In 1997, Nachoem Wijnberg was awarded the Herman Gorter Prize for a collection of poems entitled Geschenken [Presents]. At the time, he was an Associate Professor of Technology Policy at what is now called RSM. Geschenken was his sixth collection. Back in 1997, he told EM the following regarding the combination of science and poetry: “As far as I’m concerned, both poetry and literature in general, as science, have something to do with getting to know things.”

EM has been around for twenty years now. During that period, we have featured many people, who have told us about their special achievements, excellent research and other interesting things. But who were these people who were featured by EM twenty years ago? How do they look back on this period, and how are they doing now?

Twenty years on, Wijnberg, 56, still remembers the award. “It wasn’t necessarily a serious breakthrough in my literary career, but it was a sign that the appreciation for my poetry was changing in the mid-1990s. It was around that time that I started to win awards and get mostly positive reviews. But, just to make sure I stayed with both feet on the ground, my novels were still getting terrible reviews.”

Nachoem Wijnberg now Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

By now, Wijnberg is a Full Professor of Cultural Entrepreneurship at UvA and one of the most prominent poets in the Dutch-speaking countries. He has published sixteen collections of poems and five novels and has won the VSB Poetry Award, among other awards. His latest collection, entitled Voor jou, van jou, was released in October. He still feels the same way about combining science and poetry: “To my mind, they are similar activities. The two hardly differ in terms of their nature and ethos.”

“The combination of the two is one of the main subjects of my work,” Wijnberg recently told EM. Although poetry and literature are not (yet) subjects of academic research for him, science has become both a subject and a setting in his literary output of the last few years. “Van groot belang, published in 2015, contains poems on subjects my colleagues and I lecture on: tax collection systems, the creation of money and investors.”

The university is the setting of Wijnberg’s most recent novels, Alle Collega’s Dood. The book ends with the tragic story of one of Wijnberg’s PhD supervisors at Erasmus University, a doctoral adviser who was turned down several times for a chair and ended up dying of an intracranial haemorrhage. “Reviews said that part of the story was unrealistic, even though I wrote it down to the best of my recollection.”

Nachoem Wijnberg in 1997 (LW)