in:
– (the development of) democracy versus dictatorship
– Asian and European ancient history
– travel journalism, both content/stories and methodology
– philosophy, politics, culture and anthropology.

Useful links:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jun/30/featuresreviews.guardianreview6
http://www.geschiedenis.nl/nieuws/artikel/912/reizen-met-herodotos (in Dutch)

Other blogs about books you might want to read:
‘Why are people like this?’ Boualem Sansal
Simone Veil: une vie
Dead Aid in Malawi

 

Hôtel Saint-Georges: I understood…


There is a very good bookshop just outside the kashba of Tunis where I found a pearl of Algerian-French literature: Hôtel Saint-Georges by Rachid Boudjedra. There were hundreds of books in that store so what made me choose this one? (by the way maybe they were all very good). Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t let go. It is very easy to understand the many different characters, the reader will love them all and wants to read their perspective on the life they live. This desire is largely rewarded by the author.
Also Hôtel Saint-Georges gave me new insights about Algerian family relations, for example I didn’t know that it is the role of the uncle from mothers side to be tender and show love (while the uncle from fathers side only gives ‘the name’). Boudjedra pictures Algerian family dynamics in such a way that you as a reader can feel like a family member. It also gives more insights in how the cultural notion of ‘collectivism’ works. Usually when people in the West discuss collectivism that exists in countries like the Maghreb, as opposed to individualism, they think a person can not be an individual due to the family relations. Boudjedra shows that within these collectivist families, family members have strong individual lifes and characteristics. The problem as pictured in this book is rather the impossibility within a collectivist structure to discuss what goes wrong and to ‘correct’ actions of individual family members, even heavy ones that really damage others. It is intriguing to read how the FLN (an army structure to oppose the colonial regime) is used to kill a family member who had an incestuous relationship rather than confronting him and seek justice in the system. The secret remains, the punishment is sought in different ways.
A very important aspect of Hôtel Saint-Georges is Boudjedra’s choice to see actual, cruel developments as an element of history: Algerian history since the independence in 1962, French history of colonialism 1830-1962 but also ancient history, medieval history. The 90+ year old family patriarch, Sidi Mohammed, who traveled a lot and speaks many languages, gives his conclusions of a lifetime: ‘J’ai compris aussi que la barbarie est le véritable patrimoine commun de l’Humanité. J’avais fini par comprendre que le propre de l’homme, c’est la cruauté’. (‘I have understood that barbarity is the real common heritage of humanity. I have finally understood that the characteristic of mankind is cruelty‘). From this point of view, it is not an optimistic book.
And there is something else to say about this approach. In the French literature of the Maghreb, some authors long for the colonial period of the French who introduced many good things that the countries still profit from today. Faced with the actual problems of incompetence and corruption on the one side and violence and radical Islam on the other side, authors like Boualem Sansal (le Serment des Barbares) give up hope for Arab leadership and think that the French offered more. Boudjedra shows how cruel the French regime has been in Algeria; even though that did not improve after the Algerian independence, that does not mean that he feels nostalgia for the French colonial times in Algeria, on the contrary: he is rather inclined to conclude that cruelty and barbarity is part of human history, in whatever shape or nationality.
Even though it is not a happy book, it is a very beautiful book in language, in themes, in richness – it is a book that gives you a lot of food for thought. Highly recommended!

I could not find a translation of this book. Also the links I recommend are in French only:
http://www.babelmed.net/
http://www.djazairess.com/fr/infosoir/61703
http://www.lorientlitteraire.com/

Find here a recent blog about Boualem Sansal, Le serment des barbares, other books and his work as a whole
Find here a blog about Portrait du Décolonisé d’Albert Memmi
And about a great movie, filmed in Algeria, Loin des hommes

 

Portrait du décolonisé


In 2004, 1 year before the terrible riots in the French banlieues and 7 years before the Arab spring occurred, the Jewist-Arab-French-Tunisian writer Albert Memmi writes a stunning picture about decolonized countries and the decolonized citizens, both local and emigrated, in his book Portrait du décolonisé.
Memmi describes on a factual basis the disastrous situation of many decolonized countries: the poverty, the corruption, the oppression and how these factors interlink and prevent the decolonized countries to develop and prosper. It is a sad picture that, however, can be recognized by many who worked and traveled in decolonized regions.
In 2004, the Portrait du décolonisé was not well received in France. It was criticized because Memmi wonders why the 100.000’s of deaths in several African conflicts get a lot less attention than the 3000 deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was accused of ‘Zionistic’ views, which would de-qualify the other 96% of his book – it must have shocked a free-thinking intellectual like Memmi who is pleading so warmly for universal values for all to live in freedom and prosperity. And the book was criticized because his portrait of the 2nd generation emigrants is one-sidedly unfavourable. He describes the migrants children that feel lost and end up in (self)destructive ideas and behaviours. It is true that the successful youth, committed to a prosperous society for all, is absent in his book – though very much existent in reality. Nevertheless what he describes has predicted many of the problems we face today in extreme forms.
His book was not translated into other languages – as far as I know – although his earlier book Portrait du colonisé was recognized by many and translated in 20 languages. Portrait du décolonisé could have supported many who wonder what happened, in the 2005 riots in the Paris banlieus, in the 2011 Arab spring, in this decade of (self)destructive terrorism.
I was speechless and breathless when I read his book, and sorry not to have discovered it earlier. Not only is it written in the beautifull, rich and touching French that Memmi masters more than hardly any other writer. He also answers many questions that arose after 2011, but he wrote this already in 2004. His language is never politically correct; he talks in clear words on every single page about the facts as he sees them. However he is never rude, never insulting people like others do who want to breach the politically correct discourse. He proves himself (again) an intellectual who dares to stand up for values and ideas, regardless the consequences.
It is difficult to understand why the world overlooked this precious contribution in a era where the need for insight in the ex-colonial world is predominant. Does this world only read the works that are either extreme or un-controversial? Does this world reject views that are confrontational just by their factional description? If you read in French, read this book. The language is superbe and it will both inform and surprise you – even if you are already knowledgeable in this matter.

Some valuable links about Portrait du décolonisé:

http://arrow.dit.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=jofis

http://regardscroises.blog.tdg.ch/archive/2011/02/13/portrait-du-decolonise-albert-memmi-a-lire-de-toute-urgence.html

http://journal.alternatives.ca/spip.php?article1945

Other blogs on this site about Arab-French writers:
http://grethevangeffen.nl/2018/09/29/boualem-sansal/
http://grethevangeffen.nl/2017/05/01/hotel-saint-georges/

Other blog that might interest you: Dead Aid in Malawi

Ik kan vliegen: wow!

ik kan vliegen
Met vliegen heb ik niets, maar ik heb wel iets met Jeroen Komen. Dus toen ik zijn nieuwe boek Ik kan vliegen kreeg, met een mooie persoonlijke opdracht voorin geschreven, ging ik het lezen vanwege die persoonlijke band hoewel – ik geef het eerlijk toe – ik dacht dat ik er niet veel aan zou vinden. Nou, dat kan ik meteen rechtzetten: het is een spectaculair goed boek. Ik heb het van a tot z gelezen en dat was alleen maar een genoegen.
Daar heb ik een tijdje over nagedacht: wat maakt dit nou zo’n goed boek voor mij? Dat zijn verschillende elementen. Jeroen heeft er bijvoorbeeld een erg persoonlijk boek van gemaakt. Het is een boek over levenslessen in de brede zin des woords; allerlei aspecten van het leven passeren de revue. Jeroen neemt ons mee op de verkenningstocht van zijn eigen ontdekkingen, zijn twijfels en zijn doorzettingsvermogen. De schrijfstijl, mooi en zonder opsmuk, werkt daar versterkend bij. Dat op de eerste plaats maakt dat ik het ademloos gelezen heb. Andere kwaliteiten van het boek zijn de afwisseling: als vlieger komt Jeroen op allerlei plaatsen (lees: culturen, mijn grote hobby) wat superinteressant is en zeker een bron van goede anecdotes. En dan zijn er natuurlijk de prachtige foto’s die hij zelf vanuit zijn vliegtuig gemaakt heeft. Het meest intrigerend vond ik die op pagina 68-69 (koop het boek en kijk zelf) om de simpele reden dat ik me tot in mijn slaap afvroeg of het hier nu een openbaar zwembad betreft of niet.
Veel boeken hebben zeker kwaliteit maar die zit vaak in deelaspecten en is niet consistent. Ik kan vliegen is van begin tot einde ‘af’. Ik hoop dat Jeroen of de uitgever eraan gedacht heeft dit naar de Koninklijke Bibliotheek te sturen want een plaats binnen het nationale erfgoed is verdiend. Warm aanbevolen!

Andere blogs over boeken die je wellicht interessant vindt:
Angela Riddering publishes book about trust
Investeer in jouw inclusief leiderschap
Dutch entrepreneurs then and now

Workshop Fast Reading in a bookshop

 

workshop fast reading

Tonight I followed a workshop Fast Reading in a bookshop: De Nieuwe Boekhandel in Amsterdam Bos en Lommer. This bookshop is a great place, run by the inspiring owner Monique who has given a new meaning to the concept of a bookshop.
Her bookshop, and the name nieuw/new is deliberate, is a place to meet. Book presentations, workshops, even your birthday party could take place in that shop. When my Diversity Shop edits new things, like we did this month with De karavaan en de kamelen: teams op het spoor (see also the YouTube about this product) we always have a presentation and a drink in De Nieuwe Boekhandel.

I love Monique’s concept, it is vibrant and it has a great effect on the neighbourhood Bos en Lommer that can really do with some good entrepreneurs like Monique who invest in activities and relationships. What I like too is that De Nieuwe Boekhandel sells BoLo products, products that give Bos en Lommer an identity. Look in the left shelve of the picture and you see some of them.CIMG4212k
Brandnew was the grey BoLo sweather so I bought one immediately. I wanted to show this sweater to you but first my Kater Aak sat on it (he liked it too) >>>
After a while. he let go and I could make a better picture showing the Amsterdam touch 🙂
CIMG4215k

Read also these blogs:
Creating your dream: Efteling
Vlinerado: creating your dream (2)

Mensa member Angela Riddering publishes book about trust

presentatie veldgids vertrouwen  Angela Riddering publishes book
Wednesday 20th March, Mensa member Angela Riddering presented the new book she wrote ‘Veldgids vertrouwen’. You can find the book here: http://veldgidsvertrouwen.nl/
We know Angela as a creative person. So the book presentation was in some misty place called Worm in Rotterdam, where the toilets were made out of plastic and the floor consisted of former Dutch Fortis Bank desktops. As a person from Amsterdam, I do not think I will ever understand the people in Rotterdam but I can admire them, though 🙂
Angela is one of those multi-talented people, she celebrated the presentation with a performance of her band playing the themes of her book in music. Music, the book, also her Mensa activities are just hobbies as she has a serious job in local government – or maybe the job should be considered as her hobby…
The book is very nice, it is designed in an original way and the structure is a real ‘field guide’ (veldgids): the different parts of the book can be read all by themselves but there is an overall idea and structure. After reading this book, you won’t say any more one-sided things like ‘trust is good, control is better’. Both trust and control get their place in management and governance styles in this book, and style choices can be made by the reader following the lines Angela and her co-writer Frans de Jong draw.
Thanks Angela, for another nice meeting and for offering a good new book to the world!

Other books you may like:
Ik kan vliegen
My new book about diversity at work
Good night stories for rebel girls

Dutch entrepreneurs then and now

vno-ncw investeren in vrouwen loont 008 Today a new book about Dutch entrepreneurs was presented at the headquarters of Dutch employers, the Malietoren in the Hague. It was a pleasant venue, as you can see in the picture. A big text shows that investing in women gives a real good ROI (return on investment). I know that plans for this action were discussed during the trade mission to Turkey last November (see my other blogs http://grethevangeffen.nl/?m=201211) so it was great to see the outcome!
However, the presentation was only about male entrepreneurs in the period 1850 – 1950 in Holland (the west of the Netherlands); great entrepreneurs that made our country to what it is now. Most entrepreneurs combined their business with social involvement. The chair of VNO-NCW, Bernard Wientjes, explained that this has always been usual in Dutch business. The last 30 years brought an approach too uniquely focused on shareholder value, but we are regrouping from the problems that brought and heading toward sustainable solutions.
The Van Oord family explained how they run their marine ingenuity business (see http://www.vanoord.com/) as an entire family business: that was so interesting. Family business means that long term vision is included in every step the business takes. We got a story here how a small business starting with a single entrepreneur can be developped into something worldwide and top of the bill by a large number of 3rd, 4th and 5th generation members. I loved it!
Present were not so much people like me who have a 1st generation business; most of them were 2nd and 3rd generation, but there was also a 5th generation guy present 🙂 It is a great advantage that so many entrepreneurs paved the path, and we can learn from them and be inspired: thanks for that! Please find the book (series) at http://www.walburgpers.nl/site/content.php?hfst_id=127&hfst_id_parent=7&PHPSESSID=f843f8a4351b6186fbb5..

Read here about:
Preparing for trade mission to Turkey
Trade mission to Turkey (1): to do or not to do?
Trade mission to Turkey (2): matchmaking
Trade mission to Turkey (3): women entrepreneurship
Trade mission to Turkey (4): Turkish businessmen about the Dutch

Dead Aid in Malawi

dead aid  Dambisa Moyo is an economist, born in Zambia, and the author of the New York Times Bestseller “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa”. In the past fifty years, she writes, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse. Dead Aid offers proposals for developing countries to finance development, instead of relying on foreign aid. If you don’t know about her ideas yet, find more at www.dambisamoyo.com.

Walking around in Malawi, that is among the 5 poorest countries in the world and relies for more than 50% of the national budget on external donors, her book becomes a living truth. The police here is paid by the English, treatment against aids for over 300.000 people is paid by the Italians. On every corner a charity can be found but there appears to be no economy. Moreover, the harvest has failed in large parts of the country so that hunger is expected the coming months for over a million people here. I have never been in a country that was more desperately seeking for aid, and that donors feel compelled to give aid to. The words of Dambisa Moyo that aid is an addiction, both for donors and for receivers, can be seen in practice here.

Many workers ‘in the field’ realize that aid, after fifty (!) years of aid already, is not the right answer for the problems of Malawi. A totally different approach is necessary, but they are squeezed between the two groups of aid-addicts:
1. The donors on the one side who want to answer to immediate needs of the Malawi people in the same way they always did, and who in many cases pay their salaries and the means they work with;
2. The Malawi people on the other side for whom it has become completely normal to rely on external sources and to ask for more, as much as possible, and who knock directly on their door.

However, things are going to change. The publication of Dead Aid a few years ago was a first sign. The economic crisis in the West, that brings new ways of thinking not just about the western world itself but also about ‘the way things are done’ in relation to the rest of the world, is a second sign. And for everybody who is travelling in Malawi, subtile notions are there that the acceptance of whites will not be so big any more in the years to come – like it happened in other southern African countries already; that is a third sign.

The situation in Malawi is absolutely an example of Dead Aid; may it also become an example of the solutions that Dambisa Moyo has proposed in her book, at a short term notice…

Other blogs about this theme:
Aid for orphans in Malawi
Millennium village
Pigs, kids and why it works in Malawi
Self help Africa