Activity: Talks and presentations › Talks and presentations in private or public companies
In 1994 the novel ‘Indische Duinen’ by Adriaan van Dis was published (English translations from 1996, 2004 and 2005 as ‘My Father’s War’). The main character tries to make sense of what happened before his birth during the military conflicts of the 1940s in the Dutch Indies/Indonesia and what made his family tick after his birth as postcolonial migrants in the Netherlands. This knowledge is important for his sense of self, for the position he has in his family and in the society in which he lives. He also creates a position for himself in relation to past, present and future by means of these strategies to give meaning to the past. The exercise is important for his sense of belonging. By means of an analysis of the book by van Dis I discuss how different generations relate to the past and how individual and collective memories are related to each other. Every generation forms a generation by means of the ways in which they deal with collective memories. We interpret our memories from the past and have the possibility to transmit these memories to a following generation. This transmission of memories of experiences and events is not neutral. We can have an opinion about them. This is also apparent in the novel. Our moral judgment can be the same as older generations or it can differ; or a little bit of both. Over time these judgments can also change. There is thereby a possibility in the present to have a different view upon the past and the future. This leads me to the question: which place have memories of the military conflicts of the 1940s in the Dutch Indies/Indonesia and the Netherlands in the present and the future of the characters in the novel? Since it is twenty years ago the novel ‘My Father’s War’ was published, we can also ask ourselves, what has happened in the meantime in society and in the public discussions over these issues. These are political questions which are interesting from a societal point of view. The moral political aspects, power relations and searches for alternative interpretations of what we know of this past, how we perceive of the present and the future are all highly topical in Dutch society today.
Invited speaker at a lecture on Verschillende generaties en het verleden in Indische Duinen van A. van Dis, for the journal ‘Indische Letteren’. Leiden University, the Netherlands.