The man, the Woman, the Poetry

A documentary on Frank Martinus Arion: Man, woman, poetry

Arion’s most widely read novel, ‘Dubbelspel’ (Doublegame) tells the riveting story of a frantic game of dominoes, in which the relations between the players, their wives and lovers become intricately involved. The game beomes a metaphor for the insular society of Curaçao. In the documentary,  the Antillian  machismo is is the subject of a vehement and revealing discussion between some seven Antillian men of widely divergent background.  In the Arion, on his part, speaks of the ‘courageous women’ of the island, who were decisive in his life and his work.

Arion was, maybe more than anything else, a poet. Various poems can be heard or read in the documentary. Quite a few of these poems are in the local creole Papiamentu. Arion was an indefatigable defender of this Antillian language and founded a school where children were taught in this mother tongue. 

In the film, Arion appears as a gentle lyricist who looks back on a militant and creative life, when near the end he reveals almost in passing the secret of his literary inspiration.

Frank Martinus Arion (1936-2015) studied Dutch literature and linguistics at the Universities of Leyden and Amsterdam. In 1996 he obtained a Ph D with The Kiss of a Slave,  a thesis on the kinship between Papiamentu and some West-African languages. In 2009, He was appointed on a chair at the University of the Netherlands Antilles.

In his novels and poems Arion presents a lively and loving portrait of Antillian society but never holds back in his criticism, nor does he spare Dutch society, the former mother country. As late as 2008 he returned his royal decoration in protest against the ‘recolonisation’ of the Dutch Caribbean by the Netherlands.

The Antilles never get much attention in the Netherlands. Only when things go wrong the news it is all over the front page. The image of the islands is mostly negative and quite unrealistic,. But there is much more to the Antilles and the Antillians, especially about Curaçao and its inhabitants. In his fiction, Arion, more than anyone else, has presented a multi-layered and realistic image of Antillian society and culture: generous in his fondness and unsparing in his critique, as they are echoed in this filmed portrait of the author.