23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Gideon Samson

The Dutch writer for young readers, Gideon Samson, was born in 1985 in The Hague. Like his two older sisters he attended a Montessori school, which gave him plenty of freedom to develop his talent for writing. He studied film and television in Amsterdam and in 2007 wrote his first story, titled »Niks zeggen!« (tr. Say nothing!).

In 2009 he published his young-adult novel »Ziek« (tr. Sick), about 12-year-old Belle who is not only forced to cope with having a severe disease, but also with her parents’ separation. Belle reflects on her problems in her diary, so that some day she »will become just as famous as Anne Frank«. Not only does the book tackle a taboo theme, it also portrays the dream of normality and hope for the future despite all prognoses to the contrary. With his 2010 publication »Met je hoofd boven water« (tr. With your head above water) Samson broke with many conventions of a pedagogically approved story. The protagonist is an »anti-hero« who is afraid to go swimming with his fellow students and whose mother became pregnant through artificial insemination. Gideon Samson employs the gritty, informal vocabulary of youths while telling the story with much wordplay and situational humor. In »Zwarte zwaan« (2012; tr. Black swan) Samson places problematic characters at the heart of his story. Two friends, Düveke and Rifka, concoct a dire prank: attention-craving Rifka wants to stage being kidnapped and killed so she can witness her own funeral. Again Samson breaks most of the rules of a positive story for adolescents by instilling his main character with all the symptoms of borderline syndrome. The story of the dissimilar girls also encourages readers to reflect upon the power and manipulation that can embody a friendship. In »Overspoeld« (2014; tr. Flooded), Samson addresses an actual incident from the life of Julius ’t Hart, with whom he wrote the book. Pieter, the protagonist, is in Amsterdam watching the final of the 2010 World Cup when a Facebook friend request takes him back to the time he spent in 2004 as a volunteer in Sri Lanka, where he fell in love with a backpacker named Elin. After a romantic evening at the beach they got caught up in the tsunami catastrophe, which changed his life forever. »Sometimes the truth is too beautiful for a book, and sometimes a book is too beautiful for the truth«, said Gideon Samson about »Overspoeld«, for which he won the 2015 Goldener Bilderrahmen.

Gideon Samson has been honored with various other awards, including the Silberner Griffel (2010, 2013), the IBBY Honour List Award (2012) and the White Raven (2013, 2015). His books have twice been named to Deutschlandfunk’s list: »Die besten 7«. He lives in Amsterdam.