Roxane van Iperen worked for six years on '

t Hooge Nest

, her bestseller about a hiding place for Jews.

She takes the May 4 lecture just as seriously.

"She goes in with skin and hair."

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Maybe a few hundred books.

A thousand, with a little luck.

Roxane van Iperen (44) did not expect to sell many more copies of '

t Hooge Nest

, the story about the Jewish sisters Jannie and Lien Brilleslijper.

So many books on World War II had already been published, why should her book stand out?

In the meantime, more than 175 thousand copies of

't Hooge Nest have been sold


Gerdi Verbeet has also read it.

"With a knot in my stomach," says the chairman of the National Committee on 4 and 5 May.

"So well documented, yet so accessible and compellingly written. Typically a book that you read a second time to discover new things in it."

When Abelkader Benali withdrew from the May 4 lecture at the beginning of February, after unrest arose among Jewish organizations about statements from 2006, the board did not have to meet long to discuss a replacement.

It was Verbeet who called Van Iperen.

"And I found that quite a bit exciting. After the fuss about Benali, I understood very well that it could be an extra burden for Roxane. Besides, she was busy, she also wrote the Boekenweekessay."

Van Iperen fell silent, early reflection time, but called back after a day.

Verbeet: "She said: this is now coming my way. It is not up to me, because I happen to have a full agenda, to say no to it. A kind of civic duty sounded through it. At least, that's how I took it."

Hidden shutters

Together with her husband, three children, an Old German shepherd, two guinea pigs and three cats, Van Iperen moved in 2012 from Amsterdam to 't Hooge Nest, a detached villa between Naarden and Huizen.

During renovation work she came across hidden shutters, resistance newspapers and sheet music.

That aroused her curiosity.

Her research was initially private.

She set a table on the sandy path past her villa, with laminated photos and lists of names.

Perhaps walkers could tell her more about the history of the house, or so the idea was.

It hardly yielded anything.

Neither do inquiries in the surrounding villages.

Nobody knew the story of what turned out to be one of the largest hiding places in the Netherlands.

Van Iperen worked on '

t Hooge Nest for

six years


She often started early in the morning.

As soon as her family sat down at the breakfast table, she had already been at it for almost half a working day.

The last part, in which the sisters are deported to Auschwitz, she wrote almost in one go: every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Sleepless nights

She had lain awake all night long.

Would her story do justice to the Brilleslijper sisters?

She regularly sought support from her editor Jasper Henderson, about whom she wrote in her acceptance speech: "A man who, when you want to throw all your work out the window, tells you that you first have to calmly eat a banana."

"That must be meant metaphorically," laughs Henderson.

"Anyway, I don't remember ever recommending Roxane to eat a banana."

But he gets what she means.

"Every author who sends something out into the world is deeply insecure. And for Roxane it was true: this story was so important, so charged. She is also extremely conscientious. Again with that 4-May reading. in."

After studying law at the University of Amsterdam, Van Iperen went to work at a law firm.

She later became a consultant and legal and strategic advisor.

Writing was something for evenings and school holidays.

Until publisher Lebowski saw bread in her debut novel:

Foam of the Earth

, in 2016.

Two years later '

t Hooge Nest followed


Every day she still receives letters from readers and yes, there are even real book tourists who want to see with their own eyes the hiding place where Jew hunter Eddy Moesbergen made one of his biggest catches in 1944.

"The theme of betrayal affects me," says Verbeet.

"Also because of my own background. I am from the generation that, when meeting new people, always asks itself: could I go into hiding with him or her? Well, you can go into hiding with Roxane, I am sure."

Heavy subjects

Van Iperen prefers to write about heavy, dark subjects.

Foam of the Earth

is about the raw life of orphans and prostitutes in Brazil.

Her Book Week essay, postponed until the summer due to corona, is about the genocide in Rwanda.

She is fiercely and emphatically involved in the public debate, especially when it comes to subjects such as inequality and abuse of power.

According to Verbeet, it was perhaps the most important reason to ask her for the May 4 lecture in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam.

"Roxane mentions with all the sharpness what a person can be capable of. Not only in the Second World War, also now."

No more than ten people have seen her nomination. Henderson and Verbeet belong to that select group. "It's a very nice, thematic connection to Arnon Grunberg's speech last year," says Verbeet. "Again a sharp story. But Roxane thinks that what happened in the war should also be called that. It is absolutely what we had hoped for."