‘Ysabella’, a Rotterdam novel by Judith Visser
There are many novels set in Rotterdam. Each of them show another, new side of the city. For Rotterdam, I Love You I will discuss some of these novels. Today I will tell you about Ysabella, written by Rotterdam’s own Judith Visser. This article may contain spoilers!
First things first. I do not like to lie so I’ll have to confess something. For the most part this article about Ysabella is just an excuse to talk about my favourite place in the city: the central library. I’m not even sure Ysabella could be regarded as literature, maybe more as a psychological thriller. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the time reading. The story contains emotional struggles, fights, love and of course the library. Visser wrote the book in 2008 to celebrate the 25th birthday of the central library in Rotterdam. She came up with a story that is set for the most part in the library and some nearby streets. It’s solely 123 pages long and, thanks to that feature, popular among high school teenagers. Quelle surprise!
The story is about a female writer named Jill Valens. Through the story one wonders where Visser’s real life ends and where Jill’s begins. At the beginning of her book Jill suffers from a writer’s block and she hopes to find some inspiration in the central library. There she meets an old man, her ex Helmut and a young couple that reminds her of her relationship with Helmut. Things kick off in the central library on that moment, sometimes leading to strange events that breaths fantasy. It has to be your cup of tea, but even if it is not: it’s a small cup.
Beauty and the beast
Alright. Now my favourite part of this article and Ysabelle: the library. At first sight it is a odd, stair-like building. Some even call it ugly, especially now that the aesthetically marvelous Markthal had been built across the library. But you have to appreciate the ugliness to see the beauty. Just like most of Rotterdam. It is a place to chill, to read, to study. On the ground floor old men play the extra large chess game. Some look like they could have walked right out of The school of Athens from the Italian painter Raphael. Watching is a possibility, but playing the game against those old geniuses is much more fun. Although I’ve heard winning against them is impossible. When you’re finished being beaten by them, a cup of coffee in the library bar will do wonders or just enjoy the changing exhibitions in the central hall. It is here were Jill first meets a strange old man, who sets things in motion for the rest of the book.
On the first floor daily (international) newspapers are available along with the traveling section, so planning your next journey around the world is among the possibilities. The second, third, fourth and fifth floor contain the library’s collection, which offers many years of reading material. DVD’s, games, music are among the collection as well. The best way to enjoy those books is to find some quiet corner, a comfy chair and read. Or just watch the people. One afternoon I myself saw a guy polish his shoes like it wasn’t strange at all. It is not uncommon to see people enjoy the silence a bit too much and fall asleep. Then again, a power nap has never hurt anyone! The sixth floor is a place of absolute silence, perfect to study. During the story Jill moves from one area to another to find answers for the problems in her life and to explain the weird events happening in and around the library.
Ysabella is a fun little story with a lot happening in a small amount of time. It is a perfect book to enjoy yourself with for a afternoon or to get to know the central library. You could, no, you should visit the library yourself and enjoy the people, the books and knowledge, the comfy chairs or just take a moment to enjoy the silence. The library has many things to offer and is therefore my favourite place in the city.