Hanneke Eggels

On September 28,  the world celebrated the United Nations Day of Peace with all sorts of festivities, including music, dance and poetry.

The Dutch Carnegie Foundation organized a music concert in the auditorium of the Academy building of the Peace Palace, to show its commitment to the cause of Peace.

The Hague is known as the city of peace and justice, with the Peace Palace as its ultimate icon.

The Peace Palace Library, famous for its international law collection, also holds a special collection dedicated to the Peace Movement, consisting of  books, articles, pamphlets, brochures, posters and manifestos, literary and artistic expressions testifying of the struggle for peace,  from the period 1899-1940.

In our series of interviews for our Newsletter we met with Hanneke Eggels, who expresses her concern for peace through another artistic manner, poetry. She is a Dutch poet, whose work strongly focuses on social issues related to politics, human rights and peace. She writes mainly in Dutch. Translations of her work into English, Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Persian have attained  worldwide attention.

Ever since graduating from Leiden University in Neerlandistiek (Dutch Studies), Eggels used poetry as a means to express her emotions. The sight of the famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich playing during the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, inspired her to write MIR (peace).  This was followed by a personal invitation of him to publish in her bilingual (Dutch-Russian) volume of poetry 'MIR' ( The Wall), dedicated to maestro Rostropovitsj (with his permission).

Her poem Charter, is based on the manifesto Charta 77 of Vaclav Havel and linked with the Chinese dissident-poet Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2010 who wrote Charter 08. She actually witnessed Vaclav Havel‘s first public speech in Prague in 1990.

Libertinage by H. EggelsShe recognizes the strong link between poetry and politics, since many peace activists have used poetry as an effective means to communicate their ideas to a worldwide audience. Many poets have found their inspiration in times of war and conflict, exposing injustices and crimes and putting their own lives at risk. The Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to numerous poets whose work stems from their engagement and involvement with human rights, political prisoners and authoritarian regimes. Despite their hard life, imprisonment and sometimes exile, their voices reach many hearts and attract a worldwide attention.

The  project “Nobel Prize Winners for Literature”, was initiated by her in 1996. With a group of students she analyzes the works of Pablo Neruda, C. Milosz,  M. Vargas Llosa, W. Szymborska, H. Müller and others. Her membership of P.E.N. and her participation in World Wide Reading, brought her into contact with other international authors. 

The Peace Palace Library collection reflects on the special connection between  poetry, international peace and international law. The Library has a special keyword : Poetry. It yields 57 titles, books and articles, ranging from the poetry of Hugo Grotius to the article on the poet-warrior Radovan Karadzic, citing poems while shooting at the people of Sarajevo, showing another, yet very different aspect of poetry.

Here follows one of Hanneke Eggels'  best known poems titled Charter.


 when the writer speaks to

his people from the cachot

the horde in the box of

the world stage falls silent

 women lead doves

 from a grey hand

 Janáček’s snowdrops

 gently bring a yawning

 good soldier Švejk to life

 Franz Kafka crosses

 the Charles Bridge

 as a beetle

 In: Charta, 2012

 (translated in to English by John Irons)

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