Das Mag Festival: Antwerp edition
Last Saturday, the Das Mag Festival took place all over Antwerp. This literary festival existed of 16 book clubs headed by the author her/himself. Some of the venues are worth to include to your city trip to Antwerp, as you can read in last Friday’s blog post. The Das Mag Festival turned out to be a fun get-together of book lovers and their idols.
In da club
I went to De Studio for Annelies Verbeke’s reading club. When I entered the bar, I sensed a tensed anticipation. Our readers group was seated in fauteuils in the majestic room on the first floor. The moderator Jonas Muylaert had expected the tension. He tried to relax the readers with a small quiz about Dertig Dagen, the novel we were going to discuss. A correct answer was rewarded with a shot of whiskey. It did lighten the mood, yet the nervousness did not entirely disappear.
Jonas opened the 2-hour-long book club by setting the structure: the intension was to start a debate, not have the author do all the talking. In reality, the group of readers mostly posed questions and Annelies Verbeke answered them. The moderator introduced fascinating topics such as the banality of the good, the theme of death and racism. Annelies uncovered all the steps of the writing process of Dertig Dagen and gave as a peak in the life of an author.
It soon became clear that 2 hours were not nearly long enough to have all 25 readers have their say about the book. For this reason I still felt hungry for more at the end of the reading club. Many topics were raised, but there rarely was a discussion amongst the readers. I had hoped to hear everyone’s take on the ending or discuss which scene they found funniest.
As per usual, the talk was dominated by the more extravert types (which I am not). They asked great questions and often expressed my thoughts as well. Yet, since our time was limited a significant part of our group did not say anything at all. Jonas tried to set this straight near the end by addressing specific people and asking for their favourite part, but this might have been a little too late.
Connect with like-minded book lovers
The visitors of the Das Mag Festival all searched for a connection with like-minded book lovers. I am sure many found this match: I saw approving nods when someone expressed a thought; I overheard people still talking about the book during the after-party. If I can make one suggestion, I’d say: add an extra hour before the reading club, without the author. In this hour, the group is split in smaller units so people can get to know each other and have a more lively discussion. This way, all readers will feel more involved. We can even toss in some more whiskey.
To conclude, the Das Mag Festival was a well-organised literary event that celebrated readers, writers and the books that connect them. I am glad that Das Magazin chose Antwerp for this edition.
Text by Tine Van den Poel
Pics by Tine Van den Poel