Nieuws - 26 januari 2012

An Amsterdam brag book


What? Niemand in de stad, a novel about student life in Asterdam, by Philip Huff
Where? Available at most bookshops for €19.90
Tip from Stijn van Gils, student of Forest and Nature Management

I started this book with a slight sense of awe. How much would my Wageningen student life fall short compared to that of a real city like Amsterdam? The main character Philip Hofman lives in the ‘Orphanage', a student house on one of the Amsterdam canals. The writer knows how to bring his protagonist to life. I can feel his love for his girlfriend Elisabeth. I can see the dust on the skirting boards of the creaking staircase in the student house. I can hear his housemates, and the sex scenes are vivid and realistic too.
It's clever, alright. Only it just doesn't click between me and the main character. The last book I read succeeded in getting me to sympathise with a murderer, whereas what happens to Philip does not interest me in the least. And yet it is an autobiographical story, at least in part: writer and protagonist are both called Philip and both studied history in Amsterdam.
But reading about his student life just leaves me feeling disillusioned. Is this the cultural life of the big city? Getting drunk and sleeping around.  ‘Quite right', I think when his girlfriend chucks him after he confesses that he's been having an affair for months.
At the same time my appreciation of Wageningen has only grown. You can trust your friends here, and if you go too far with something they will give you a rap over the knuckles in good time.