A few months back, I received an email from a Dutch editor. She’d seen one of my photos from the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, which I’d taken during our trip there back in 2010. The editor was working on a Dutch-language book about the zoo, and she wanted to include my photo in the book.
I wasn’t submitting this or any other photos for publication anywhere. It’s just a snapshot I took on vacation. But it is a beautiful photo, and somehow I’d framed the photo in a way that was useful to the book, I suppose, and they’d found me. It was just one of those fortuitous things.
Of course, with my Dutch heritage and my writerly aspirations and the special love my wife and I have for zoos (we visit zoos on every trip we take, if we can manage it, and we’re members of the Oregon Zoo here in Portland), this unexpected opportunity to be part of a book project connected to the history of the zoo in Amsterdam has been an absolute thrill for me. So you can imagine how happy I was when I got an email this morning telling me the book was finished and in print!
The book is called Droomonderduik, which translates as “Dream Hiding.” It’s a semi-autobiographical story about a boy using the zoo as a refuge from the Nazi invasion of The Netherlands in WWII. The author, Maarten Frankenhuis, wrote the book from personal experience: according to Google’s translation of the Dutch write-up, “Maarten Frankenhuis, former zoo director, has his own experiences as a hiding child in Twente interwoven with that of hiding in Artis. Dream Hiding is his very personal story based on true events.” (Twente is a region in The Netherlands, on the border with Germany.)
The story in the book (again relying on Google’s translation here, though I’ve edited this a bit for English syntax) sounds fascinating, too: “At age nine, Alfred Hirsch, a German-Jewish boy, is unexpectedly locked in the zoo during one of the largest raids. It is September 1942 and the Holocaust is at its worst. In order to survive, Alfred must hide for nearly three years in the basement furnace of the Monkey House without direct contact with other people. His life changes into that of a nocturnal animal. In his oppressive loneliness and desperation, Alfred lives more than two years in a wonderful fantasy world: the animals and the many sculptures in the zoo become best friends.”
The editor has kindly offered to send me a copy of the book as thanks for letting them use my photo. Alas, it’s all in Dutch, but I’ve been wanting to learn Dutch anyway, and this book sounds fascinating, so now’s as good a time as any to pick up the language!
Oh, and which photo of mine did they choose? Well, they found it here on the website, in my blog, so it’s available if you want to look for it. But maybe you read Dutch, or want to learn like I do. So go buy the book, and keep an eye out for my name!
(But seriously, if you want to find the photo here on the site, it’s not hard: just look in my “Photo blog” category for pics of the Artis Zoo.)