Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, Dutch illustrators
It’s now the third day, and the first one with plenty of sun. Until yesterday, the city lay under a ‘dome of smog’ - breathing deeply was no option and best avoided.
It’s a good thing tourists are not allow to rent cars – that would be a disaster.
Beijing has many faces, a glimpse of which we have been able to catch from time to time. ‘The egg’ of Paul Andreu is futuristic, impressive, imposing. Just like a ufo that has landed on Tiananmen Square. So huge that it is almost impossible to overcome a feeling of insignificance. It was here, on Monday evening, that the opening of ‘Open landscape, open book’ took place. (Both countries and their representatives displayed themselves to best advantages and spoke fine words… During the piano recital by Ivo Jansen our thoughts were then able to be given free rein, although it was difficult after 24 hours without sleep to keep one’s eyes open. Fortunately, the Han Bennink session shook us awake again.)
The roads are wide here, the buildings large and of a depressing architectural uniformity - and the traffic and tailbacks are unimaginable. It is an advantage to be driven places, since you can then look around at your ease, especially if you are stuck in for a long time in the traffic, which seems to behave in quite chaotic fashion. It’s a good thing tourists are not allow to rent cars - that would be a disaster.
Everywhere you see really modern people in large cars. BMWs and Volkswagens are well represented, but they are easily overtaken by cyclists, their bikes sometimes overloaded with goods and clearly less fortunately off. The first day of the fair got off to a hectic start - you could feel an enormous tension. Security personnel, young lads in bling-bling uniforms, stood gesticulating wildly at the entrances. From 12.30pm onwards, the hall was hermetically sealed. A high-ranking person had announced his arrival, which meant that from 1pm onwards, anyone could leave the hall, but under no circumstances would be allowed back in. For the whole afternoon, for it was not clear when this authority was actually going to appear. The noise of agitated voices, plinging mobiles, shrieking loudspeakers reached an absolute climax during some of the performances. That was a great pity, but above the Dutch area the splendid artificial sky with clouds moved gently and imperturbably in the wind. There is a great interest in Dutch books. Our Chinese publisher, for example, came with a large group of people, and while he was talking to Diana, Dieter and I were bombarded with questions from highly interested visitors. After two years of study, our interpreter spoke excellent Dutch. Together with Agnes, we then left for the YingYang Centre ‘The little bookworm’. Because of some misunderstanding, nothing had been organised, but that was not so bad, since after all the day’s excitement we could recharge the batteries a bit in the Zen garden. There by taxi (take care, and always haggle about the price - without always being success, we found out from experience), back by taxi, and unavoidably getting stuck in the traffic.
Marvellous then to be later received in the evening, along with the other authors and illustrators, by the Dutch ambassador in the Mies-van-der-Rohe-like official residence.
It is clammy, the crickets are chirping, the large, lit-up windows connect outside with inside. Which does not prevent first the architect and later me from walking straight into a closed window pane. Too much supposed openness can, then, also lead to collisions. Fortunately, it starts to rain late in the evening. And the air and the mind begin to clear.