He is also known as the host of his own award winning television talkshow named Hier is... Adriaan van Dis, that lasted from 1983 to 1992 and several successful award winning television documentaries. His television series 'Van Dis In Indonesia' (2012) put both Indonesia and the Indies back in Dutch living rooms. Dutch and Indonesian language with Dutch subtitles. All episodes: http://programma.vpro.nl/vandisinindonesie/afleveringen.html
With the publication of his Indies inspired compilation book De Indie boeken(The Indies books) in 2012, Van Dis establishes himself as one of the most significant second generation Indo authors of Dutch Indies literature. The compilation includes a wide range of his best seller books, in which Van Dis exquisitely describes the trials and tribulation of first and second generation repatriates. Like fellow Indo author Marion Bloem his storytelling is based in old Malay and Pecok verbal traditions. His award winning books evoke the great sense of displacement and rife antitheses that affects generations of Indos. Books include the novels: My Father's War and Repatriated a novel in sixty scenes.
Translated to English:
His father was an Indies-Dutchman and his mother a farmer's daughter from Breda who had met each other in the Dutch East Indies after the War. By then his mother already had three daughters from her first marriage to a Royal Dutch East Indies Army KNILofficer of Indo-European descent. His father had been married before as well, in the East Indies. His family had been heavily affected by the Second World War and the subsequent Indonesian revolution.
As a survivor of the Junyo Maru disaster, which had been mistakenly torpedoed by the British, his father performed forced labour as a POW on the Pakan Baroe railroad on Sumatra. Adriaan van Dis's mother's first husband was a resistance fighter and was decapitated during the Japanese occupation (1942–1945). His mother ended up in a Japanese interment camp along with her 3 young daughters.
Adriaan, born after the war, in The Netherlands, felt like an outsider in his own family because he was the only white child and had no direct history in the Indies or of the war. His environment contributed to this sense of loneliness. Bergen aan Zee was home to many people who had come from the Dutch East Indies and Adriaan grew up in a house that he shared with four repatriated families of mostly Indo-European descent.
Adriaan's parents were unable to get married. While his father's marriage had been disbanded under Islamic law, that divorce had no legal validity in The Netherlands. Nobody was allowed to know this, and so, for the sake of the outside world, Adriaan took on his father's surname. However, officially his surname remained his mother's: Van Dis. When Adriaan went to college, he actually began using his real name. Later in life while working on his autobiographic novels Van Dis discovered that out of spite his fathers family hid the fact that his father was in fact already a widower.
His father had been traumatised by the war and was unable to work. Furthermore, he found it difficult to find a place in The Netherlands as a migrant; he never felt like he fit in. He was always home and raised Adriaan in a conservative manner, frequently beating him. Adriaan remembers him as a cruel man, but also as a victim of circumstances. He is one of his main literary inspirations and his perspective on his father evolves with each related novel.
His father died in 1956 when Adriaan was ten. Despite their difficult relationship, Adriaan was hit hard by his loss, which had a negative effect on his performance in school. Through various schools however, he ended up in Amsterdam to study Dutch. There he came into contact with Afrikaans. Within that language he recognized much of the Petjo that his family had jokingly spoken at home occasionally: a Dutch-Malay creole language with many unusual intonations. Van Dis also identified with the charged discussions of skin color in South African literature. In 1979 he received his doctoral degree wit a dissertation about a text by the author Breyten Breytenbach, who was to influence his later writing, and some of whose books Van Dis has translated into Dutch.
During his college days Van Dis was already working as editor with the NRC Handelsblad and after graduating he remained connected to the paper until 1982, working for the Saturday Supplement. His debut novella "Nathan Sid"" came out of a regular cooking column in which he wrote about his memories of food. Those memories were strongly connected to the struggles between his parents - between the potatoes and the rice. Publisher J.M. Meulenhoff turned these contributions into a short book. Van Dis had little confidence in its success, but it was received with great enthusiasm, and received theGouden Ezelsoor literary prize for best sold debut in 1984.
In 1983 Van Dis also made his debut as television presenter and became known in the Netherlands through a literary talk show. This show aired until 3 May 1992. From 1999 until 2002 he returned to host a television show entitled "Zomergasten", with which he ended, according to himself, his TV career.
Adriaan van Dis is a prolific writer whose work is very popular in The Netherlands, where he is a household name. In 2008 he decided to briefly resume his television career with a 7 part series entitled "Van Dis in Afrika" in which he reported on his travels to Southern Africa. The series won the "Zilveren Nipkowschijf".
In 2012 Van Dis successfully returned to national television with a popular documentary tv series about Dutch roots in contemporary Indonesia. The Dutch institute for TV classification tried to have parts of the show censored. After which Van Dis reacted with: "Have they learned nothing from Multatuli?"
Adriaan van Dis's work includes novels, novellas, short stories, essays, poetry and plays. His work can largely be divided into three categories. The first part is inspired by his many travels to China, Africa, Japan, Morocco and Mozambique amongst others. Examples of such work include ""Casablanca" (1986) and "In Afrika" (1991). The second part of his work concerns his Indies youth, like "Nathan Sid" (1983), "Indische Duinen" (1994) and "Familieziek" (2002). The third category include the novels about emerging homosexuality, which includes "Zilver" (1988) and "Dubbelliefde" (1999).
Dualism is an important theme in the work of Van Dis. His books are rife with antitheses, such as black/white, social/anti-social and heritage/own identity. His style, which was praised even at the publication of "Nathan Sid", is often light and imple. That simplicity is often deceptive and necessary to touch on subjects of a controversial and/or delicate nature, such as traumas of war, discrimination and abuse.