Review: ‘Personal memories’ by Ruud Lubbers
Ruud Lubbers was prime minister of the Netherlands from 1982 to 1994. He was the prime minister who managed to keep the Netherlands afloat economically during the crisis of the eighties. In ‘Personal memories’, the former prime minister takes the reader through his life in a nutshell. He does this on the eve of his eightieth year of life. The memories of his parents and grandparents, his Catholic youth and the war years are discussed. But his political years at home and abroad and meetings with world leaders are also reviewed. In ‘Personal memories’, both the beautiful and the less beautiful memories are discussed.
- Book details
- Perspective and structure
- An insight into personal life
- About the author
- Title: Personal memories
- Author: Ruud Lubbers
- Date of birth: May 7, 1939
- Date of death: February 14, 2018
- First edition: April 2018
- Publisher: Publisher Balans
- Copyright: Heirs Ruud Lubbers
- Number of pages: 271
- ISBN: 978 94 600 3871 6
At the beginning of Personal memories Lubbers describes the life of his grandparents and parents. He then pays a lot of attention to his youth in Rotterdam, the war years, his years in boarding school and his student days. Lubbers also describes his role as director at the construction company Hollandia. When his father died suddenly in 1963, he became director of Hollandia together with his brother Rob. Or as he puts it himself: “While I was growing up as a book boy, I became an unexpected employer in the metal industry at the age of twenty-four. After having worked as executive secretary for two years, I will then take a seat on the board.” (p. 109).
Lubbers then describes his years in national politics: his time as Minister of Economic Affairs and party chairman of the CDA. Naturally, Lubbers also pays attention to his period as Prime Minister, from 1982 to 1994. During his years in politics, but also afterwards, he had good relations with the (world) leaders President George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. His relationship with some people was less good. On the eve of the 1994 elections, Lubbers announced that he would not vote for party leader Elco Brinkman, but for Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin. Lubbers now admits that he was wrong: “But I was very disloyal to Elco Brinkman on my part. Apparently I was sick. A choice of which I later think: wrong, wrong, wrong, Ruud. ” (P. 194).
Finally, Lubbers tells about his life after the prime minister. This was often accompanied by negative experiences. In 1994 he wanted to become president of the European Commission. However, this was stopped by Helmut Kohl. After some time, Lubbers became High Commissioner for Refugees at the UNHCR. After being charged with sexually transgressive behavior, Lubbers resigned from his position at the UNHCR. In 2010, Lubbers was involved in the cabinet formation as an informateur. He wanted Ernst Hirsch Ballin in the cabinet as Wilders’ guardian. Lubbers also presented this plan to Wilders: ” I asked Wilders myself: ‘If you participate, are you willing to agree that you only shout things if they have the green light from the Minister of Justice? You still make strong statements against Muslims. I think you are on the limit, if not unreasonable; sometimes you do things that cannot be done. ” ‘(p. 250). According to Lubbers, Wilders agreed to his condition. Ultimately, all this fell through because Hirsch Ballin did not want to become a minister in a cabinet with Wilders.
Perspective and structure
With Personal memories Lubbers wanted to share his memories with his posterity. He actually wanted to write down his memories after his time in The Hague, but decided to wait. Lubbers wrote to Personal memories from 2016 until shortly before his death in 2018. He did this together with his son Bart and the historian Hannah Aukes. In 2017, Lubbers’ health was so bad that he decided to stop writing his memories. According to him, the book would not be published. Bart and Hannah Aukes decided to continue the project without Lubbers’ knowledge. Despite the fact that Lubbers wanted to quit, he still entrusted Bart and Hannah with some memories. The last were from January 2018. Personal memories is based half on written memories of Lubbers, and the remaining half on four long conversations with Hannah Aukes. Where necessary, these have been supplemented with research.
Personal memories is divided into four chapters, which consist of a total of 65 short pieces. Lubbers takes the reader through his life and career. The chapters are written in chronological order. Personal memories is written in the I form and in the present tense. The memories are emphasized by a number of added photos.
An insight into personal life
Lubbers’ personal memories are interesting to read. Some memories may be a bit dull or well-behaved. Other memories contain the necessary humor or remarkable anecdotes. In Personal memories the emphasis is mainly on the personal life of Lubbers. He hardly goes into what he has achieved in the political field. Personal memories cannot really be called an autobiography, at least not a book in which everything is told. On the positive side, Lubbers is not afraid to describe the less beautiful memories, such as the Brinkman case, the clash with Kohl, his sad departure from the UNHCR and the drama Wilders. It is interesting to read how Lubbers deals with these setbacks. There is some doubt about the truthfulness of the memories. Lubbers was accused of sexual harassment at the UNHCR. He claimed to be innocent. This does not seem very credible because it is known that Lubbers was also guilty of inappropriate behavior in the past. Nevertheless Personal memories an interesting book to read. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the life, work and character of the man who played an indelible political role.
About the author
Ruud Lubbers (1939-2018) studied economics at the Netherlands School of Economics in Rotterdam. From 1965 to 1973 he was, together with his brother, director of the construction company Hollandia. From 1973 to 1977, Lubbers was Minister of Economic Affairs under PvdA leader Joop den Uyl. After his ministry he sat in the Lower House for the CDA. From 1977 to 1978, Lubbers was vice-group chairman and from 1978 to 1982 group chairman. From 1982 to 1994, Lubbers was Prime Minister of Lubbers I, Lubbers II and Lubbers III. After his time as prime minister, he held various positions. From 1996 to 2001 Lubbers was professor of globalization at Tilburg University. During the same period he was also a lecturer in economics, climate and globalization at Harvard University. From 2001 to 2005, Lubbers was United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Since 2005 Lubbers has been committed to the Rotterdam Climate Initiative. From 2006 to 2014 he was chairman of the University Asylum Fund. In 2010, Lubbers was involved in the cabinet formation as an informateur.