I have a passion for cities, their irresistible unrest, the way they make you feel unsettled yet welcomed. I also have a passion for books. And, as we all know, the two go hand-in-hand. It's hard not to think of Prague when one mentions Milan Kundera. Just as it's difficult when one mentions the mystical Tangiers to not think of Paul Bowles and his expatriate life among the Moroccans. Since I was a young girl, authors and their books have made me long to visit the places and cultures they described. Not just to experience the stories and people they introduced me to, but to discover the parts, certainly more vast, they couldn't. And the secrets not published. Or, perhaps, not shared given the constraints of good storytelling. I mean, Gabriel García Márquez has given those who haven't been to Colombia an immense insight into Bogota, but wouldn’t his recommendation and thoughts on the city reveal surprise? So I decided, when I arrive in a new destination, I'll go to those I trust most, writers, even though, in some cases, perhaps I shouldn't—many are novelists, after all. The result, The City and the Writer, where readers will discover what I discover from our sometimes impish storytellers. Journey with me each month to a new city through the eyes of a new writer. This month I talk to Ramsey Nasr, the poet laureate of the Netherlands about Antwerp as he sees it.
Published Sep 22, 2010 Copyright 2010 Nathalie Handal