Suriname’s Most Popular Novel Headlines Dutch Film Festival


Cynthia Mcleod’s historical novel Hoe Duur was de Suiker [The Cost of Sugar] will be published in English before the film version premieres at the annual Dutch Film Festival, which starts on Wednesday, September 25, 2013, in the City Theater of Utrecht, the Netherlands.

As the movie from Cynthia Mcleod’s gripping historical novel “Hoe Duur was de Suiker” heads into cinemas this month, London based e-publishing house HopeRoad has announced that it will soon put out the English version of one of Suriname’s most read books. “We acquired the e-book rights in 2011. From the moment I read the book I fell in love with it and we are delighted to have now acquired the print edition,” said HopeRoad Commissioning Editor Rosemarie Hudson.

Hudson characterized the book as an engrossing account of eighteenth century Suriname at the time when the country was ruled by the Dutch. “The hypocrisies behind the veneer of a respectable colonial life are revealed through the eyes of two Jewish step sisters, Elza and Sarith, descendants of the settlers of New Jerusalem of the River, known today as Joden Savanne. The pampered Sarith fails to come to grips with the hardship of plantation life up the Suriname River, while her body slave Mini Mini finds her own chance at love. In the book the planters’ existences become intertwined with the fate of the plantations as the slaves decide to fight against the violent repression they have endured for too long…,” she said.

The (Dutch edition of the) book sold 50,000 copies and has also been produced as a theater play. Hoe Duur was de Suiker has also been produced as a six CD audio book, narrated by jazz singer Denise Jannah. Following her debut, McLeod, the daughter of the late Johan Ferrier, Suriname’s last Governor and first President, went on to publish a series of other historical novels.

Expectations are now high for the Dutch language movie that will open the annual Dutch Film Festival, which starts on Wednesday September 25th in the City Theater of Utrecht. Its trailer is already going viral online. The movie, starring Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing as Mini-Mini and Gaite Jansen as Sarith comes as Suriname –and other former colonies of the Netherlands- mark the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery this year. It is not clear when the movie will be shown in Suriname.

McLeod was excited that her book was turned into a movie that will take the reality of slavery to a world platform. “It is flattering and rewarding to me of course, but what I am most proud of is that the book has helped to make people think about slavery, and talk to each other about it,” she said at the presentation of the film in Amsterdam last week. “History books give a cold perspective of history. And they are usually written from one certain point of view.” HopeRoad Publishing Editor Rosemarie Hudson agreed. “Beyond the stories of the people and places, the unseen major character (in The Cost of Sugar) is history itself. The book presents a frank exposé of life in a Dutch colony when sugar was king and demanded the consummate allegiance of all – colonists and slaves – regardless of the tragic consequence,” she said.

Launched in 2011, HopeRoad publishes writing from and about Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. “We recently also acquired the English language rights to “Tula The Revolt” by Jeroen Leinders,” Hudson announced. Also turned into a motion picture starring US actor Danny Glover, Tula tells the story of a slave who sets out to improve the position of his fellow slaves on Curacao. “Tula is an unforgettable novel – rich in historical detail and committed to telling a fascinating story about freedom, equality and fraternity,” said Hudson. [. . .]

[Many thanks to Jo Spalburg for bringing this item to our attention.]

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