The world has lost face

A documentary about Astrid H. Roemer: The world has lost face

‘Writing is the science of the intimate’ – a quote from the Surinamese Dutch author Astrid Roemer. In 2016, she was the first author of Caribbean origin to be awarded the P.C.Hooft award, the highest prize for literature in the Netherlands. The preceding fifteen years, Roemer had wandered about with her cat, laptop and rucksack. No one knew where she was, she lived in complete isolation. Finally, film director Cindy Kerseborn succeeded in tracing her whereabouts and getting  her to talk before the camera, often reluctantly. Yet, Roemer, with her natural charisma, allows her vulnerable side to show through. In the documentary The world has lost face, the spotlight is on Roemer’s authorship which, clearly, is at the core of her existence.

Astrid Roemer, known for, among others, ‘De gekte van een vrouw’ (A woman’s madness) and her collection of poems ‘Afnemend‘ (Waning), counts among the most important Surinamese authors of the past decades. 

In Kerseborn’s film Astrid Roemer recites some of her own poems and singers Izaline Calister and Sabrina Starke perform her poetry to music. 

In the report of the jury of the PC Hooft award praise goes not only to her literary achievements, but also to her pointed and timely interventions in public debate and her intricate account of Surinamese history. In the film a major theme from her work  comes to the fore: breaking the silence around the murder of fifteen political opponents by then commander Desi Bouterse and his men on 7-9 December 1982. 

Roemer has also written repeatedly about female identity. As a woman, a black woman at that, she had a keen eye for its problematical aspects. During the nineteen eighties she was widely seen as a champion of feminism; lesbian women considered her a role model.

The film shows Roemer strolling on the grounds of a medieval monastery in Ghent, Belgium, with an amused glance every once in a while. And then she quotes, with a twinkle in her eye, from her own song book:

“I am married to Surinam
Holland is my lover
with Africa I have a homosexual relation
and with any other country
I am ready to have a fling”