A Thrilling Way to Gain Knowledge
Leiden: the city that has the oldest university of the Netherlands; harbouring the birthplace of Rembrandt and known for its connection to the Pilgrim Fathers. The latter, a story turned into a thrilling trilogy. LeidenGlobal spoke with author and alumnus of Leiden University Jeroen Windmeijer on how his studies influenced his writing and what he wants people to take from his novels.
Jeroen Windmeijer, now renowned writer, studied Cultural Anthropology in Leiden, specialising in Latin-America. His fascination for this part of the world was apparent from a young age. “Thinking back, I remember writing a paper when I was ten years old about the Inca’s.”, he says with a smile. During his studies and later during his PhD research, he lived in both Bolivia and Ecuador studying indigenous communities. It was during his thesis that he started writing fictional stories. “Fiction provided a kind of freedom alien to the academic world.”
However, he still uses the skills gained for his studies in his current work as an author: “Doing research for my books is not that different from the way I used to do research at the university.” First, he emerges himself in the place and its surroundings. Therefore, he started with the place he knows best. “I knew exactly how long it took to get from one place to another in Leiden, making the conversations the characters had last accordingly. But I was also familiar with the ins and outs of university life.” Apart from doing his own research and drawing on his own experiences, he also collaborated with cultural historian Jacob Slavenburg on two books.
Before becoming a full-time novelist, he taught religious studies to teenagers. And he is still a teacher at heart. Each of Windmeijer’s book is engrained with knowledge of religion, history, archaeology, and anthropology. “I want people to enjoy the books and get lost in that world of adventure, murder and conspiracies, but at the same time learn something new, something that makes it worthwhile picking up my book and rereading it.” He is passionate about being able to make this academic knowledge accessible to a greater audience. And it pays off: his books have been translated into several different languages, not only English and German, but also Italian and Czech to name a few.
Despite just having his second book in the Latin-America series published De Genesissleutel, Windmeijer also gives writing workshops at LAK, Leiden University, and has managed to write another book Het Evacomplex (to be published in March 2021). And next year? “If it’s allowed, I had planned to go to Easter Island for my next book.” So, in 2021, we can look forward to even more thrilling stories.
If you want to visit the place he writes about in his book The Pilgrim Fathers Conspiracy and dive into the history of Leiden, Windmeijer also offers walking tours on his website. His books can be found at local (online) bookshops.
With his books Jeroen Windmeijer brings knowledge from and on Leiden to a worldwide audience and makes Leiden go Global!
Interview by Karianne Ooijevaar, intern at LeidenGlobal