Niña Weijers has the ability to see the world as a stage, life as a story that can be analyzed and revised, and the men and women who go through it as characters. Each one does the part of it and gets the part of it. In other words: everyone is in line with the scenario that has already been drawn, everyone is facing the expectations of the others. And she sees if you can get away with it. We are dolls, or perhaps children, who believe we are independent while we hide behind daddy’s pant legs. Whereupon adulthood ‘turns out to be something of a joke’, as Weijers (1987) in the introductory mini-essay on Do it yourself writes ‘Omniscience has not happened, autonomy is not absolute.’
In both of his novels, The consequences (2014) and antechamber rooms (2019), the protagonists were already trying to free themselves from the gaze of others, from the imposed lifestyle, which they only had to follow for a while. While life also beckoned. ‘Quiet happiness’, adventurous conformism that neither stifles nor crushes: was there such a thing?
In that sense Do it yourself a continuation and deepening of the work of Niña Weijers, although this is, however, an essay book in which she mainly publishes her personal columns (or more chic: mini-essays). The Green Amsterdammer and supplemented it with some loose and longer essays. This has a disadvantage: unity has been introduced later, and where such a common thread is sought and found, there is irrevocable repetition, both in form and content. Weijers’s columns often have the same structure: first an anecdote drawn from life, which he then extrapolates, reflects on, from something he read or saw, and concludes with an unstated conclusion, a web-no message. . And the tensions of what Weijers has to say start anew with each column. Do it yourself This is not a book to be read one after the other. (But one might ask, somewhat Weijersian: what madman, except the critic, reads such a book for hours on end?)
girl, mother, wife
Also because you will recognize the root note. That is to say: the attitude towards life of wanting to escape from a well-defined identity, a label, a box. Girl, woman, mother. That those three labels stick together forms the greatest tension that Do it yourself for what it actually has.
The good thing about Weijer’s book is that he writes about it in an original and thought-provoking way. On the one hand, it’s personal, in the contemplative way in which you unequivocally set a good example for his colleague.greenrecognizes the essayist Marja Pruis. Like her, Weijers transcends the private. she catches the millennial condition – of the contemporary reflective thirtysomething, rocking on the waves of choice stress, feeling bound by something as elusive as ‘culture’, the ‘system’ or ‘the zeitgeist’, but fervently fighting for autonomy and idiosyncrasy . His concerns are so recognizable, and yet he expresses them in his own way, through the brilliant connections he makes and the refreshing insight he has into artwork, books, movies, and discussions. social that he cites.
Weijers does not want to know, but continues searching and discovering, making his writing an exciting exercise, through a paradoxical struggle. The world is, in Weijers’s experience and conviction, an incomprehensible chaos (in which you shouldn’t want to record and pin things down), while writing is often assumed to be the opposite. If you put something into words, you say how it is, you exclude other options. Weijers senses this and resists clarity too easily. It is the nature of him: ‘In the simple house on the mountain he would find new ways to complicate the situation.’ He sneezes at the ‘rebel’ who doesn’t tidy up his house: ‘The ‘resistance’ is just resistance within the frameworks that have created the world of self-help and self-optimization.’
Also read an interview with Weijers: “I turned thirty and discovered that I had never looked back”
His resistance to clarity sometimes pervades his style: when his thinking gets going, his sentences sometimes become pretentious or muddled, with just one or too many. A red pen could have been run over the columns (again against anglicisms like ‘collection of stories’), but those are petty, moody comments.
More or less autonomous
Weijers writes the clearest and most concise when she talks about others, in the longest essays in which she portrays women who are examples for her, more or less than (because she is still autonomous, huh). On Joan Didion and her resilience: ‘If she wanted to understand herself and the world again, she had to find a new way of thinking and writing. Not replacing old stories with new ones, but always resisting any story.’ About Katie Roiphe, who found a way to tolerate her contradictions: by showing ‘no vain attempt [doet] that unrecognizable version [van zichzelf] to reconcile it with the more familiar aspects”. With Lou Salomé -who has gone down in history as Nietzsche’s ‘muse’- she is tempted to rehabilitate her, a very contemporary feminist, as an autonomous woman, but she also realizes that doing so would make her fall into the following trap: ‘I I would close the inconsistencies, the ways in which she is not the opposite of what has always been said about her […]†
In Do it yourself Weijers’ own desire for autonomy is questioned, and she also leaves room for inconsistencies. Because yes, after moving house, she ends up in a comfortable house on a ‘stupid yuppie island’ and gets pregnant. ‘Multiply, cut yourself in half’, thinks the woman who has not just become a mother. Weijers also wonders how she ended up there, on the ‘other side’ of adulthood, how things changed or grew this way.
Appealing to inconsistencies, and observing that sometimes life goes on without you realizing it, she easily accommodates. It is a pity that Weijers has done nothing with the series of columns on Almere that she NRC wrote: didn’t we see her ‘cross over’ there? The last part of her book, in which she embraces what she feared so much (motherhood, dependency), could have been a little less shocked, a little more introspective, and therefore sharper (and more vulnerable). There, Weijers prefers to maintain the mystery that she is herself than to analyze herself to the bone as a character on that stage. Maybe that’s unavoidable, maybe she Weijers doesn’t believe in it, or she doesn’t want to live up to that expectation.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on March 18, 2022.
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of March 18, 2022.