Zeeman and the wane of a print adolescence

Zeeman met boeken

Sometimes when a public figure dies, you suddenly realize what a big part they played in your life and your personal or intellectual development. More than maybe a favored high-school teacher or beloved uncle, it was the literary critic Michaël Zeeman who always inspired my love for books. My parents had a subscription to the dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, for which he wrote, and the part I always read was the book section entitled Cicero. After a quick glimpse at the front page I always went straight on to Cicero, which, if I remember correctly, always appeared on Friday, so I mostly read it over the weekend. Later on I would snatch it from restaurants and bars where I used to work to read it during my break. Zeeman’s reviews were a kind of ‘filter’ for me, he was a trusted connoisseur who introduced writers and books to me, and more importantly, taught me which ones to read and which ones to discard. He was also the presenter of a famous Dutch television show called ‘Zeeman met boeken’ (Zeeman with books), but I can’t really remember watching that regularly, it was mostly his writings that compelled me.

Michaël Zeeman died yesterday of a brain tumor and after reading the numerous obituaries on the web I learned many things I never knew about him. Basically I found out I knew absolutely nothing about him, which I now feel is kind of strange. For one he used to work at De Tille, the bookshop in Leeuwarden (where I was born and where I grew up) and the only place we (being my family) ever bought books. So the chance is very big I might even have met him at one time or another…




That was of course long before I started reading his reviews and essays on literature, art, philosophy and what have you. The strange thing though is that over the years this trusted authority, who used to be my ‘old-medium-newspaper’ filter, kind of in the way radio used to be my music filter, has now been replaced by the manifold cultural reviewers, literary critics, bloggers and essayists of the online environment. Now my selection mechanism has broadened to an international conspiracy of old and new media experts, available with their views and opinions on demand at the touch of a single button. So it kind of felt, with the death of Zeeman, that part of me has disappeared too, also due to the fact that since a couple of years I rarely read print newspapers anymore.

But I will definitely miss him and his reviews and in a way I will regret never having to wait until Friday anymore to find out what to read…


One comment on “Zeeman and the wane of a print adolescence

  1. Pingback: Bert Brussen » Blog Archive » Absurd: academici die al jaren geen papieren kranten meer lezen

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