Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Linda Polman

Linda Polman was born in 1960. Since her father worked for an airline, she had the opportunity early in life to travel to countries such as Israel, Somalia and Haiti. Linda Polman studied journalism at the Faculty of Mass Communication of the Utrecht School of Journalism.

Over fifteen years of work are filled with documentaries for public radio. Features for almost all Dutch and Belgian national newspapers and magazines, as well as for Granta were the result of extensive travels through Australia, Europe and places "off the beaten track" like Kisangani, Nepal and Haiti.

She made her debut in 1991 with De varende stad. Her second book, Bot pippel, was published in the Netherlands two years later. Linda Polman has reported from UN Headquarters in New York, and for three years she traveled with UN troops on peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda. Her experiences during the UN mission in Rwanda in 1995 decisively changed her way of thinking. She became an eyewitness to the slaughter of an estimated four thousand refugees in the refugee camp at Kibeho. Linda Polman gives her account of the experience in her latest book, We Did Nothing: Why the truth doesn’t always come out when the UN goes in (first Dutch publication 1997, revised edition 2003). It is has recently been translated into Italian and will also be published in Japanese next year.

Linda Polman lives in Freetown, capital city of Sierra Leone, where she works as an independent freelance journalist. She is investigating UN camps and the work of international aid agencies.

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"I think we live in such a banality of horrors, horrors surround us, so a real reportage is a kind of break through this banality. When we speak about any situation, be it Chechnya or something else, we speak not only about this concrete situation but also about something of our deeper human nature."Svetlana Alexievitch (jury member 2003, 2004 & 2005)