The most important academic question that you can ask at university is: ‘Why am I wrong?’ The essay competition for students is about right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Write an inquisitive, literary essay about the truth claim in your field of study.

In this Kuyper Year, in which we are celebrating our 140th anniversary, VU Amsterdam and VUvereniging (VU Association) are holding an essay competition on a theme suggested by Maxim Februari, our Vrije Schrijver (Writer in Residence). Students from all over the country are cordially invited to write and submit a literary essay on the importance of being wrong. Watch the video in which Maxim Februari explains the assignment of the essay competition. (For subtitles: Click on 'Settings' and choose the language).

If you think you’re not up to it, prove yourself wrong and write!

  • First prize is €1,000
  • Second prize is €750
  • Third prize is €500

The jury consists of Maxim Februari, Diederik Oostdijk, professor of English literature, and Jacqueline Bel, professor of modern Dutch literature. The winners will be announced during Maxim Februari’s Abraham Kuyper Lecture on 10 June 2021.


  • You are a student at a Dutch university.
  • Your essay must be written in Dutch or English.
  • Essay length: 1,000 - 1,500 words.
The deadline for submissions is 15 April 2021. Send your essay to [email protected].

Maxim Februari

Klont_webMaxim Februari has been VU Amsterdam’s Vrije Schrijver (Writer in Residence) since 1 June 2020. His appointment coincides with the Kuyper Year, when VU Amsterdam celebrates its 140th birthday.

Februari on his appointment: “I have decided that I would love to be the Vrije Schrijver. I think speaking about text and about writing is good, because if there is one way to pull ourselves out of the swamp by our own hair, so to speak, then it’s by doing something. And writing, conscious writing that is, is doing something.”

Februari is the fourteenth Vrije Schrijver at VU Amsterdam and Arnon Grunberg’s successor. He was also preceded by Writers in Residence such as Bas Heijne, Ernest van der Kwast, Ronald Giphart, Renate Dorrestein and Abdelkader Benali. Februari’s appointment is for the duration of one year.

“When I heard that Maxim Februari would be our next Vrije Schrijver, I was immediately reminded of the first sentence of his last novel: “The lump was the enemy”. It is going to be a challenge to come out on the other end of this crisis in unity, without thinking in terms of us versus them. It is great that we have a creative mind as part of the team, someone who can help us use clear and sharp language”, said Rector Magnificus Vinod Subramaniam.

Maxim Februari studied art history, philosophy and law at Utrecht University. In 1989, under the pseudonym M. Februari, he published his first novel, The Sons of the View, for which he received the Multatuli Prize. In 1991, he obtained his doctorate from Tilburg University with a thesis on economics and ethics: Een pruik van paardenhaar & Over het lezen van een boek: Amartya Sen en de Onmogelijkheid van de Paretiaanse liberaal (A wig made from horse hair & About reading a book: Amartya Sen and the Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal). This dissertation was nominated for the Golden Owl Award for literature. The Book Club, from 2007, about a wealthy, middle class group of people who become confronted with their own moral behaviour by reading a popular novel, was shortlisted for the Golden Owl Award. The book was also nominated for the Libris Literature Award. In 2008, Februari received the Frans Kellendonk Prize for his entire body of work and in 2011 he gave the annual Mosse lecture. In December of 2019, Februari won the 2020 P.C. Hooft Prize.

He has been writing for NRC Handelsblad since 2010. He has also written columns for De Volkskrant.



Do you have any ideas or would you like to contact the Vrije Schrijver? Please send an email to [email protected] and you will hear back as quickly as possible.


As Vrije Schrijver, Februari succeeds Arnon Grunberg (2019), Annelies Verbeke (2018), Bas Heijne (2017), Ernest van der Kwast (2016), Niña Weijers (2015), Joost de Vries (2014), P.F. Thomése (2013), Kristien Hemmerechts (2012), Ronald Giphart (2011), Renate Dorrestein (2010), Christine Otten (2009), Marcel Möring (2008) and Abdelkader Benali (2007). Februari’s appointment is for the duration of one year.

The position of Vrije Schrijver at VU Amsterdam is sponsored by VUvereniging. During his time at VU Amsterdam, Februari will also be giving lectures at the Faculty of Humanities.

Photo Maxim Februari: © Niek Stam