The city of Haarlem is a city with a birth date: November 23rd 1245. This is when Willem II, Count of Holland granted the citizens of Harlem city rights. The city on the river Spaarne grew into a cultural city with a rich history, beautiful monuments, rustic courtyards and a Burgundian atmosphere.
Haarlem is famous as the cradle of the Dutch Golden Century and as a Flemish city. Following the fall of Antwerp in 1585, thousands of refugees from Flanders came to Holland. Most of these refugees had been employed in the textile industry. By absorbing them into the city and allowing them to resume their former livelihoods, the city government ensured an unprecedented economic and cultural blossoming.
Painting underwent a period of innovation, the high point of which was the lively portraits of Frans Hals. City architect Lieven de Key fathered the ‘Dutch Renaissance’, visible to this day in monumental buildings like the town hall and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church).
Alongside this, Haarlem has a reputation as a writers’ city. Many renowned Dutch authors were either born there or have worked there, including Nicolaas Beets, Lodewijk van Deyssel, Godfried Bomans, Louis Ferron, Harry Mulisch, L.H. Wiener and Lennaert Nijgh.
Today too, many artists and writers call Haarlem home, and the city boasts a rich cultural life with literary events, theatre, exhibitions, music and festivals like the biennial Stripdagen Haarlem.
citybooks Haarlem gets underway in 2017, and the residencies will take place spread over four years. We’ll be inviting four authors to each write a city portrait. Two graphic novelists will realise the visual dimension of the project and draw city portraits inspired by Haarlem.
In October 2017, Kristien Hemmerechts kicked things off on the first of our two-weeks’ residencies in Haarlem. Next was graphic novelist Ulli Lust, visiting the city in February 2018. The Spanish author Andrés Barba resided in Haarlem for two weeks in April 2019. In 2020, the city welcomes Cynan Jones for his citybooks residency.