The Spark into the Powder Keg

He would not be the last emigrant to wind up at our table. The fact that these feverish years became so important was with hindsight to a large extent due to the numerous emigrants, who through their reports of the horrors in other countries and their often great, exotic gifts, forced us into surprising initiatives. Around their frequently tragic figures blew the wind of countries infinitely larger and more exciting than the Netherlands, which apparently cannot get very far without ‘foreign blood’. At least not much further than the oppressive burden of bourgeois consciousness and self-indulgent navel-gazing. Without doubt the Chronicle came into being in the climate generated by the emigrants. They sent the spark into the powder keg, which without them would fairly certainly have been damp and impossible to detonate. Empty talk and no action were in the air of the Netherlands — the fact that we had valuable qualities, that there was a great deal of talent about, was something that all the German, Austrian, Italian and later Czech Jews and other anarchists rubbed our noses in, believing — how wrong they were — that they had found a safe place to live and work in the Netherlands.

1930s

From Wreathed Lacunae, Memories (Omkranste hiaten, levensherinneringen, 1966)
By L.P.J. Braat
Translated by Paul Vincent

First published in The Low Countries, 2001