Last week, by email, two old friends crossed my way, bending back my time line to thirty years ago, to Surinam and Carib literature and working in Paramaribo. Henna Goudzand who I first met in Paramaribo – during the days of a sergeants state and their imposed curfew – was a colleague of my girlfriend Josien Eissens who had taken a job to instruct new Dutch language teachers over there.
Henna lives since long in the Netherlands and she did ask me recently to make an illustration for her new digital magazine “OER digitaal vrouwenblad“. The first issue of OER was announced on a blog about Caribbean literature and that appeared to be produced by another friend of who I had lost sight, Michiel van Kempen. At the end of the eighties – in Amsterdam – he had been introduced to me by Henna as a possible candidate to work on a bibliography of Surinam related books from the collection of the University of Amsterdam. From 1973 till 1998 I worked as a curator of the Documentation Center of Modern Social Movements at the University Library of Amsterdam and my prolonged stay in Surinam – in 1980 – had woken my interest in the cultural heritage gab produced by the Dutch colonial history. In 1991 I had written a proposal for making an inventory of any kind of publication relating to Surinam in the collections of the University of Amsterdam. It was Michiel van Kempen, together with a colleague of mine from the library, Kees van Doorne, who did a splendid job by finding and cataloguing almost 8000 publications (including historical maps), all this within five years. The results have been published in a fat printed catalogue with an impressive index: Suriname-Catalogus van de Universiteitsbibliotheek van Amsterdam in 1995.
The last decade I had little contact with the Surinam milieu and so it is a pleasure to be connected again. Yesterday I wrote my first post for the nice Caraib literature blog, and in the writing process I had a vision of Google helping a project of colonial “Widergutmachung” by scanning all those publications from the University of Amsterdam …. (because when I flip through the description of 8000 or so neatly catalogued books and other publications related to Surinam, such bibliographical items always give me the sensation of visiting a Gulag camp with thousands of books suffering and moaning, waiting to be set free and communicate with all those eager readers outside the barbed wire fence of academia and copyrights).