Writer in Residence Programme 2010

James G. Cowan is WIR in Amsterdam

1 Sep-30 November 2010

Australian author James G. Cowan (1942) has published over 25 books on subjects ranging from Aboriginal metaphysics to Persian poetry, and his work has been translated into seventeen languages including Dutch.

He was awarded the Australian Literary Society’s Gold Medal for his best seller novel, A Mapmaker’s Dream and received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Grand Valley State University, Michigan, for his life’s work.

Dutch composer Richard Rijnvos recommended James Cowan to the Amsterdam Residency Programme. Rijnvos’ theatrical project mappamondo, commissioned by the music ensemble Asko in 2004, is part of a series of compositions dedicated to the city of Venice. Cowan’s novel A Mapmaker’s Dream formed the basis for the libretto and a fruitful collaboration between composer and writer was born.

While mappamondo is still being performed (for example on Saturday October 30 by the Ives Ensemble at the Royal Concert Hall in Amsterdam), Rijnvos and Cowan would like to use the residency period to reinvent their cooperation and write a new libretto together, one that is neither an opera-adaptation of an existing book nor a modern adaptation of an older libretto. It is to become a musical text that is written especially for the accompaniment of a newly composed piece of music. Or is it the other way around?

Another very interesting fact about Cowan is that he has worked in the Tanami Desert for two years where he managed to revive a moribund Aboriginal art center. During this period he wrote two books on Aboriginal art, Wirrimanu: Art of the Balgo Hills, and Balgo, New Directions. The Aboriginal Art Museum in Utrecht will facilitate a lecture by Cowan in November to tie in with their next exhibition. Besides all his activities in the field of music and art we hope James Cowan will find the time to finish his novel The Great Wing here in Amsterdam, the Venice of the North.

Works of James Cowan translated into Dutch:

  • Het mysterie van de droomtijd (translation Gijsbert Kuypers), Ankh-Hermes publishers, 1993
  • Dromen van de aboriginals (translation Rob Pijpers), BZZToH publishers, 2003
  • De droom van een kaartenmaker (translation May Sligter), Anthos publishers, 1997
  • Het testament van een troubadour (translation May Sligter), Anthos publishers, 2001
Fleur van Koppen


Fleur van Koppen

Programme officer

[email protected]