“Subtitle – tekstuele samenvatting”

Sjoerd Kuyper (Amsterdam, 6 March 1952) is a Dutch poetry and prose writer of adult, children’s and youth books, theatre, TV series, film scripts and lyrics. His best-known works are the film Het zakmes (The Pocket-knife), the series of books about the toddler Robin, the poem Mensen met koffers (People with Suitcases), the lyrics Hallo wereld (Hello World) and the youth novels Hotel De Grote L (The Big L Hotel) and Bizar (Bizarre). His books have been published in fifteen countries. He has won, among other things, six Zilveren Griffels and a Gouden Griffel for Robin en God (Robin and God). In 2012 he was awarded the Theo Thijssen Prijs for his entire oeuvre and in 2014 he was appointed Officier in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau for his merits in Dutch literature at home and abroad.


Kuyper was born on 6 March 1952 in Amsterdam-East. At the age of two, he moved with his parents to the village of Berkhout, near Hoorn, where his father became a teacher. Kuyper has described the years he spent there in his series of books about the toddler Robin. In 1956, his sister was born: Trudy. In 1961, the family moved to Oostvoorne, on the South Holland islands, where one year later, on Kuyper’s tenth birthday, brother Hans was born. In Oostvoorne, Kuyper, when he was thirteen years old, started writing stories, inspired by Jules Verne, but especially poetry. He attended the HBS secondary school education in Brielle and published in the school newspaper, of which he was also an editor.

In 1967 they moved to Winkel NH and Kuyper attended the HBS in Schagen. In Winkel he and his friends started a publishing house, Walpurgisnacht, which brought stencilled books with their own work to the market. In that period, Kuyper published a story in Het Noordhollands Dagblad and a poem in De Groene Amsterdammer. A poem he had published in the school newspaper was included in the national anthology ‘een 10 voor tieners’ (‘a 10 for the teenagers’) and he wrote a song, de NAVO Blues (NATO Blues), which he sang with friends in the TV programme ‘Dit is het begin’ (‘This is the beginning’). In 1969 he passed the HBS-A exam and left for Amsterdam to study philosophy.

There he met a group of young poets and they started the Fizz-Subvers Press. Initially only their own work was published, but later also translations of Dadaist and surrealist poets. On 11 July 1970, Sjoerd met Margje Burger in the Alkmaarder Hout, where he read poetry during the interval of a pop concert. They have been together ever since.

First years of writing

They moved into a summer house in the garden of translator Peter Nijmeijer, who had gone to live in Nieuwe Niedorp. Kuyper occasionally travelled to Amsterdam, because of his studies, and published in obscure Flemish magazines and very occasionally in Propria Cures. The breakthrough came when the wellknown poet Hans Verhagen got involved with his poems and offered them to De Bezige Bij. The collection Ik herinner mij Klaas Kristiaan (I remember Klaas Kristiaan) appeared in 1974. Kuyper felt at home at De Bezige Bij and soon he was a board member, editor and organiser of poetry readings on behalf of the publishing company: ‘Ontmoet de dichters’ (‘Meet the poets’). In the year of his debut he read from his work at Poetry International in Rotterdam.

He gave up his studies and became a full-time writer: editorials and poetry reviews for De Nieuwe Linie, articles in de VPRO Gids, reviews on puppetry in De Volkskrant. He translated books written by J.M. Synge and Jamake Highwater, among others, and wrote his first children’s stories for the radio programme De Ko de Boswachtershow. In 1975 Margje and he moved to a houseboat in Neck, Wijdewormer. In 1978, Kuyper wrote his first TV series, De Grote Klok (The Big Clock), with Jacques Vriens, and together with Margje as a photographer, he made reports about the Aran Islands, Brittany and New York – for the magazine Bzzlletin. In 1980, Kuyper participated in the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa City. He and Margje stayed there for four months and met fellow writers such as John Banville, Earl Lovelace and Leonard Nolens. In that same year, Kuyper and his sister, who would become known as ‘the queen of hand puppetry’ with her puppet theatre Dibbes, founded publishing house Bobbelie and started to publish the puppet shows of theatre in book form as well. The first part was called De Boommannetjes (The Little Tree Men).

In the meantime Kuyper continued to publish with De Bezige Bij: two collections of poetry and two prose books. And he did interviews, together with his friend Johan Diepstraten, first with young prose writers like Maarten ‘t Hart, Doeschka Meijsing and Jan Siebelink, later with young poets like H.H. ter Balkt, Frank Koenegracht, Gerrit Komrij, Hans Tentije and Willem Wilmink. They were published in De Nieuwe Linie and De Tijd, and later collected in Het Nieuwe Proza (1978) and Dichters (1980). The friendship with Johan would later lead to a youth novel written together, De verborgen steeg (The Hidden Alley) (1986), which was awarded a prize by many children’s juries. Johan died in 1999, at the age of forty-eight.

Margje and Sjoerd married in 1976, their son Joost was born in 1984 and their daughter Marianne in 1986. Margje stopped photographing and started drawing and painting. Kuyper increasingly focused on puppetry – he wrote pieces for various theatres – and on children’s books, which he published initially with In de Knipscheer, later with Bert Bakker, and from 1988 with Le