Meeting about Norman Mailer's controversial novel

Ancient Evenings

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Ernst-Jan Pfauth (de correspondent) and Tim de Gier (Vrij Nederland) take you along to the imaginative world of Norman Mailer’s Ancient Evenings, the voluminous 1983 novel on which Matthew Barney’s and Jonathan Bepler’s film River of Fundament is based. Setting his story in Ancient Egypt, Mailer tells a complex tale which moves between historical fiction, allegory and spiritual meditation, intertwining the Egyptian mythology around Isis and Osiris with the America of the 1970’s. The novel caused quite a stir at the time, not in the least because Mailer combined mythological themes such as fertility, death and reincarnation with starkly realistic and often shocking depictions of sexual abandon and excessive violence.

Joost de Vries: Who is Norman Mailer? And what is Ancient Evenings (1983)?

Historian at the Blitzcollege Emilie van Opstall (VU) about Isis and Osiris

Anna Abrahams (EYE) about Norman Mailer and Film

Marian Cousijn (Upstream Gallery) about Matthew Barney


Ernst-Jan Pfauth is an Internet entrepreneur, journalist and author of the book Sex, Blogs & Rock-’n-roll (2010). Previously he was Internet Chief at the newspaper NRC Handelsblad, now he is the publisher of the new online journalism platform De Correspondent. Together with Tim de Gier and Das Magazin, he organizes Literaturfest, a literary evening held in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam, but also at festivals like Crossing Borders and Lowlands.


Tim de Gier (b. 1983) works for the magazine Vrij Nederland and writes about technology and literature. After finishing his studies, he and a group of friends set up the Internet magazine hard//hoofd and Literaturfest, a live programme. In 2011 11, he wrote an article for Vrij Nederland about Norman Mailer’s essay The White Negro, which spoke for the first time about young hipsters who listened to jazz and swing 'as if black culture was theirs’.

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