I wouldn’t normally devote a blog to the day’s sad news – there’s enough of that going around these days God knows – because my aim is to lift our spirits with these posts, but I guess I also want to make us think twice about certain things, and in that context it fits.
For yesterday, a well known, Dutch writer/poet/art critic committed suicide, Joost Zwagerman. Aged 51. A man whose huge enthusiasm for art spread infectiously throughout Holland the last year or two mainly because of his regular appearances on a daily chat show, DWDD.
And it just really got to me, the tragedy of this sad, sad deed.
Apparently he suffered from manic depression. Apparently his father attempted to end his own life some years ago. Apparently his best friend succeeded in doing just that a few months ago. I have to wonder.
The thing is… could anyone have helped him, stopped him from taking this irrevocable, drastic step? The never-ending question. Does it always have to be this way, that people who are ‘blessed with’ the huge gifts, are also burdened with an equally destructive or negative characteristic, in some dastardly universal balancing act? Think Van Gogh. Amy Winehouse. Robin Williams. Philip Seymour Hoffman (I could go on).
What must his family be going through, right now? Three daughters. The man himself had strong opinions about suicide, publicly shared those thoughts even, sharply criticising those who commit it for the huge damage it inflicts on those ‘left behind’ as he put it. How strange, how poignant, that he himself should now choose to go down that same, dark route with a new book about to be published. I guess that meant little, in the end.
I wasn’t familiar with him until he showed up on TV. I’m not that literary and as an Irish woman living in the Netherlands, have a tendency to stick to English-language books even though I speak the language. Because I’m a lazy sod on that score.
But I, and many others, was hugely impressed by Joost’ flamboyance, his energy, his sheer joy in sharing his (very broad) knowledge of specific painters/styles with us, the common folk. When he talked, we listened. Avidly. His eye picked out tiny details we’d otherwise have missed, his voice brought us information we could understand and appreciate, even with limited artistic knowledge. Secret snippets of information worked cleverly into paintings by old masters were a delight to him, and as he explained the thinking behind them it all morphed into something fascinating. Joyful. Uninhibited.
My husband would ‘shush’ me if I interrupted him while Joost was at large, on DWDD. I have a (mean) tendency to tease him about the programme, and how enamoured he is with its presenter although secretly I totally admire the man myself, and how well he manages it all. It’s an Irish thing: taking the Mick at any and every opportunity.
So here I go, just for you Joost – thank you for sharing your clever insights with us these past years, I’m so sorry you saw no other way ahead. To DWDD (and on behalf of my hubby and I): kudos to you Matthijs, for creating and encouraging this gifted, learned and special man to benefit and share in your unique platform. Hats off from me on this rather sad day.