David Van Reybrouck, born in Bruges, Belgium, in 1971. Ph.D from Leiden University. Before becoming a fulltime writer, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of History at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Writer-in-Residence (1 February 2008 – 30 June 2008)
THE CONGO, A POSSIBLE HISTORY (CONGO, EEN MOGELIJKE GESCHIEDENIS)
During my five-month stay as a Writer-in-Residence at NIAS I was working on two projects: my literary non-fiction book on the history of Congo (due to appear in the Spring of 2010, on the 50th anniversary of Congo’s independence), and my essay on populism (due to appear in August 2008, as part of the notorious Pamflettenreeks, Pamphlet Series, by Querido Publishers).
The latter was scarcely conceived when I arrived in Wassenaar, but its emergence reveals the intricacies of the intellectually stimulating climate at NIAS. The daily exchanges with a number of fellows, the ease with which Dutch scholars outside the institute could be reached and the astonishing library services proved particularly conducive to creative thinking and greatly facilitated my forays into new fields of interest and inquiry.
Substantial progress was also made on my Congo research. Although the mental distance between Wassenaar and the Democratic Republic of Congo often seemed to verge on the intergalactic, I succeeded in securing a firm grip on the Mobutu years (1965-1997), a 32-year time span that still reverberates in today’s politics and society in Central Africa. Here, too, the unsurpassed library personnel allowed for a documentation rate that could hardly be matched in ‘normal’ life outside NIAS.