The thoroughly Dutch (polite, reticent) Bakker survived the agony of being interviewed by talking more about books than about himself. He does reveal "I don’t have a wife, or children, or a dog, or a garden.” As for his taste in literature:
“A friend of mine told me what I should read, and I did, Cheever and Ring Lardner, Iris Murdoch, I love Iris Murdoch. The Sea, The Sea is my favourite. In it she shows that the magical can affect the ordinary. I like that. I also love Raymond Carver and John Updike. You know, I only read Winnie the Pooh when I was 20; it is a great book, and also The Wind in the Willows . Hmm, yes, wonderful.”
Bakker also says: “A book that was very important to me was Edmund White’s The Beautiful Room Is Empty. It is the only one of his books I have read. It was enough, it taught me a lot. I read most of Nabokov's work and loved it, but now, no, I can’t read him at all. I am a slow reader. People begin mentioning books and I think . . .”
Last month, Bakker wrote a brief, charming op-ed for the NYT about the Netherlands reaching the World Cup finals. He said, "And in 1978, we lost to Argentina — which left us with no trauma at all, Argentines being people from another continent, across a huge and very deep ocean, who make a lot of noise and are cocky and handsome, and so are nothing like the Dutch at all."
(Photo of Bakker and his translator by Kenneth O'Halloran, Irish Times.)