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Holland Park Press

Arnold Jansen op de Haar

Quote from the former Commander of the Dutch Armed ForcesArnold Jansen op de Haar

Arnold was born in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, in 1962. When growing up he was certain that one day he would be Prime Minister.

After hearing a lot of exciting stories about what happened during the Dutch occupation in the Second World War and especially, as he claims, after seeing the acclaimed film about the Dutch Resistance: Soldier of Orange, he decided that it was his duty to serve his country in quite a different way.

He passed his entrance test to the Dutch Military Academy and graduated with flying colours. Upon graduating he joined the Grenadier Guards infantry regiment. He earned his wings, becoming the proud owner of the red beret which he remains until this day.

Soon after graduating he realised that the intellectual challenge was missing from his life and he began to study English on a part time basis, during the evenings. He successfully completed his first year.

Around this time he began to find his own voice and to write poems.

However a war interrupted his progress. As a Captain he was commanding officer of the unit that secured Tuzla Airbase in Bosnia for incoming UN aid in 1994, one year before the overthrow of the enclave Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia.

After surviving this war, in 1995 he decided it was the right moment to begin writing full time. He was delighted when in 1996 Martin Ros gave him his first break and published one of his poems in the renowned Dutch literary magazine Maatstaf.

In 1999 his debut novel De koning van Tuzla was published by De Arbeiderspers. To great acclaim Arnold appeared on radio and television.

He followed this in 2002 with his poetry collection Soldatenlaarzen published by JM Meulenhoff.
In 2004 he wrote a non-fiction work entitled Van Jan Cremer tot Herman Koch; een literaire wandeling door Arnhem (a Literary Walk through Arnhem, only available in Dutch) published by Bibliotheek Arnhem (municipal Library of Arnhem).
Among many other interesting items, this brought to the attention the little known fact that Sir Philip Sidney writer of The Defence of Poetry actually died in Arnhem. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this book please contact us.

In 2006 together with the award winning thriller writer Jac Toes, he published De twaalfde man first published as a daily serialisation during the Football World Cup 2006 and published in book form by De Geus, also in 2006.

Arnold’s poems have appeared in many publications including Maatstaf, Zoetermeer, Nieuw Wereld Tijdschrift, Roodkoper en Passionate.
In 2006 Arnold was one of the co-founders of the Arnhems Lezersbal (Arnhem Readers Gala) held on the eve of the Dutch National Book Week.
Arnold is also a successful columnist and wrote a column about television for De Gelderlander entitled Wide Screen from 1999 to 2003. From 2003 to September 2009 he wrote a unique weekly column, The Boy from Arnhem, about his own life, for the same newspaper.
On the momentous day of 11 September 2009 it was the tenth anniversary of his debut as a columnist and the popularity of his columns has made him a local celebrity.

Holland Park Press is very pleased that this influential columnist now comments on worldwide events in his ground breaking column in our magazine. This column is published in English and Dutch.

Arnold has been a very popular teacher of creative writing courses for quite a few years and currently runs an one-to-one online master class for Holland Park Press.

We are pleased to make available once again Soldatenlaarzen, now renamed Joegoslavisch requiem, to our Dutch readers and for the first time in English as Yugoslav Requiem, translated by the acclaimed Paul Vincent.

We have also re-published De koning van Tuzla in Dutch in October 2009 and in its English translation as King of Tuzla in July 2010.

Finally we are pleased to have published the long awaited sequel, Engel, in December 2009 for our Dutch readers. This novel was translated into English by Bernadette Jansen op de Haar and published under the title Angel in 2011.

Arnold is now working on a new poetry collection with as working title: Mercilessly Loving and five of his new Dutch poems have appeared in the 2nd 2013 issue of poetry magazine Het Liegend Konijn.

In 2013 Arnold ran two workshops at Around the World in Eighty Book in Winchester, he organised, presented and read at Holland Park Press literary party in the just opened Rozet in Arnhem, featuring Karen Jennings, and starred at the Holland Park Press Christmas party.

In 2012 Arnold recited a few of his poem at the Manchester Independent Book Market on 8 June. On Wednesday 25 July he appeared at the Poetry Cafe to talk about who inprires him when writing poetry. He also opened the Holland Park Press Christmas party at the Poetyry Cafe on 19 December.

During 2011 Arnold appeared at the launch of his novel Angel at Paddington Library, London.
During 2010 Arnold appeared at the Poetry Cafe, the Royal Festival Hall and the National Galleries of Scotland.

A complete list of Arnold’s appearances is available on the Dutch version of this page.
Finally if you want to join Arnold in discussion please join our forum.

Former Commander of the Dutch Armed Forces Peter van Uhm

I got to know Arnold as a commander who was fully trusted and supported by his men. He was also held in high esteem by his bosses and colleagues. You take all your experiences with you, you can’t pick and choose.

Understanding and empathy were very important to Arnold. This is reflected in his literary work. The sometimes extreme experiences from his military career do influence his writing but even so he writes for a broad audience.

He puts his heart in his work. I am pleased to see that, now his work is being translated into English, he is going to reach an even wider public. I wish him every success with this new venture.


16 October 2012
Has Ian McEwan written his best novel?
I’ll make no bones about it, Sweet Tooth is probably Ian McEwan’s best book. It’s about espionage but that’s not really what it’s all about. It deals with the writer’s integrity.

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05 March 2012
Writing: a Passion or a Job?

Seventeen years ago I made a decision, from that moment onwards I would be a full-time writer.  I hadn’t published anything yet. A year later my first poems appeared in literary magazines, followed by my first novel four years later. Did I become more of a writer because my work started selling?

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06 October 2011
Is Hella Haasse the Greatest Dutch Author?

On 29 September Hella Haasse, born in Batavia, the Dutch Indies, on 2 February 1918, died. She was a wonderful author, this cannot be denied. But labelling someone the greatest is a personal judgement, something she wholeheartedly agreed with.

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28 July 2011

Notes on Writing a Poem (1)

Poems play with words but must also have something to say. A poem isn’t just a language exercise. That’s why I think Ted Hughes’ best work is Birthday Letters, about his relationship with Sylvia Plath. I am also an admirer of Philip Larkin and the Dutch poet Gerrit Kouwenaar.

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18 May 2011
Literature and Reality
Last week I read a short story Welkom thuis (Welcome Home) by well known Dutch writer Arnon Grunberg in the Dutch newspaper NRC/Handelsblad. The two main characters in his story are respectively a writer/creative writing teacher and an army officer. Heavens, they neatly sum up my current and previous lives, I realised with a jolt of surprise. Moreover it turned out to be set in my home town Arnhem!

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21 April 2011

Contrasting Voices

Recently I instructed my creative writing students to find a novel with a number of contrasting voices. This turned out to be quite difficult.

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13 January 2011
Tear up this Letter!
Is there a difference between Dutch and English literature? I think so. Generally speaking English poetry seems more accessible compared to Dutch poetry which is often more experimental. Also prose is markedly different.

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04 December 2010
The Making of A Poet's Life
Since we have added a short video about my work and life to this web site, I am getting a lot of enthusiastic feedback but I am also asked a few questions, for example: why am I happy to admit a camera but don’t like visitors? People who really know me are not surprised. It is the same distinction as that between a novel and real life.

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18 November 2010
Are you working on something new?
I get often asked this question: Are you working on something new? They are really asking me if I am working on a new book. Often I simply answer: no. This isn’t quite true.

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14 September 2010
A crash course in writing opening lines  
Recently I taught a workshop on writing opening lines. I confronted participants with opening lines from well known writers. Such as this one, from Changing Places by David Lodge which I admire:

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01 September 2010
Do you know the Writer?
Occasionally I get this comment: ‘I have the feeling that I know you inside out.’ I receive this feedback out of the blue when walking down the street, inside a supermarket or by email. It is mostly women who tell me this, often followed by a second sentence: ‘Through reading your columns.’

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06 August 2010
Summer Writing
It must have been about fifteen years ago – it was a year after I left the army to make writing my full time vocation – when I decided to relocate for two weeks to a small cottage in Fontenoy-le-Château in the French Vosges. The cottage was advertised in a national newspaper and recommended for its peaceful surroundings.

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29 July 2010
The Birds – The Sequel
This morning a bird flew into my sitting room. When I come in close contact with small animals I often associate this with my late father saying hello. Many people recognise this feeling. After all why does this small animal single you out?

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07 July 2010
Justice for Srebrenica
On Tuesday 6 July a few relatives of the victims of the fall of the Srebrenica enclave lodged an official complaint against Thom Karremans, the commander of Dutchbat-3, another officer and an NCO.

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01 July 2010
The Birth of a Writer
In 1996 it was a year since I had left the army. Following a very busy job as a Dutch army officer I now found myself stuck quite alone in a flat. I was thrown back to my very own devices and I began to write my novel, De koning van Tuzla, only that was not the title at the time.

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23 June 2010
Srebrenica, 15 years on
11 July is the fifteenth remembrance of the fall of the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica. The Dutch  defence magazine The NCO had rightly planned to remember this with a special issue of the magazine. However the Ministry of Defence has blocked this because writing about Srebrenica is ‘detrimental to the army’, it was reported on Dutch TV by Network on 22nd of June. ‘During this period of forming a new coalition and implementing cut backs, defence is keen to promote positive news stories,’ according to a spokesman.

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17 June 2010
Is the Internet a Blessing?
On the website of one of the Dutch quality newspapers NRC Handelsblad, Marc Leijendekker pointed out an article from The New York Times.  ‘Staring at a computer screen for about 8.5 hours: that is how an average American spends his day. The New York Times has collated the results of a few studies to establish what this means for our way of thinking and the functioning of our brain.’

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02 June 2010
Child of Books
Through several circumstances, including the Second World War, my parents never enjoyed the education they had aimed for. But one of the things that my parents possessed in abundance were books. This appears to be a rather important fact according to the outcome of scientific research reported in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.

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20 May 2010

The Art of Translating

Translations of the bible give rise to endless linguistic debates. Just a single word can lead to a huge controversy. However what is happening with translations of contemporary literature?

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05 May 2010

How Dutch is Nick Clegg?

The leader of the Lib Dems has a Dutch mother. He speaks Dutch fluently. In fact I do not know of many Dutch people who speak English as well as Nick Clegg speaks Dutch. This means he gets a lot of goodwill in The Netherlands. Dutch people are rather chauvinistic, so they have adopted him, he is now more or less our ‘Nick Clegg’.

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07 April 2010
Teaching of Literature
I spent Easter with my family and my eldest nephew suddenly declared: ‘Poetry leaves me cold.’ Luckily his parents’ bookshelves contained a copy of my own poetry collection as well as the ‘Big Komrij’ (main Dutch poetry anthology). So I took the opportunity to read aloud my poem combat boots (soldatenlaarzen). ‘Actually it is about me,’ I whispered. As I was in full flow, I also recited Slauerhoff’s In The Netherlands (In Nederland). This poem very famously starts with these lines: ‘In the Netherlands, I do not want to dwell/ One’s desires are forever reigned in as well’.

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25 March 2010

A Return to Poetry

For the first time in fourteen years I am in what can be called a ‘proper’ job. No longer do I only take students at the Arnhem Creative Writing School under my wing but I also supervise beginning writers on the one to one course I run for Holland Park Press. I work with the publisher on building the company and scout for Dutch authors with work that has an affinity with the English language market. However, after a busy six months start-up period, things are progressing nicely and I have time again to work on my own writing. All of a sudden poetry appears centre stage.

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16 March 2010

Style or Content?

The Interbellum Generation instigated a ferocious discussion in Dutch literature about ‘form or fellow’. This expression is nowadays not political correct, we would prefer ‘form or human being’.  In case you are wondering about the issue at stake, the discussion concerns the adversary between the supporters of style and those concerned about content. This discussion has been rumbling on ever since, it is just the terminology that evolves: aesthetics versus street credit, purity of language versus engagement.

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17 February 2010
As far as writing is concerned, I am a morning as well as an evening person. I am at my most creative early in the morning and at the start of the evening. During the intermittent hours I need to think. I know of writers who complain about this tendency to postpone starting to write.
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19 February 2010

My Writing Ritual (2)

I work at an enormous table. On it are my computer, my desk light and a printer. I even eat and watch television seated at this table. So I must spend at least about twelve hours a day seated at this table, irrespective of whether I write or not. You could say that the table and I are in danger of becoming one being.

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08 January 2010
You can follow Arnold on Twitter
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11 December 2009
Sometimes real life provides the best stories.
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19 December 2009
Was I aware that a novel by Wanda Bommer had the same title Engel and was recently published by Nijgh & Van Ditmar?
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04 November 2009
I am due to appear at Arnhem City Hall.
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08 October 2009
Hear Arnold recite his poems on National Poetry Day.

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01 October 2009
At Nico Dijkshoorn wrote in his column about a wonderful website http:/ where you can listen to sound bites of Dutch dialects.
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25 September 2009
I am reporting from the office.
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