Utrecht inspires Mark Boog

We have been lucky enough to get an interview with Mark Boog. His new book “Café De Waarheid” is set in Utrecht and though not yet available to English speakers seems an incredibly imaginative view of a strange life in the city.

Mark Boog was born in Utrecht and is a poet and novelist. He won the C. Buddingh’ Prize in 2001 and the VSB Poetry Prize in 2006. His most recent novel is ‘Café De Waarheid’.

His most recent poetry book is ‘De rotonde’, a long poem about a man who plans to sell his soul at the crossroads. His work has been translated into many languages.

Tell us a bit about your book

Set in Utrecht, Café De Waarheid’ is an ode to the outsider, and to the city – in this case Utrecht. It tells the story of a man, Jim, who is forced to live on the street. The city becomes his home, and slowly he starts to get involved with people – something that has always been difficult for him. The city is Utrecht, but Utrecht in strange times, past, present and future at once. The Dom church collapses, as it did in 1674, futuristic technology controls everyday life in a society that is ruled by a dictator like leader, but the bars, shops, buildings and people are what they are today. In the end Jim and his fellow outsiders decide to stand up for themselves.

The description reminds me a lot of Camus, where you influenced by any writers?

Not on purpose, but I have read Camus, so it is possible. Other people mentioned Kafka, which is an association that I can understand too

It seems quite a dark novel, is it uplifting in any way or does it describe society as it is?

It describes a society from probably the near future that is indeed quite dark. The uplifting part, as in real life,  is in the people, at least some people, that live in it, in this case in the various outcasts and outsiders that populate the streets.

Will it be translated into English soon?

Not that I know of, but I hope so. That can take some time.

How did you get into writing?

By reading. As a child, I read as much as I could, so to me it was quite logical to start writing.

I kept on doing that, reading as well as writing, so nothing has changed, really.

Describe a perfect day in Utrecht?

That would be a sunny day, or the night that follows, when the shops are closed (which means that you can actually walk in the streets) but the bars are open.

Does Utrecht inspire you?

It does, but I’m not that much of an autobiographical writer, so this is the first time that it shows.

Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?

Probably the beginning, or end, it’s how you look at it, of the Nieuwegracht, near Pausdam. That is because it’s so beautiful, with the various bookshops, concert halls and bars of the city.

Any plans for a new book?

I just finished a poetry collection that will be published next year, and I am working on a new novel.

Will that be set in Utrecht?

No, mostly in Amsterdam (a few centuries ago)

Do you think that Utrecht becoming a UNESCO city of literature will inspire a new generation of writers?

I don’t think writers find inspiration in those kinds of official labels or titles. Maybe indirectly, if it means that the literary life in the city, that is already flourishing, is stimulated further, with money, events, venues, etc.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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