Death of Pieter Steinz

30 August 2016

Pieter Steinz passed away yesterday, at the age of fifty-two, in his home town, Haarlem. He was suffering from ALS, a progressive muscular disease with which he was diagnosed in 2013. He gradually laid aside his tasks as director of the Dutch Foundation for Literature but remained closely involved with the Foundation’s activities. He also published several successful books: Made in Europe (2014), Lezen met ALS (2015), and in 2015 the Book Week essay Waanzin in de wereldliteratuur. In that same year a completely revised edition appeared of Lezen Etcetera, first published twelve years earlier, with the title Steinz – Gids voor de wereldliteratuur. He wrote this ‘Dikke Steinz’ (‘The Thick Steinz’), as it became known, along with his daughter Jet Steinz.

Born in Rotterdam on 6 October 1963, Steinz studied both History and English Language and Literature at the University of Amsterdam and at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, USA. In late 1989 he began working at the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad, where he grew to become art and book reviewer and later, in 2006, editor-in-chief of its weekly books section ‘Boeken’. He wrote reviews, essays and interviews about both Dutch and translated literature. He also wrote about film, pop music and history.

Steinz published ten encyclopaedic and reflective works on literature including Lezen Etcetera. On 1 March 2012 he left journalism to become director of the Dutch Foundation for Literature, which occupies itself to a large extent with the development and promotion, at home and abroad, of literature in the Dutch and Frisian languages. Peter Steinz was an inspired and inspiring director, who devoted his great knowledge of and passion for Dutch and foreign literature to defending and promoting the interests of writers and translators. As their tireless advocate, he brought many new books in all genres into the limelight with the talk show ‘Letteren &cetera’.

Pieter Steinz receives the first copy of Made in Europe from the hands of Jet Bussemaker, Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science. Photo: Victor Schiferli

In March 2014 Steinz was awarded the Golden Quill ‘because, in an inimitable fashion, he placed literature, both Dutch and foreign, in a new kind of literary history’.

Steinz was actively involved in preparations for the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016, where the Netherlands and Flanders are guest of honour, which he will now not see come to fruition. Two of his books, however, have been translated into German this year, Made in Europe as Typisch Europa. Ein Kulturverführer in 100 Stationen (Knaus Verlag; translated by Christiane Burkhardt) and Lezen met ALS, as Der Sinn des Lesens (Reclam Verlag, translated by Gerd Busse).

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‘I’m simply someone who likes to kindle enthusiasm in others.’