'People Like Us' by Chris van Camp

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Flemish writer and commentator Chris van Camp had an unconventional childhood. Her contribution for Radio Books is a true account of love, deception and the loss of innocence.

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Chris Van Camp started writing a cultural column in 2003 for the Belgium newspaper De Morgen. She’s since emerged as  one of the country’s foremost columnists. She became the first woman to take part in the well-known Radio programme De Nieuwe Wereld (The New World) which she described as a club for men.

Recounting events from her past in her Radio Books story is van Camp’s catharsis. It has taken her more than forty years to write about the details of this period in her life even though much of her writing has been influenced by her experiences as a child. It is the motor behind her razor sharp columns in newspapers and blogs in which she says she attempts to break the lies that take place within the family unit and the seemingly happy households that can often have foundations of clay.

Forbidden zones

Chris van Camp was brought up knowing that a good friend of the family, Uncle Rik, was her real father but it was the truth that dare not speak its name. Everyone loved Uncle Rik. He was fun, witty and a ladies’ man. In ‘People Like Us’ van Camp tells the story of her contact with Uncle Rik and the forbidden zones created by her mother to prevent any serious bonding between them - rules and deceptions that had a lasting psychological impact.

“Just for once, call me father,” he asked me, in the tone of a ‘try and pull my finger’ joke. I found it terribly difficult after all that Uncle Rik-ing, but I still hesitantly forced out a rather husky ‘father.’ To disguise my reluctance, I threw my arms around him. Perhaps a rather dramatic response, which he countered with that guffaw. Ha-ha, don’t worry, it was only for a laugh. Oh yes, the tears dripped into my coffee.”
 
‘People Like Us’ by Chris van Camp was translated by Michael Blass. The story is read by Ginger da Silva.

The series Radio Books is an initiative of Flemish-Dutch Huis de Buren in Brussels, in association with the Flemish radio broadcaster Klara and Radio Netherlands Worldwide.