Surinamese-Dutch writer Clark Accord passed away in an Amsterdam hospital on Wednesday evening 11 May after losing his fight against cancer. He was 50 years old.
As a tribute, here’s a transcript of an edition of Radio Books first broadcast in July 2009 featuring Mr Accord’s story ‘The Creation’ about a homeless man.
Clark Accord lived in Amsterdam, but his work always contained the tropical flavour of the Caribbean. Born in Paramaribo in 1961, he moved to the Netherlands when he was 17 years old. After finishing high school in Amsterdam, he first trained and worked as a nurse. He went back to school to follow a new career as make-up artist, which led to successful work in Vienna, Zurich and Vancouver – as well as stints in fashion centres such as Milan, New York, London and Paris.
Mr Accord said he began writing because he couldn’t find the kind of books he himself liked to read. For his first novel, he decided to research a legendary figure in Surinam’s 20th century history: Wilhemina Angelica Adriana Merian Rijburg (1902-1981). Better known as Maxi Linder, she was the country’s most famous prostitute.
Queen of Paramaribo
Approaching the story like a journalist, Clark Accord interviewed her friends and associates to discover the truth behind the gossip and myths surrounding the glamorous woman. “In Maxi Linder we find good and evil,” said Mr Accord, “and that is the story I wanted to write.”
“Betsy had almost reached the entrance when Maxi Linder, accompanied by two naval officers, cut in front of her. Maxi spit demonstratively on the sand and rolled her eyes in Betsy’s direction. She was covered from head to toe in gold jewelry. Too bad it clashed with the tacky dress she had on. What’s more, her hair had been swept up in a ridiculous roll on top of her head, and she wasn’t wearing a bit of make-up. Since Maxi Linder and her party were blocking the doorway, Betsy had no choice but to wait. With Maxi on the scene, the public had lost all interest in Betsy.”
‘De koningin van Paramaribo’ (The Queen of Paramaribo) became a best seller in The Netherlands with some 100,000 copies in print. The book has been translated into several languages and a movie version is planned.
For Radio Books, Mr Accord wrote a day-in-the life story. In fragments which are in turn realistic, poetic or nostalgic, a homeless man in an Amsterdam park daydreams of a long-lost past in Paramaribo and is confronted by an unusual project by a group of young artists.
“Surely she won’t ask him to have his photo taken? When did he last stand in front of the lens? When he was little, in his Sunday clothes. With his mother, in the photographer’s studio in Paramaribo. Mother said he was allowed in the photo because he was a very special boy.
“She was right. He was predestined. He never mixed. But his presence on earth is not without purpose. Safely at the bottom of his shopping cart, are memories of endless wanderings through the old continent. Hidden in yellowed old notebooks. Because writing has permanence. On his journey through Europe he had tried in feverish formulations, he tried to define in lines of poetry the elements of God’s creation.”
‘The Creation’ by Clark Accord was translated by Michael O’Loughlin. His work is included in the acclaimed collection Turning Tides: Modern Dutch & Flemish Verse in English Versions by Irish Poets.
For the original report and the audio of the original broadcast go to http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/surinamese-dutch-author-clark-accord-dies-50