Although Drs P (BSc), who passed away in 2015, was born in Switzerland and spent the great majority of his life in Amsterdam, his legacy will end up in Rotterdam, the city where he lived during the prime of his life. “Rotterdam is the city to which he owes his title. Without Rotterdam, he would simply be ‘P’,” says Roman Koot, a librarian at the Rotterdamsch Leeskabinet (‘Rotterdam Reading Room’).

At the festive event at the Erasmus Pavilion during which his private book collection was handed over to the Rotterdamsch Leeskabinet, there were live performances of Drs P’s songs about Rotterdam, from a newly compiled CD. Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb attended the event and spoke of how crucial Drs P’s oeuvre is to Dutch culture.

Rejected by Amsterdam

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Vic van de Reijt (left) and Roman Koot (right). Image credit: Arie Kers

When Drs P was still alive, he donated his collection, which comprises postcards he sent to his wife from far-away places as well as first editions of books, to the Heen- en Weerschap, the foundation that manages Drs P’s copyrights. “We then wanted to donate the bequest to an organisation that was able to open it to the general public,” said foundation representative Vic van de Reijt. “But the University of Amsterdam’s Special Collections committee rejected the donation because ‘they didn’t have enough room for it’.”

The foundation then contacted the Rotterdamsch Leeskabinet, which was only too happy to accept the donation. “In terms of Dutch linguistic heritage, what could be better than Drs P?” Koot said. And they did more than just accept the donation. “We have organised an exhibition at the University Library where people can go and see the collection.”

Drs P’s Rotterdams Passé

Rotterdam Mayor Aboutaleb is another Rotterdam resident who, just like Drs P himself, ‘came from the outside’ but was completely assimilated into Dutch culture. He praised Drs P’s way with words and provided a small canon of the Dutch language: “As a foreigner, it is not until you understand Drs P, Carmiggelt, Vader Abraham and Van Kooten en De Bie and think they’re hilarious that you realise you have become completely assimilated into the Dutch language.”

During the festive hand-over of the collection, artists Fay Lovsky and Pierre van Duijl played songs from Drs P’s new CD in Drs P’s own cabaret-like manner. While some of Drs P’s song are set in Siberia (such as his famous song ‘Dodenrit’), others are set in Rotterdam. The CD, compiled by Roland Vonk, contains twelve Drs P songs about our city, including classics such as ‘De Commencaal’ (set in Rotterdam South) and ‘Dijklied’ (about the Schiedam Dyke).

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Pierre van Duyl and his band perform songs from a new CD entitled ‘Het Rotterdams Passé van Drs. P’. Image credit: Arie Kers

The exhibition can be viewed from 23 November to late March 2018 during UL opening hours.