Boudewijn Büch

Productive writer whose own story was a subject of speculation





Boudewijn Büch, writer and broadcaster: born Wassenaar, the Netherlands 14 December 1948; died Amsterdam 23 November 2002.

The writer, critic, traveller, collector and one-man media spectacle Boudewijn Büch loomed so large in the Dutch literary landscape that he sometimes seemed to fill it entirely.

Boudewijn Büch, writer and broadcaster: born Wassenaar, the Netherlands 14 December 1948; died Amsterdam 23 November 2002.

The writer, critic, traveller, collector and one-man media spectacle Boudewijn Büch loomed so large in the Dutch literary landscape that he sometimes seemed to fill it entirely.

As the often written and rewritten primary object of his own writing, Büch's life story presents a dense web of fact and fiction. Born in 1948 of an Italian-Jewish mother and a father variously described as Polish-German and Jewish-Polish, Büch grew up in the prosperous suburb of Wassenaar, near Leiden, some 30 miles from Amsterdam. His first appearance in the national media was in 1949, in a women's magazine, where baby Boudewijn was chosen most beautiful baby in south Holland.

Büch's childhood in a family of six boys was overshadowed by what was commonly judged to be an unhealthily strong attachment to his father and by his parent's tempestuous marriage, which ended in divorce in 1960. At the height of this crisis, the sensitive 10-year-old boy had to be institutionalised in a psychiatric clinic, where he remained for a year. He passed another year in a sanatorium. His childhood experience in the asylum would later be the material of one of his most famous novels, Het dolhuis ("The Madhouse", 1987).

When, at 12, he was sent back to school, his stuttering and his difficulties in dealing with bullying classmates made his time there a martyrdom. At high school and later at university in Leiden, where he read Dutch Literature and German, Büch found that he could write and had other ways of beating the competition: at school, he simply learned the history teaching book by heart in order to compensate for his timidity with achievement. This period, too, would be transformed into a novel, De Hel ("Hell", 1990).

After a period of political activism in left-wing groups and for homosexual interests, Büch finished his studies and became a journalist and began to publish poetry. His early professional life was fictionalised in his most successful book, De kleine blonde dood ("The Little Blond Death", 1985), about his relationship with an older woman and the death from a brain tumour of their six-year-old son, Mickey. The book was later made into a film. The veracity of this tragic story has been a subject of considerable journalistic speculation and, in his many interviews, Büch consistently refused to reveal whether or not he had indeed had a son.

Büch's public breakthrough came with a review programme on radio, which made him a power in the Amsterdam literary establishment. Possessing a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy and ideas, he also wrote columns for newspapers and magazines, was to be found at every literary party, and still found time to publish up to two books a year. In 1986 he took on a television travel programme, De wereld van Bodewijn Büch ("The World of Bodewijn Büch").

Büch was one of the greatest bibliophiles in the Netherlands. His large house in Amsterdam was crammed full of books, many in rare first editions, as well as thousands of curiosities, among them the printer's proof of Goethe's condolence card, a bone belonging to the last dodo, and the penis of Napoleon Bonaparte (removed during post-mortem). Among his other personal preoccupations was his adoration of Mick Jagger, whom Büch, in his own opinion, resembled very closely.

In recent years, Büch's manic literary career seemed to have given way to a spell of at times severe depression. In 1998 he announced that he had lost all inclination to write and would never write another book. He began to appear in one-man theatre shows, which were very popular, and was in the middle of restructuring his personal and literary life when he died. His last book, Het Geheim van Eberwein ("Eberwein's Secret"), will appear in 2003.

Philipp Blom

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe