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Writer-in-Residence (1 September 1999 - 30 June 2000)
During my stay at NIAS I worked on a biography of the Dutch columnist and writer Renate Rubinstein (1929 - 1990) - as planned, but in a somewhat different way than planned. I initially intended to concentrate entirely on the writing of the manuscript, in the belief I had done all the necessary research. But after some steady writing it started to dawn on me I knew a lot about Renate Rubinstein herself, but very little about the man she considered to be the measure of all things in her life: her father, a Jewish textile merchant from Berlin who was arrested during the German occupation of the Netherlands and killed in Auschwitz. He lived on in the memory of his daughter, who was ten years old by the time of his arrest, and there's no doubt these memories helped to shape her thought and her work. But how trustworthy were these memories? To what extent had they been fictionalised? It became clear to me that Renate's knowledge of her father's life and death in fact was very, very limited. But so was mine.
In other words, I had to get back ad fontes. For the rest of my NIAS year I went back and forth between writing and research, between the Institute in Wassenaar and archives in The Hague, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf and Berlin. Which means, at the end of the year, that the biography is far from finished, but that I have made much more in-depth progress than I expected.
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