22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Wytske Versteeg

Wytske Versteeg was born in the Netherlands in 1983 and completed her studies in political science with honors in 2005. In 2008, after gaining first-hand experience with homelessness while working as a volunteer in an emergency shelter, she wrote the essay »Dit is geen Dakloze« (tr: »This is not a homeless person«), in which she blended her own insights with observations drawn from literature, philosophy and sociology. The jury of the Jan Hanlo Essay Prize, for which she received a nomination, praised the manner in which Versteeg explores how the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion can shape individual lives.

Versteeg’s first novel, »De Wezenlozen« (tr: »The Beingless«) was long-listed for the AKO Literary Prize and also brought her the Vrouw Debuut Prijs. Critics celebrated her portrayal of a family torn apart and of lives trapped between celebrity and collapse, between Greek tragedy and reality TV. They praised Versteeg’s empathy for her figures, her writing style and introspective, almost lackadaisical tone, described as giving readers space to breathe. As early as 2005, the jury of the Kwakoe Literatuurprijs argued that it takes only a few sentences for readers to realize that here is a genuine author under whose spell they will have fallen by the end of a full paragraph. In 2014, Versteeg’s second novel »Boy« won the BNG Bank Literatuurprijs. A moving, poignant story told without any trace of voyeurism, Versteeg’s work once again succeeds in penetrating deep into the soul of her characters. The novel centers on an African child adopted with great hope and optimism by a Western family. However, faced with isolation and bullying, the child slowly slips through the fingers of his adoptive parents; ultimately, in spite of her good intentions, all the mother can do is search for the reasons for her adopted child’s death. Versteeg shares her interest in using literature to explore human failure with other contemporary Dutch authors, such as Esther Gerritsen and Thomas Heerma van Voss. Her latest novel, »Quarantaine« (2015; tr: »Quarantine«) again earned enthusiastic praise from critics. The book centers on one of the few survivors of a deathly plague, whose experiences and memories are recounted through Versteeg’s use of an inner monolog. In the course of the novel, the protagonist recognizes the chance to start anew and ultimately discovers – perhaps too late – what it means to be human. A review by the »NRC Handelsblad« praised Versteeg’s subtlety and eloquence, naming her one of the best authors of her generation.

In addition to her novels, Versteeg has also written essays, short stories and plays. Her work has appeared in magazines such as »Vrij Nederland«, »Nouveau« and »Hollands Maandblad en Tirade«. She lives in Delft.