Our man [formally] of Amsterdam

Literature – Inventing the self, Room 4:26
September 15, 2009, 14:39
Filed under: Amsterdam, Writing

I leave the lecture hall a little after 6pm at the end of class. It began at 3pm sharp. It’s draining and taxing because you have to concentrate so much, not only on the content, but trying to decipher the lecturer’s accent, and I’m getting used to it but it takes a lot of mental effort.

I talk to Ruud on the way out because we are slow to pack our books and papers and are the last to leave. He is from Rotterdam, studied in Germany (in German) last year and is in the final semester of a Research Masters in European Studies. Ruud is scary intelligent but not in an intimidating or condescending way, and his English is slow but pitch perfect, like a gentle professor  explaining a difficult concept.

He is 26-years-old – although his fullish beard makes him look older – and has never had a full-time job. Apart from a year backpacking around Australia in 2001/02, he has always been a student of some sort. He writes left handed in that very ‘guarded’ style where the left arm stretches across the top of the page and the pen is somehow hooked into the curved claw of his hand beneath the forearm. Lefties who do this almost always hunch over the desk too and you get the impression they’re trying to hide what’s being transcribed.


Rudd takes copious notes, even following those asides made by the lecturer that seem inane and unrelated to me. I mention this to him as we descend the narrow wooden stairs from the fourth floor classroom. (The lift is slow and always overcrowded when it eventually stops on your floor.)

“Little of what I write has to do with the lesson. It’s just what comes into my head that’s triggered by the discussion,” he says.

I asked about his intended thesis paper but his explanation didn’t make a lot of sense although I’m sure it must to his academic superviser: something about Phenomenology and I couldn’t understand the other big word he used. In an ‘unguarded’ moment I noticed his notes were in written in French and asked him why?

“I’m studying all five books of Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel (ah, that was the term he used with Phenomenology that I didn’t quite get earlier) in their original language so my thoughts and analysis and expression are more French at the moment.”

“And you can decode all this in an instant, as in, you’re Dutch, and being taught in English, but you take notes in French?”

“I don’t really think about it,” he says, as we bid farewell and go our separate ways along Spuistraat. He calls after me suggesting I try and read Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy in its entirety for next weeks class, not just the selected excerpts: “It will be good for your creative writing.”

“Dank u Ruud.”


1 Comment so far
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While Ruudy’s multi linguistic talents are to be admired, put him to the real test. When you are next walking out of the lecture theatre, hit him with some good old Aussie rhyming slang…”I’m going to hit the frog & toad, grab me some oxford scholars and go to the near & far for some Germaine Greers”

Comment by TK

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