Johann Migchels
Epilogue
DOOR Fikry El Azzouzi
29-11-2010

It’s taking me some getting used to. Back alone with only a pen in hand. Slurping coffee to make my teeth that bit greyer. Cursing at copy and at work I’ve taken on that are delaying my novel. Someone once told me that a real writer is a plaintive writer. I should be pretty busy then.

Every now and then however, a writer can compliment something. Even if they do find it difficult. A writer’s vanity should always be preserved. Crossing Border is a remarkable festival. One with a high rock n’ roll standard. It’s also quite different to giving a reading in a small room and answering questions from 70-year-old ladies who’d like to adopt you more than anything else.

I’m still thinking about The Hague. The city of Couperus. Btw, I bought his collected works. He’ll have to wait his turn though. Forget what I once promised. There are heaps of other writers that I still have to read.

I’m also thinking about that axe that was wielded in the Netherlands. A mighty blow to behead the arts. The Netherlands has now become a poorer country. Those who so drastically cut into the arts, lose their riches. But hey, if little power-hungry bosses want to be in control and are really just lackeys to the nut jobs and the fascists, then you can expect something like that to happen. But enough of this moralising drivel.

Back to Crossing Border. Where Sam Cutler was the friendliest raconteur and Michael Madsen the introverted boozer. With a blonde lass always in tow. We gossiped a little about that. Was she his wife, a girlfriend, a colleague or a groupie?

A few days ago, I read that Michael Madsen fell over in a drunken stupor and ended up in hospital in Antwerp. A nice way for him to wrap things up in true rock n’ roll style.

BP Fallon was also a remarkable artist. A scrawny middle-aged man with a black bowler on. I met him in the lift and he immediately introduced himself as singer BP Fallon. I then introduced myself as writer Fikry El Azzouzi. He found my name difficult to remember and apologised in advance because he would forget it.

‘That’s no biggie, it happens often,” I said.
‘The best of luck,’ BP replied, walking bolt upright out of the lift.

BP Fallon. He’d make a good character in a novel. Or you could turn Crossing Border into an amazing piece of theatre. Make all the singers villains who abduct all the pretty and not-so-pretty girls. And all while under the watchful eye of a mysterious bowler hat, the ultimate mega-villain. Crying, Louis Behre runs to The Chronicles posse, who are superheroes, natch. He falls to his knees and asks us to free them all. Which, of course, we do. We think nothing of doing what is more or less a heroic deed. Or have I have gone too far again? Crossing Border is a festival that makes you dream and, for a writer, that’s the biggest compliment they can give.

Alle vertalingen van Johann Migchels
Epilogue
29-11-10

It’s taking me some getting used to. Back alone with only a pen in hand. Slurping coffee to make my teeth that bit greyer. Cursing at copy and at work I’ve taken on that are delaying my novel. Someone once told me that a real writer is a plaintive writer. I should be pretty busy then.

Every now and then however, a writer can compliment something. Even if they do find it difficult. A writer’s vanity should always be preserved. Crossing Border is a remarkable festival. One with a high rock n’ roll standard. It’s also quite different to giving a reading in a small room and answering questions from 70-year-old ladies who’d like to adopt you more than anything else.

I’m still thinking about The Hague. The city of Couperus. Btw, I bought his collected works. He’ll have to wait his turn though. Forget what I once promised. There are heaps of other writers that I still have to read.

I’m also thinking about that axe that was wielded in the Netherlands. A mighty blow to behead the arts. The Netherlands has now become a poorer country. Those who so drastically cut into the arts, lose their riches. But hey, if little power-hungry bosses want to be in control and are really just lackeys to the nut jobs and the fascists, then you can expect something like that to happen. But enough of this moralising drivel.

Back to Crossing Border. Where Sam Cutler was the friendliest raconteur and Michael Madsen the introverted boozer. With a blonde lass always in tow. We gossiped a little about that. Was she his wife, a girlfriend, a colleague or a groupie?

A few days ago, I read that Michael Madsen fell over in a drunken stupor and ended up in hospital in Antwerp. A nice way for him to wrap things up in true rock n’ roll style.

BP Fallon was also a remarkable artist. A scrawny middle-aged man with a black bowler on. I met him in the lift and he immediately introduced himself as singer BP Fallon. I then introduced myself as writer Fikry El Azzouzi. He found my name difficult to remember and apologised in advance because he would forget it.

‘That’s no biggie, it happens often,” I said.
‘The best of luck,’ BP replied, walking bolt upright out of the lift.

BP Fallon. He’d make a good character in a novel. Or you could turn Crossing Border into an amazing piece of theatre. Make all the singers villains who abduct all the pretty and not-so-pretty girls. And all while under the watchful eye of a mysterious bowler hat, the ultimate mega-villain. Crying, Louis Behre runs to The Chronicles posse, who are superheroes, natch. He falls to his knees and asks us to free them all. Which, of course, we do. We think nothing of doing what is more or less a heroic deed. Or have I have gone too far again? Crossing Border is a festival that makes you dream and, for a writer, that’s the biggest compliment they can give.

Coffee
21-11-10

Coffee. You certainly need it at Crossing Border. Especially after a heavy night. Crossing Border is fast-paced. Before we know it, we’re knocking about the streets of The Hague again looking for a spot of lunch. After that we headed off to Het Koorenhuis to meet a few young poets. Het Koorenhuis is the place for music, literature and dance. It’s in a place like this that people can develop their talents. And they’ve got good coffee there too. But something’s beginning to happen in the Netherlands. Evidently, art and culture are no longer relevant. Using deception and lies, they’re presenting art as a money-squandering hobby for the left-wing elite. The Dutch Prime Minister completely changed his tack to still get into power. It doesn’t matter if he has to dance in front of Geert Wilder’s with his trousers round his ankles. Power is all that matters. The Netherlands will be sorry. Cuts in the arts should never be allowed.

The biggest surprise at the festival came from one of my very own editors. They were performing, and what a performance it was. They’re called Cherry Delight. Don’t forget that name because I was gawking at them singing their acapella ditties. I always thought that they spent their spare time reading post-modern poetry. With a little bit of candlelight to stay in keeping with the ambience. Once again, the afterparty was exactly as it should be. Good music and good people. It’s also a place where they started networking. Business cards were exchanged and numbers tossed around. I was sitting all alone in a corner with a coke in my hand. Suddenly, Sam Cutler sat down next to me and launched into a deeply philosophical conversation. We were interrupted at every turn by a guitarist who only quacked.

“LSD’s messed with his head,” Sam Cutler said.

“Didn’t you ever try anything?” I asked.

“Bah, I’ve tried everything and even done a brief stint as a dealer,” he said.

“That sounds nice,” I said.

“And what’s your story? You have a kind of dealer vibe. Don’t get me wrong, but Morocco is a hash dealers’ paradise.”

“No, I wouldn’t dare. I don’t want to end up in prison there.”

“Yeah… I was nearly locked up over in Morocco. Did you know that…”

Quacking loudly, the guitarist came and stood with his head right in between us.

“Shut up, shut up,” shouted Sam Cutler.

“Want something drink?” the duck asked.

The following morning, we took the bus to Antwerp to wander round and perform there for the last time. Antwerp is always great. It feels like I’m playing a home game. I was introduced on stage by an enthusiastic, yet invisible presenter. The performance was a little stiff. After a few sentences, I stuttered out a word here and there. But hey, things like that happen every now and again. The audience, however, were enthusiastic because of the humour and the absurd story.

Readings
20-11-10

Readings. I enjoy them, as long as they don’t come too close. Readings always give me a strange feeling. As if I haven’t signed up for this. It’s weird how sometimes I’m a self-assured man on stage and sometimes I’m just a damp squib. Maybe I’m fighting with myself. Surmounting a certain stage fright by giving off an exaggerated self-confidence. I’m always on guard when being interviewed. Probably because of the bad experiences I’ve had in my budding career as a writer. A journalist always shows their best side. Until you read the interview and realise that they were a snake simply looking for a sound bite. Interviews can also just be fun. If they’re about literature and with several writers, so I can hide away a little, and have a friendly moderator who’s even read the book. That’s actually a rarity. At Crossing Border, however, all these terms were met. So, once again, I could breeze deeper into the catacombs. Just to stand there silently watching a rock band give it their all. But I couldn’t stick it out for any longer than 5 minutes. I had to move on. I had to go to a tent for my reading. The tent was packed. Not for me though, but for the rock band performing after me. It’s pretty cool that people who’d never heard of me, which is currently always the case, now had the opportunity to discover my work and maybe even enjoy it. I wrote a humorous book. I can say that at least. When I hear the audience laughing, I tell myself that my reading is going pretty well. Is my audience apathetic? It’s then that the uncertainty begins to awaken in my mind. Why are they standing there staring like that? Don’t you like it? After all, this was a good wee piece, so smile a little or at least pretend to. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just a damp squib. Yesterday, my reading was a success. False modesty gets you nowhere. I left the stage and drifted off again. The longer I drifted, the more dangerous I became. In fact, I spontaneously begin speaking to people, something I’m not in the habit of doing. I bumped into an enchanting poet, who promptly offered me a drink and introduced me to her friend. We got talking and I decided to name my cat after her. I couldn’t just keep calling her cat forever. The friend was very honoured and I promised to send her a picture of my cat. We went to the afterparty together and stayed there until the small hours. In the end, we were all thrown out because some of the artists started throwing rotten eggs at each other. We just knocked about the streets of The Hague after that. The poet thought I was a good talker. But I’m not a good talker unfortunately, just a dangerous drifter.

Louis Couperus
19-11-10

Louis Couperus. The name said something to me, but I’d never felt the need to read any of his stuff. You can’t read everything after all. There’s a bookshop near ours that’s selling his collected works for 15 euro. 15 euro is dirt-cheap and yet I still just walked on by and never bought them. To me, Louis Couperus is just one of many forgotten writers. Together with the other Chronicles, we took the Couperus walking tour starting at a bust of the writer. It was cold and boring. Not because of the guide, who was doing his best. It was actually down to me, I’m not at all interested in a writer’s personal life. Does he want to showcase it in his writings. That’s fine, as long as it’s still literature. I listened and politely nodded at the guide to at least show an interest, until a little something sparked. Something that immediately drew me to his work. Couperus supposedly used nonexistent words in his work; he invented them, as it were. Straightaway, this got me thinking about that damned word ‘allochtoon’ (alien, immigrant, non-national, whatever). Whoever came up with that word deserves Geert Wilder’s hairdo, Bart De Wever’s body and Maarten Van Rossem’s voice. When will it stop being used? A word that instantly confines you to some dark dungeon, and occasionally you’re let out to sing a little ditty and do a few dance turns. There has to be a writer somewhere that’s ready to say: “Stop, that’s enough already. Let’s just call them by name or introduce them as a Dutch or Flemish writer”. However, the age of innocence has long since passed as far as I’m concerned. ‘Allochtoon’ is here to stay. There’s no Louis Couperus now and there won’t be in the future. Either way, on Monday I’ll be heading straight to the bookshop to buy his works to read.

We went for something to eat, during which I was especially impressed by a translator whose name currently escapes me. Sorry translator, I hope you’ll forgive me. The translator spoke fervently about her work and I immediately thought: my work would be safe in her capable hands. There’s so much more to consider in a translation. You have to try to find the heart of the book to then be able to reinvent it.

After eating, we went to see Rufus Wainwright in concert. I thought it was going to be a three-ring circus with Rufus as a crazy clown with feathers sticking out his arse and a chicken on his head. But it was a sort of mourning process for his mother’s death instead, with him sitting all alone behind his piano. The sad, melancholic music gave me an unshakeable feeling that brought me back to Couperus again. Why is that writer after me now? Is he trying to make me feel guilty? Or does he think that once I’m home I’ll just ignore him again? Oh Couperus, for 15 euro I won’t forget you.

Prologue
10-11-10

I dreamt of being a star professional football player at the World Cup. At night I’d change into a superhero and tackle the most dangerous villains. Pfffff, what are you supposed to do with such impossible dreams? A writer. It still sounds odd to me. And now as a writer at Crossing Border. It’s actually worked out quite nicely after all.

A Jack-of-all-trades, but master of none, I could still mess things up again.
I’ve always loved reading, but there wasn’t an ounce of me that thought about embracing a fateful life of writing.

Back in the day after school, I’d do the most wretched little jobs to be able to earn a little something extra. Sowing leeks for a grumpy farmer, gardening for a half-blind old dear, who, on closer inspection, wasn’t that blind after all. Some restaurant experience washing up, being a kitchen porter and then a waiter. All this overly enthusiastic carry-on took me away from my studies. I’ll save you the little part-time jobs, because that’s when it becomes truly pathetic.

I got tired of it and decided to make a drastic decision. From now on, I only wanted to do a job that really suited me.

A friend was working as a security guard and was boasting about all the great things that he did there. Frying up an egg in the mornings and then having a leisurely breakfast reading the newspaper. He’d spend the rest of his day watching films. His sex life prospered too because he even took the ironing to work with him.

Could it really be? A job where you could spend the whole day reading? I applied to a security firm that very same day and a couple of months later, I was sitting in complete seclusion at the port with a pile of books next to me. I felt like a king and was pretty chuffed every time I’d digested another tome.

Fiction is the best. The unbridled fantasies of writers that readers will put their whole lives on hold for, just to know what’s going to happen on the next page.

And so it began, with a book that was read too quickly. To kill time, I decided to put my daydreams down on paper. I soon acquired a taste for it and decided to write short stories with crazy people and crazy dialogues. At the end of the day, I binned all my little writings.

I hadn’t even published a novel, but I still felt like a writer. I resolved to start my first novel and finally be rid of that Jack-of-all-trades, master of none tag. Writing went well, some days were easier than others. But the writing meant that I was spending less time reading. It was like persistently cheating on my girlfriend with a new flame.

Ayoub was born and I became Ayoub. I was living in a world that naturally I knew well. I wrote my daydreams down and another silly sheep came around. I sent the sheep off and an enthusiastic publisher left me a voicemail.

A writer thinks everything is a matter of course. That’s why everything ends so badly for so many writers. Writing just happened to me and maybe I should also just see it as a matter of course. Though I hope that things don’t end the wrong way for me. My first novel got published and I decided to go back to my girlfriend again. It didn’t take long though until I found another new flame. Hopefully, many more new flames will follow, so that I can retire later to a real harem.