Reading with ALS

Reading with ALS

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In the summer of 2013, Dutch literary critic, journalist and non-fiction writer Pieter Steinz was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and was told that the quality of his life would suddenly drop. Shortly after the initial shock, Steinz started publishing a weekly diary in the newspaper NRC, in which he wrote about the development of his illness in relation to the books he already had read or books he decided to reread. Franz Kafka, Charles Dickens, Gerard Reve, William Shakespeare, Wisława Szymborska and fifty other writers and their characters became Steinz's companions.

In Reading with ALS. Literature as a Life Necessity, Steinz, as a master patron of joy, directly and often humoristically describes his physical decay, hospital experiences, and meetings with friends and acquaintances. Classics such as Count Monte Christo, Office, Oblomov, The Magic Mountain, and Hadrian's Memoirs in Steinz's diary become a starting point for reflection on human helplessness, breakthroughs, conciliations, pain, and wonderful moments that, in spite of the undeniable ending, accompany every lethal illness. Reading with ALS is not just a touching chronicle of the announced death, but also a surprising personal view of world literature.

Pieter Steinz (Rotterdam, 1963 - Haarlem, 2016) was a Dutch journalist, literary critic and non-fiction writer. He graduated history and English from the University of Amsterdam, and from 1986 to 1990 he taught history at the same University. Since 1989, he has worked as a reporter for NRC Handelsblad until February 2012 when he left journalism and became a director of the Dutch Literature Foundation. Eighteen months later he was diagnosed with progressive CNS disease, and had to give up most of his duties. Steinz wrote columns about his illness for NRC Handelsblad. Some of his famous works are Lezen &cetera. Gids voor de wereldliteratuur (Reading et cetera. A Guide to World Literature) (2003.), Lezen op locatie. Atlas van de wereldliteratuur (Read on location. Atlas of world literature) (2004.), Klein cultureel woordenboek van de wereldliteratuur (A Small Cultural Dictionary of World Literature) (2006.) and Luisteren &cetera. Het web van de popmuziek in de jaren tachtig (Listening et cetera. Pop Music Network in the Eighties) (with Bertram Mourits, 2014.).

  • ISBN: 978-953-8075-31-5
  • Dimensions: 128x200 mm
  • Number of pages: 232
  • Cover: paperback
  • Year of the edition: 2017
  • Original title: Lezen met ALS: literatuur als levensbehoefte
  • Original language: Dutch
  • Translation: Snježana Cimić

This small, two hundred pages long book, is written in praise of life and reading. In praise of literature.

Miljenko Jergović


Beautiful stories (...), extremely emotional (...), I take my hat off.

Youp van 't Hek


Intimate, brilliant, captivating at every level.

Guus Middag, NRC Handelsblad