Geert Mak

© Freek van Asperen
Frankfurter Buchmesse
Guest of Honour 2016

Geert Mak

1946, Vlaardingen
Historian. Journalist. Jurist.

Geert Mak is one of the Netherlands’ most popular and famous writers. All his books become enormous bestsellers. Major examples include De engel van Amsterdam [The Angel of Amsterdam], an anatomy lesson on the city of Amsterdam and a series of portraits of its inhabitants, Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd [Jorwerd: The Death of the Village in Late Twentieth-Century Europe] (1996), a description of the rapid demise of European farming culture which has since become a classic, and De eeuw van mijn vader [My Father’s Century], a history of the Netherlands in the twentieth century, interwoven with the history of his own family, which has sold more than half a million copies. In 2012 Reizen zonder John. Op zoek naar Amerika [Travels Without John. In Search of America] appeared, in which Mak follows in the footsteps of John Steinbeck, who made the journey fifty years previously, recording the trip in the classic Travels with Charley.
Mak has received honours for his services to the city of Amsterdam and for his pioneering, creative and accessible historiography. He has twice been elected historian of the year and received the Gouden Ganzeveer award for his exceptional commitment to national and international history and current affairs. He received the prestigious Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäische Verständigung (2008) and the Otto von der Gablentzpreis (2009) for his book In Europa. In 2014 he received an honorary doctorate from the Westfälische Wilhelmuniversität in Münster and the French government has appointed him as a Knight in the Légion d’Honneur. His work has been translated into more than twenty-two languages.

Links   Dutch Foundation for Literature   Translations   Atlas Contact   Pantheon Boekhandel   Siedler

Recently translated into German

The Lives of Jan Six
Siedler Verlag, 2016
Translated by Gregor Seferens, Andreas Ecke
Original title: De levens van Jan Six (Atlas Contact, 2016)

This is the story of Jan Six, of his family and his many lives. His portrait is considered the most beautiful his friend Rembrandt ever painted; it is still kept in the stately family home on the Amstel in Amsterdam. Jan’s circle of acquaintances was huge. He was well acquainted with many well-known seventeenth-century scholars, writers and painters, Vondel, Spinoza and indeed Rembrandt van Rijn among them. What kind of man was Jan Six, this aristocratic art lover and collector of magnificent artworks? His scrapbook is preserved in the rich family archive, containing a wealth of information ranging from recipes, anecdotes and religious reflections to earthy jokes.

The first Jan Six, the family heir, had many descendants, all named Jan. They held high positions; several members of the family were mayors of Amsterdam. Some came into great wealth, others were prominent scientists or stumbled through life hunchbacked, disinherited and brokenhearted. The Six story lives on in the family home, palpably present in every in room: the lives that were lived there, the many letters written across four centuries. One Six even corresponded with George Washington. The archive is a treasury of unique information, with notes on both weighty affairs and trivial, everyday matters. The Six family archive helps bring the family back to life.

The Lives of Jan Six tells the story of an elite Amsterdam dynasty that has lived on the canals in Amsterdam for four centuries; it is the story of a city and its times, of ambitions and limitations, of grandeur and the constant fear of falling.
'The Lives of Jan Six' ticks all the boxes required to become yet another vintage Mak, a story in which the life of just one character is magnified to become the portrait of an entire epoch.

Frank Hellemans – Knack

The Dutchman Geert Mak is a master in the arts and in finding the big story in the small and in the individual.