The Christmas and New Year period is a great time to read or gift a few heartwarming stories to suit the holidays!
ENCHANTING THE SWAN ends at Christmas, a moving end which I will not give away here. You can read the novel at http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o and at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys (Barnes & Noble). Consistent 5 star reviews so far: Dan Dwyer comments: If you like old fashioned romance stories, you will like Enchanting The Swan. Paul and Fiona meet at the College of William and Mary in Virginia where they fall in love after playing “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens. There’s more to this story than Dewey eye romance. John Schwartz has written a fine romantic thriller than doesn’t let go until the very end.
Neal Cary, professor and cellist at William & Mary, writes: Enchanting the Swan is a beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world, and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie. Enchanting the Swan is a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.
MJM Orlean writes: John writes beautifully – I found the book difficult to put down – an easy read, full of intrigue, love, passion, international travel and dubious banking business, and lots more – a must read.
You can still get it for a good read at the fire place: http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
or at http://bit.ly/1Kw8gys. ENJOY!
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN is a memoir /coming-of-age story. Our unforgettable Audrey Hepburn was a central personality in our home and especially for me, as we met as children (she 13 and I 7 ) in Holland well before she became a beautiful and revered film star. Of course, our lives became very different and I only touched hers at her outer sphere, but she did remember me! It is one of the more striking stories in SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN.
You can still get it at http://amzn.to/1QIL94B
Readers seem to like it: Sam writes: This is a heartwarming collection of short stories that portray the path of boy meets world with realism and sensitivity. Perhaps most surprising are the different relationships that each story portrays – some were romantic, while others were more familial or close friendships. Those qualities, combined with the historical backdrop and international perspective, distinguish this book from the more typical and predictable storylines, making it a five-star read!
Kendal writes about the Audrey story: I adore Audrey Hepburn and love to hear new stories about her. Can’t get enough. And this short story was a nice little peek into her life, especially pre-fame, as a young girl… loved it.
Micah Harris writes in similar terms: A pleasant account of an exceptional person. There’s always something poignant about beautiful people recovering from ghastly times. Thanks for the read.
Dan writes: I had read the author’s vignette on Audrey Hepburn a few months ago when I was looking for something short, different and personal because my daughter is a big Hepburn fan. Mr. Schwartz did not fail me then nor has he failed me now with his compilation of the women he has met in his life…One charming and not so charming adventure after another, however, ended the same way until he finally met the proverbial woman of his dreams. She luckily for both shared the same dream.
And how did we!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and pleasant holidays!
John and Joy
Yes, that’s how one writer friend reacted when reading the manuscript of SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – http://amzn.to/1QIL94B (If the link does not function, which often happens with WordPress.org, simply paste it into your url). My writing friend, was he jealous? Perhaps!
What made me write that book? Clairaudience, clairvoyance, clairsentience in the Library of the Maarten Maartens House in Holland, during a family reunion in 2002. As infidels in the medium-world, my cousin Anne and I did not believe we were in trance with Maarten Maartens, our Great-Uncle Joost Schwartz, who wrote so many novels and short stories in English that made him famous in the USA and the UK at the turn of the 19th/20th century. Under the pen name of Maarten Maartens. But we were! He died in 1915, leaving a wealth of literature behind: 13 published novels and four collections of short stories, plays, poems and even a detective story, the first ever written in Holland.
One short story collection was entitled Some Women I Have Known. Uncle Joost whispered: “Write your own!” And indeed, Anne and I decided to write our own “Some Women”, in memoriam of our Uncle Joe. When the trance dissolved, we looked at each other and laughed. When we told some hundred family members and guests, they laughed too: “Hah! You will never do that! All talk, no doing!”
Unfortunately, Anne passed away before we got underway. The project seemed doomed. But Uncle Joost kept working on me. You have to write your version, he kept telling me. And, I did as he did: I began by writing ten short stories about some of the women I had known and found important enough to commemorate, from my early years on. Then I turned the short stories into a memoir/coming-of-age novel, giving the narrator a fictitious name: John van Dorn, to create some distance from myself.
The novel starts with Audrey Hepburn. She came to play at my grandparents’ residence where I stayed on vacation during 1943, in the middle of World War II. She was 13 and I was 7, and her last name was not “Hepburn” yet, but Ruston, her father’s name. She lived close by us, near Arnhem, with her mother, Aunt Ella, her mother’s sister, her two half-brothers (who were taken prisoner by the Nazis but later found alive). They stayed in the house of her grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, formerly the mayor of Arnhem. We could, of course, not imagine she would become a wonderful film star ten years later. And I did not know I would meet her again much later in life.
Young Audrey at about 13 and a few years later taking ballet lessons in Arnhem, around 1947 (family pictures).
Audrey, when she was 21 modeling in London, in 1950/51, acting in cabarets, not yet “discovered”. A picture given to me by her mother that stood on our grand piano at home.
The novel continues with my funny adventures with two Anns during my early years of puberty, testing the waters with the other sex.
The next chapter is about my grandmother, “Lady D,” who left an indelible impression on me and whose wisdom and personality guided me through life. I like that chapter because people who knew her will recognize her manifold qualities as a wonderful human being who stood out above many.
The novel continues with my boarding school time when I, as a piano player, got to know a lovely cellist and started making music with her, a story that may surprise those who remember Catholicism in the nineteen-fifties because it took place at a time of strict Jesuit discipline that forbade any contact with the other sex!
My picture with the charming cellist taken by two courageous friends in the lobby of the boarding school. A most risky undertaking!
Then my naughty story about Tisja the Village Beauty, the seductive help in the house who became my “first” when I was serving in the army. Oh boy, the pitfalls of growing up!
I skipped the girls in my student time. One remains a painful memory, too painful to describe. It imploded during a brief but intense and emotional love affair with student pianist Geneviève at a Paris conservatorium.
From that adventure I returned brokenhearted to Holland to take on my first job and, vulnerable as I was, fell into the hands of a smart but destructive beauty. Irene Femme Fatale, I called her.
I am so thankful to the gods for having saved me from her tentacles. Why are males so naïve? Our libido, the male’s most dangerous flaw! Female scorpions kill their mates after the fun. In the case of us male humans, we fall into the trap, kill her before she kills us, or keep paying alimony for the rest of our life and even from our coffin after it’s over. OMG!
I fled Holland to take a job in Geneva, Switzerland. I thought I had found a marvelous girlfriend there. We shared some beautiful and passionate years until it broke on philosophy of life. Then it did not work out in my job either. It was boring, and I wanted a change. I think it was mutual. To sooth my losses, I went skiing but got lost in the woods. I almost froze to death. In half-delirium, I found my way back to my lodge and ran into that magnificent Viking, by pure accident.
Ingrid and I spent some wonderful days together, but again, it was not to be. Out of pure frustration, I took a job in Central Africa and swore to stay out of the female tentacles. In Burundi I met a Tutsi woman refugee, and you really have to read the story to know what happened!
Purified from all my failures, I took a job with the World Bank in Washington D.C., where I finally met the woman who brought me love and peace.
I personally feel that my version of Some Women I Have Known is a good read. We all live different lives but encounter similar moments. Several good 5 star reviews on Amazon.com attest to that.
Read it all in
Kindle or Paperback, and enjoy it with a cappuccino in the morning or a brandy in the evening.
By the way, the cute and stylish cover designs of the short stories are by Melanie Stephens of Willow Manor Publishing in Fredericksburg Virginia (www.willowmanorpublishing.com), who also published the novel.
PS: Don’t forget my novel Enchanting The Swan we showed last week: also a perfect Christmas gift!http://amzn.to/1LPFw5o
This is to announce that my novel Some Women I Have Known will soon be available on Amazon.com. Paperback and hardcover will follow shortly. See the cover below:
Some Women I Have Known is a coming-of-age tale in which John van Dorn searches for his true love and meets some playful, perilous, and wonderful women along the way. He rides a pony with soon-to-be film star Audrey Hepburn, senses his first fondness of female attention at elementary school, experiences tender moments with his cello-playing sweetheart while at boarding school, loses his virginity in a risky adventure, then savors several dangerous and unfortunate loves in Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva and the Swiss Alps, learning that life is full of losses and ephemeral relationships. After rescuing a woman in the middle of Africa and a narrow escape of life and death, he finally finds peace of mind with a warm and beautiful Caribbean goddess in the United States.
The novel is based on the nine short stories that were published under the same overarching title on Amazon before–and listed on this blog– but was rewritten into a self-standing novel to which has been added the story Joy to the World which tells who John van Dorn finally marries (not previously published). Some of the individual short stories were adapted and modified to fit into the one story-line.
Pre-launch critiques are positive:
“Paying homage to his great uncle, an ex–World Bank professional makes his debut with a memoir featuring the series of women he encountered in his youth. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (or Maarten Maartens as he was called in publishing circles) scored the jackpot…
A wistful memory…” Kirkus Review.
The cover design is by Melanie Stephens, Willow Manor Publishing, Fredericksburg, VA, based on a photograph taken by a close family friend, Irma Pahud de Mortanges, baroness Snouckaert van Schauburg, at the author’s home in Holland, in 1955. Audrey Hepburn’s picture on the piano is an original taken by Noel Mayne, Baron Studios, London, 1950, when she was still modeling and not yet “discovered.” It was a gift to me from her mother, Ella Baroness van Heemstra. The original is now in Audrey’s archive, kept by her sons Sean and Luca.
A new website of ENCHANTÉ is under construction by Danielle Koehler (www.dalitopia.com). All very exciting!
Having traveled the world over and lived in different cultures, I learned there is a huge difference between visiting other people’s societies from the safe harbor of a decent hotel, than actually living among them and adopting their lifestyle, food and cultural habits. As a World Bank official, I usually settled down in a relatively comfortable hotel and got chauffeured or taxied to a government building or private company and returned there after work, then ate and drank in a fashionable restaurant and slept in air-conditioned comfort with a private bathroom. Or I lived as a resident in a comfortable rented house. Even in many field trips, I was relatively shielded from having to leave my comfort zone for long. All sorts of security reasons dictated these rules, but while one may get acquainted this way with the local culture, it does not lead to a true multicultural experience.
A multicultural experience occurs after having gone through the “cultural shock” (the one I experienced the first night when I entered in my wife’s home in Georgetown), something that shakes you out of your comfort zone into a new world where the familiar reference points are lost. This goes both ways, by the way. People from remote cultures coming to the “West” go through the same adjustment process and often find it hard to assimilate. Language, customs, philosophy, food, systems and climate, the things they grew up with and became their life’s trusted beacons, turn out suddenly all different. Those who receive the “displaced” person in their midst expect that person to adjust to their own kin, but that’s easier said than done. Experience shows this really happens only after one or sometimes two generations. In an interracial marriage like ours, it must go a lot faster to sustain the momentum.
As a school kid in Holland, I was told that America was “the big melting pot”. Having lived here for many years, America is full of different races and cultures, but I don’t think it’s melting all that much. Societies still huddle in their own circles along racial and cultural boundaries offering the comfort of their own familiar reference points. Multicultural institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations may be an exception, and being a “World Bank couple” surely helped, but the vast majority sticks to their own habitat, creating the frictions we see repeatedly shown on TV or being used for political posturing.
The great benefit of having crashed through that glass wall of displacement is that the new world one enters offers a wealth of new human experiences that vastly broaden one’s horizon. From little things like feeling that a “cold” shower is actually “lukewarm”, to the larger things of tasting new food and sharing the homes of people who grew up learning math and language as you did but in different settings, you set new beacons and readjust your antennas. Things seen previously as “out of the norm” become “part of the norm”. Feeling comfortable beyond your own comfort zone, and being able to communicate in it as if you had been one of them all your life, and being accepted that way, is the great benefit of a multicultural experience.
Those were the thoughts that went through my head on my way to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church where the Blessing of the Marriage would take place, accompanied by my new brother-in-law, the esteemed sir Lancelot Jaundoo from London, waiting for the bride who led me to that new world and helped me enter it, accompanied by my new father-in-law, Richard Emerson Jaundoo. (A small footnote: when we traveled through India later, the English spelling of the Hindu name in the telephone books was “Chandoo”, pronounced the same way.)
Get me to the church on time…
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
Waiting, waiting, waiting
There she comes! With the Father of the Bride
The Bride Taken!
In the newspapers
Cutting the cake with the loveliest bridesmaids ever. I wish I had a harem…
Mother and Father, sister Gwen and husband Lloyd with Renée (left), brother Lance with sister Sandra (right), before the Calypso Ball.
The next days consisted of family meals and visits with traditional inputs of curry and rum.
Uncle Enoch cooking curry and peppers the traditional way
Cramped, learning to drink from a coconut without messing up on the beach near Berbize
A glimpse of New Amsterdam, the town the Dutch exchanged for New York with the Brits. Surely less traffic.
Flying to the Interior to walk along the Potaro River in Essequibo county on the way to the Kaietur Water falls.
The Kaietur Falls are one of the highest in the World (250 meters or some 750 feet) and are a mighty presence of power and beauty.
It has an estimated flow rate of over 660 cubic meters per second. Suggestions to build a hydro power dam are bountiful, but fortunately the pristine nature has so far remained protected by the Kaietur National Park.
Back to the family, more than a year and a few months later:
Young David bites his Mom’s finger
Did we see this somewhere else? (Credit: IRIS – Paris XIVe)
Darwin’s theory proven
Next- Some more pictures of beautiful Guyana.
My curiosity for long-distance enchantment and multiculturalism was born out of a famous story, Saïdjah and Adinda, written by a much-lauded Dutch author, Eduard Douwes Dekker, alias “Multatuli” (“the one who has suffered a lot”) in 1860. His book was about “Max Havelaar, The Coffee Auctions of The Dutch Trading Company”. It agitated against the abuses of Dutch colonialism in the then Dutch Indies (now Indonesia), was widely read in his days and later, reprinted many times, and turned into a Dutch movie in 1976 by film director Fons Rademakers, which got first prize at several film festivals for best foreign film.
Credit: Wikipedia NL.
Saïdjah and Adinda was chapter 17 in this long book. My elementary schoolteacher wanted me to read the story when I was 10 (1947). Its sadness, savagery and underlying beauty of love gripped me forever. As young children, Saïdjah and Adinda were destined to marry. Their friendship evolved into love, but the local colonial master confiscated Saïdjah’s buffaloes he needed for his rice field. Forced to earn a living and cash to marry Adinda, he left the area and went to work somewhere else. Their separation was heartbreaking.
I still see the picture that Adinda had shaped in my imagination: a beautiful slim girl with long black hair, bare footed and a light coffee-brown smooth skin, wide dark eyes and a brilliant smile, the dream girl in the “Dessa” (village). I fell in love with this Adinda. But when Saïdjah came back to marry her, he found her family murdered in their shantung home, and Adinda’s body tortured and ripped open. It was a cry against colonial rule. Her sad image never left my mind.
I read the story when Holland fought its colonial war during 1945-49, which led to Indonesia’s Independence. At high-school from the early fifties, I had several Indonesian friends whose families had fled to Holland during these bitter years. At that time, I learned that my grandfather, Hector van Coehoorn van Sminia, as a young man, had spent five years in the Dutch Indies in the early 1900s to set up and manage a coffee plantation with a business companion. Had he ever seen a girl like Adinda? I wonder. But he didn’t feel that was the type of life he wanted and returned to Holland to find his love and married, going back to speed-skating, horseback riding and breeding Dutch thoroughbreds.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to talk to him about his life in the Indies, as he died in 1946, shortly before I read Saïdjah and Adinda’s story. I also learned at that time that a great-uncle, John Paul van Limburg Stirum, had been Governor General of the Dutch Indies from 1916-1921. As a young boy, I met him several times at my grandmother’s house, and I remember him as a very impressive man.
Only when I became 16, I heard that he had been very critical of the Dutch Government for not allowing the local population more political freedom in their own decision making. He took several measures to enhance local political participation, which were later rescinded by a much less visionary Dutch regime. He died in 1948 when the colonial war was raging and I was too small to talk to him about these things.
His vision was the main reason why, in 1962, I wrote my masters thesis for political science about the renewed conflict between Holland and Indonesia regarding Western New Guinea (the Dutch side of Australian Papua Guinea, which was part of the Indonesian archipelago). Holland had kept it out of the 1949 Indonesian Independence agreements as Dutch territory.
The thesis argued against the Dutch Government’s impossible position to keep Western New Guinea (Western “Irian” for Indonesia) out of Indonesian sovereignty. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially Minister Luns, was not amused when they heard about my thesis during my research. A month after I completed my thesis, in August 1962, Holland was forced to sign the secession of Western New Guinea to Indonesia, under American mediation (New York Agreement, Ellsworth Bunker, diplomat under President Kennedy).
Meanwhile Adinda had found refuge in my mind. She was the driver of my economic development studies in Paris and my desire to join the World Bank. She probably was also the driver behind my inclination to find her as a life companion despite all the blondes and brunettes that complicated my life and couldn’t keep me committed, spawning deep sorrow and many tears. Ultimately I found her….in 1973 at the World Bank in Washington D.C. An East-Indian beauty from Guyana.
“Adinda come true”
The World Bank is, of course, a multicultural institution by definition. All member nations are somewhat represented and you meet and work with all colors and races, from yellow to black to brown and to white. As English is the main language, everyone works and converses with each other and feels like they are one family regardless where they come from and what color or faces or accent they have. Of course, we make fun of each other, but it’s never hateful. When you exit onto the streets of the USA, locals do not understand that congeniality, as they are still stigmatized into racial differences in spite of many years of activism in this area.
But for us, that did not matter and we married on January 25, 1974.
John and Joy’s civil marriage and the parties
Though left and right our decision was criticized in 1974, after 40 years we still stand while many of the critics failed.
Both children, here pictured at my family residence in Holland, are products of a multicultural colorless approach to life. Both have successful careers, saw a lot of the Third World, and can reach out to all sides and relate to their weaknesses and strengths. Character counts, color does not. They learned to be standard bearers of good family values, keeping up the flag of all peaceful nations under one universal God, whatever name He carries or concept He represents. We are called “the family of the United Nations”, without all the infighting of that body.
The proof is that often derided multiculturalism works, and we will be celebrating this shortly.
Next – Guyana – The Blessing