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Anna van Suchtelen (e)


Versailles at the Scheldt
Family Chronicle
Cossee Publishers
November 2017

interview with Anna van Suchtelen

‘A Versailles in miniature in a forgotten corner at the Scheldt’, writes a newspaper journalist in 1894 about the house Zorgvliet, located in the Dutch Zealand hamlet Ellewoutsdijk. When visiting dredger’s family Van Hattum’s manor, he doesn’t believe his eyes. Inside, he sees a winter garden, a theatre with a turning stage, and three art galleries full of paintings. Outside, he comes across a garden with a deer park, a greenhouse gallery and an island with an aviary. From the observation tower, one only sees meadows, dykes and the Scheldt for miles around.
The enterprising J.C. van Hattum is the founder of this success: within one generation, he brings his father’s dredging company to great prosperity. Among other things, the firm is involved in the construction of the Panama Canal, the Afsluitdijk and the Zealand Bridge. Slowly but surely, the summer residence turns into a palace in Moorish style.

In Versailles aan de Schelde Anna van Suchtelen describes the lifetime of three women, the spouses of three generations dredgers. What does it mean, to be a member of this family? What forms one’s base and what does one pass on? And what is the meaning of being rooted at a specific place? For her first novel, she was inspired by her family history and by the concept genius loci: the spirit of the place. She centralized a location, Zorgvliet, and researched what happens when human’s environment changes drastically.