NEXUS INSTITUTE
     
The NEXUS Institute, founded in 1994 by Rob Riemen, brings together the world’s foremost intellectuals, artists and politicians and has them think and talk about the questions that really matter. How are we to live? How can we shape our future? Can we learn from our past? Which values and ideas are important, and what are their premises?
In doing so, the Nexus Institute places itself at the very centre of the Western cultural and philosophical debate. In the best European humanist tradition, its annual Conferences and Lectures, open to all and visited by over a thousand people, have become a platform for informed intellectual debate on pressing contemporary issues. The same spirit of tolerance and erudition is upheld in the Nexus Symposia, Masterclasses and publications.

In order to promote the European ideal of civilization, Rob Riemen began the journal Nexus in 1991. Each year since then has seen the appearance of three issues in which scholars, artists, politicians and other prominent thinkers publish eloquent essays on the big questions. Nexus is about the meaning and value of our cultural heritage for contemporary society. In the words of Marguerite Yourcenar: Each man fortunate enough to benefit to some degree from this legacy of culture seemed to me responsible for protecting it and holding it in trust for the human race.

The Nexus Library series of carefully produced, bound books features important texts on cultural philosophy which have not been translated into Dutch before. Various books were published in Dutch as well as English. From 1994 onwards, the Nexus Institute has been organizing lectures, conferences, symposiums and masterclasses, promoting  international debate on artistic, philosophical and cultural themes, with the humanist tradition as its vantage point, yet allowing different voices to speak up'.

In 2009, Rob Riemen published already "The Nobility of Spirit". For the cultural philosopher and co-founder of the Nexus Institute, it is high time that Mann's forgotten humanist ideal, nobility of spirit, be remembered. It is the role of this ideal in defending civilisation and culture against barbarism that Riemen's short but wide-ranging book seeks to elucidate. We know this because George Steiner tells us so in his foreword: Riemen's intent might otherwise have been difficult to pin down amid the mish-mash of anecdotes and abstractions, polemics and conversations (real, fictional and fictionalised) that make up this collection of three essays and a prelude.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the magazine Nexus Riemen published 30 November 2015 "The return of Europa". The European Union is not Europe. It is an economic union, a bureaucracy lost in its capitalist values, where the European soul is disappeared and numerous ghosts of a destructive past enter. Europe, however, is the now widely forgotten princess abducted by Zeus disguised as a bull, drowned as man ashore on Crete where she became the proud mother standing at the cradle of a great humanist ideal of civilization, sang by thinkers and poets, achieved by brave decisively people, representing a world of truth and justice fought on the tyranny of power, wealth and stupidity.

It is a publication of a dozen classic speeches from among others Victor Hugo, Robert Musil, Joseph Roth, Stephen Spender and Robert Schuman - which can lead us as Ariadne's thread from a dead Union. At the same time, because of the critical dialogue, contemporary thinkers and poets - including Colm Tóibín, Timothy Garton Ash, Ivan Krastev, Adam Zagajewski, Javier Marías, Philipp Blom and Placido Domingo - were asked to reflect on the nexus between past, present and future.

Nexus 70 is a polyphonic song of Orpheus; full of hope, insight, wisdom and trust, so that princess Europe returns from oblivion and, after her tears about the wrongs that have dried committed in her name, aware of her own actions in the past, wants to fight again for achieving her dream: a civilization in which every person will live in dignity and with pride will say: 'I am European! "

© Jan Reinier van der Vliet

"The return of Europe", the beautiful and double-sized anniversary issue that graces the 25th anniversary of the magazine Nexus, is baptised on November 26th in Bookstore Athenaeum in Amsterdam. Jaap Goedegebuure - celebrated writer, literary critic and closely involved in the founding of the magazine - received the first copy of Nexus 70 from the hands of founder and editor in chief Rob Riemen.

HOW IT (NEXUS) STARTED

From: Georges Steiner, The Idea of Europe, Nexus Institute 2004, pp. 8 and 9. Introduction by Rob Riemen.

Prior to the establishment of the Nexus Institute in 1994, the first issue of the journal Nexus had appeared in 1991. This journal would never have existed if it hadn’t been for a friendship: the friendship between the renowned Amsterdam publisher Johan Polak and myself. Our innumerable conversations and letters about the necessity of founding a new journal always centered on one man, one book, and one other journal. That man was George Steiner, the book, his Language and Silence, and the journal, European Judaism. Johan was co-publisher of that journal, which was founded in the late sixties. Every now and then the international editorial board of European Judaism organized a conference. In 1969, a conference was organized in the city of Amsterdam, and Johan was the host. It was a memorable occasion, namely because of the unforgettable appearance by a forty-year old, much-talked-about cultural philosopher: George Steiner. The position he took that day was as simple as it was horrifyingly true: ‘Europe committed suicide by killing its Jews.’ The destruction of six million European Jews, the destruction of the world of Mahler, Alban Berg, Hofmannsthal, Broch, Kafka, Celan, Karl Kraus, Walter Benjamin—the list is endless—was also the destruction of l’esprit européen, the idea of Europe. With the loss of this idea, nothing remained of Europe but a cultureless, soulless, purely geographic and economic entity. However, the George Steiner who made this observation was also the man who had passed up an illustrious career in the United States. After the war and after completing his studies, he returned to Europe. So as not to allow Hitler and his sympathizers the last word; out of loyalty to an idea that must never die.

Johan Polak never forgot what George Steiner told us that day in Amsterdam. I must’ve heard him say it a hundred times: ‘George Steiner is right. Culturally, twentieth-century Europe is back in the Middle Ages. And just like the monasteries of that time, we’ve got to preserve our cultural legacy and hand it down through whatever channels we have.’ That explains Johan’s formidable private library, his publishing house, and his bookshop: Athenaeum, on the Spui in Amsterdam. That is also why our journal Nexus had to be created: to serve European culture, the European ideal of civilization—although for the handing down of a cultural legacy Nexus could never be more than a very small channel.

New is NEXUS CONNECT for 30 years olds and younger. NEXUS Connect, launched 16 March 2012, is there for young people under 31 who are looking for depth, reflection and Bildung and who feel at home at the Nexus Institute. As a member of Connect, you meet Nexus speakers at the Institute’s activities and you are regularly invited to meetings and receptions. Prior to every activity, Rob Riemen, founder and president of the Nexus Institute, gives an introduction to the theme and the speakers. See also the brochure.

A brief summary of the reportage by the Dutch daily paper Trouw:

'In the Faculty club in Tilburg about 30 students listened to Rob Riemen, who did not spare the rod about the Dutch society. Riemen denounces the 'destructive utility thinking' in the universities, the erosion of the humanities. Rob Riemen stood in 1994 at the cradle of the Nexus institute, that presents itself as the guardian of European cultural heritage. Nexus goes for culture with a capital c. It is a counterpoint to smallness of mind.

"Annually the cream of the international intellectual elite pass, with such greats as Robert Hughes (late August 2012), George Steiner, Claudio Magris and Jürgen Habermas. And now Riemen also established a youth club. "You really have to become a group. Congenials" said Riemen. "We want to offer you a piece of spiritual resilience. Your generation can change this country".
"You want make a kind of elite of us?" asks one of the younger in the audience.Whàt is it strange that we accept the elite model in the financial world, in sport, in business without grumbling- but not when it comes to culture" answers Riemen. "While culture is always going for the best, for what is truly valuable. So yes, we want to be elitist. But it is not elitism based on class or race. Anyone who wants to learn is welcome. You simply can not sustain democracy without a group of people who is interested in ideas. Imagine a society that has no longer quality. What does disappear then? Art, humor, taste. And the end point is a large gray gray mass.

The launch of Nexus Connect: 30 years olds and younger listening to Rob Riemen
After completing the lecture, there were drinks. There was agreement on the tirade about destructive utility thinking in the universities, whose cause is mainly in politics. The students are yearning for meaning, interpretation, and criticism. That is missing not only in education but also in the media'.

The very first issue of Nexus (1, 1991) started with the following quotation, to which we to this day subsribe:

'Chaque homme assez fortuné pour bénéficier plus ou moins de ce legs de culture me paraissait chargé d'un fidéicommis à l'égard du genre humain.'
I believe that everyone who has the good fortune to draw some benefit from that cultural heritage has an obligation to pass it on to humanity.

(Marguerite Yourcenar)