Renowned author, Lex Paleaux is best known for his trilogy, Winterwater, Het leven is een circus and Vlo. Prior to books he wrote scripts and screenplays. He has always had a way with words, but what sets Lex apart is his relationship with writing and nature. It’s inherent. Together with his dog Wolf, he can often be seen roaming the streets and surroundings of Haarlem. They make a formidable duo and it’s clear to see that their mutual affection runs deep.
You’re originally from Friesland. What brought you to Haarlem?
As a boy I grew up in the north. I had a difficult upbringing where I just didn’t ‘fit in’. Friesland at that time was quite rough and my life was incredibly structured, religion playing a huge part. Even as a small boy I just couldn’t picture myself living in that world. At the time I didn’t know what the world had to offer, but I knew it must be more than what I was experiencing. I dropped out of high school, travelled to Canada and when I returned, left home.
Eleven years ago I lost someone very dear to me and my life quite literally fell apart. I needed change and Haarlem was the place for me. I used to visit regularly from Amsterdam and told myself that when I ‘grew up’ I would move here. So, I arrived with nothing, just a cardboard box. It wasn’t an easy time for me, and I didn’t do anything for around two years. When I decided to start work again, it was on a novel. I realised that to get my book published I needed some sort of recognition, so started writing columns on Facebook, which went viral. People connected and loved my story. I simply took a past memory and transferred it to everyday life. There was always a link between past and present, like a conversation between my younger and current self. A publisher then approached me suggesting I put the columns in a book, which is when I was able to produce my existing manuscript and then everything escalated from there.
What inspired you to start writing?
Believe it or not, I didn’t realise I could write, despite the fact that I had always loved words and reading. It was actually at the moment when I started reading a particular book that something inside resonated with me. It was so different from what I had previously read, the way of storytelling truly inspired me to start writing. I have now been writing for fifteen years.
Describe your typical day?
I’m an early riser. Wolf and I walk for a few hours. We walk everywhere, through the woods, to the beach. We set off before the rest of the world has really woken up. I love the quiet, the stillness, it feels as if life is toned down as people slowly make their way into the day. What’s really special is that we are not just walking. I am writing in my head. I store all my ideas and once I get home, or to a cafe, I open my laptop and get to work. I write for four or five hours. And then very often have an afternoon nap, which allows me to write late into the night. I find the writing itself the easy part, what’s difficult for me is the time in between. My latest book, Als de dood zucht is very personal, perhaps more personal than the first. It’s not a therapeutic process for me, I already have distance from my words. It’s not about my emotions, it’s about my reader taking my work and making it their own.
How did Wolf come into your life?
I got Wolf as a puppy, purely by chance. He needed some extra love and attention and I was there to give it. He is now nearly nine. He is a very important part of my life. I am not a hugely social person, there are very few people in my inner circle and Wolf is one of those. I trust him inherently. If Wolf is OK with someone then so am I. He’s also got a very popular following with my readers. You may also have seen him featured on the Haarlem Facebook page during COVID. There was a bar in town that Wolf loved thanks to the regular dog biscuits. He knew how to open the door, so jumped up to try and get inside. I loved this image of my dog at the closed door and what it symbolised at that moment in time. So I took a series of photos of Wolf in different locations, posted them on the Haarlem Facebook page and called it ‘Horeca, keep your head up’. Unfortunately, they got taken down by the powers that be, but it was fun all the same.
Can you sum up your TED Talk?
Losing and refinding the connection with yourself and by doing that finding the connection with others.
Article: Louisa Bijker
Photo: Marjory Haringa