Monday, January 20, 2014


My mother has dementia. I don't know whether she suffers from it, nor if she still knows herself, or me and my daughter... The doctor spoke about "terminal dementia". I didn't understand what that meant, except that it sounded ominous. So he explained that her brain doesn't know anymore how to regulate certain functions like the regulation of fluids. So her primary caregiver, her husband who is doing a fine job of it, has to see that she drinks enough in order to avoid dehydration. She has days that she enjoys company, on others she sleeps, cannot be reached. I call it: she is not home. My mother is a smart woman, she spoke four languages, has traveled, was really a beauty and she knew how to party... The hardest thing for her husband is that he knows that at a certain point he will not be able to take care of her at home. So he makes all the preparations and follows all steps to see to it that she then will have excellent care. My daughter sees my mothers smiles and the good moments. I see her refusing to eat. She often has to be coaxed to eat... She sometimes tries to speak, yet words fail her. With a gesture, she'll abandon the effort. In the beginning of the disintegration of her mind she tried to cover up mistakes, things she had forgotten, yet on good days one could still have brief, yet meaningful conversations with her. My father a stern and strict man has developed the care giving side of himself. For that I am grateful. So her life is still in her usual surroundings and in a place she feels safe... Yet: terminal dementia is a terrible thing to hear, a terrible fate to bear for all involved so all feast are celebrated, still celebrating life, incontinent and all. Every day a small loss, a small goodbye.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Master Muharrem Erbey

Here you see a picture of the happy times of Mater Huharrem Erbey. He is surrounded by his wife and two sons, all looking happy and content together. He is a highly respected human rights lawyer, He compiled the reports on disappearances, cases of torture and extra-judicial killings. He represented individuals on all court levels, including the European Court of Human Rights.

He also is a published author, editor and columnist. In 2007 Erbey
co-edited a publication of Kurdish and Turkish stories by 35 authors. It was distributed for free by Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality to the local people. The mayor then was prosecuted for doing so under a law which prohibited the use of the Kurdish alphabet and has in the mean time been abolished. Master Erbey defended the mayor and landed in jail himself.
He is deeply unhappy in jail, longs for freedom and misses his family as much as they miss him. Life in prison is unhealthy, so he also physically is suffering. I am convinced that Muharrem never used violence, nor incited people to use violence.  In his own words:"I have been incarcerated for the last three years… because of the speeches I have made on human rights and the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue at parliaments in Britain, Sweden, Belgium and at the UN in Geneva. My speeches and comments never contained words of violence."
Please take action!
There are a number of actions that PEN members can take:
 .Write to your country’s Turkish ambassador (contact details of Turkish embassies worldwide can be found here)
·for European centres: Raise Erbey’s case with your Member of European Parliament (MEP)
·Write letters and postcards of support to Muharrem Erbey in prison. Such correspondence can provide an important psychological lift and has been greatly appreciated by Muharrem Erbey in the past
· Write blog pieces about Muharrem Erbey’s case and share these on social media, particularly around the date of his next trial session on January
13, 2014.
·Write articles and letters that will raise awareness of Muharrem Erbey’s case in your local and national media.

Muharrem Erbey’s Prison Address
Muharrem Erbey
Diyarbakır D Tipi Yüksek Güvenlikli Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu

Monday, January 6, 2014


The VAV (Vlaamse Auteurs Vereniging) is a professional organization for authors in Flanders. Their yearly congress is really great: yet one can't follow all the workshops one would like to follow. The day started out with Patrick De Rynck introducing the plenary debate about the question "The book sector in transition?" The participants were Erik Vlaminck (author convinced that authors need to learn the business aspects of a writers life, sitting to the right, next to Koen Van Bockstal), Mark Pieters, publisher from the Netherlands speaking about the big corporations and the influence on the publishing process of the sales department of said corporations. It gave a disheartening image of the sector. Carlo Van Baelen (2nd left) spoke about the existential crisis of the publishing sector, the impoverishing of libraries and both of these factors leading to a leaner offer in books. 280.000 books per year are published in the Dutch speaking area, only 105.000 books are made available to the public. After three to six month, a book if it is not a bestseller, is taken off the shelves in the stores.

 We who read a lot keep the authors, publishers and bookshops alive.
A book was defined by him as an elitist product since it takes time, money and intelligence...
Koen Van Bockstal underlined that this crisis in the big concerns is an opportunity for the smaller and mid size publishers. The situation calls for stubborn publishers following their own mind. Also self-publishing is not necessarily a bad thing for authors. We need a new type of bookshop: professional and capable of taking the financial risk of the books ordered.
Natalie Ariën took the pictures and had organized the whole work-congres. Dimitri is one of our young and appreciated authors: here the link in dutch.

Then there was scientific research into writers processes... Interesting. Maybe when I have thought enough about what I heard there I'll blog about it later. And the last session was by Leen Van Dijck about the importance of archives and keeping different versions of a manuscript... Also correspondence about a translation and private letters to authors or friends and diaries... all that should be given to literary archives... The Letterenhuis (House of letters -as in literature) is working on their digital expertise so that all our digital document will be available online in a really safe place.