Passion Play

Those who control their passions do so because their passions are weak enough to be controlled. (William Blake) ‘Lots of love and sex to everyone – it makes you happy.’ That was a New Year’s wish in a Flemish weekly at the end of 2007. But does it really? Around the same time Stages of…

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

An Extract from Tommy Wieringa’s The Dynamics of Desire In his reportage A Rough Trade the British writer Martin Amis investigates the porn industry on the American West Coast. For producer and former actor John Stagliano he has really only one question: ‘How do you account for the emphasis, not just in your … work…

Ruusbroec’s Legacy

Mystical Writings and Charismatic Teaching in the Fourteenth Century Jan van Ruusbroec (1293-1381) served as a chaplain in the collegiate Church of Saint Gudula in Brussels for twenty-five years (c. 1318-1343). Then he moved to the former hermitage of Groenendaal near Brussels as the co-founder of a new religious community of priests and laymen. In…

Fucking

An Extract from Beatrijs Ritsema’s To Heart Better than cuddling. Why? Because it is more exclusive. Cuddling you do with children, with soft toys, with intimates (that is, if you are the cuddling type and wouldn’t rather stick to verbal communication with your close friends and family). Fucking, however, you do with your lover and…

For Rika

I only saw you that one time. You sat In an express train racing like a thief At top speed past the way train I had caught. No first encounter ever was more brief. And yet it lasted long enough for me To walk on down life’s endless path with rue Ringing my lips. How…

Poem

o kiss me, o embrace me i have stood in the rain a long time i have waited for the bus a long time i have not been able to catch a cab i have lain awake a long time i have had one hell of a dream i have eaten nothing i have stolen…

In the Shelter of the Village

Dimitri Verhulst In recent years the Flemish thirty-somethings have been cutting a dash in Dutch-language literature. Even in the Netherlands people are impressed by this generation of writers who are all in their thirties and are reverting to the techniques of modernism. They shrug their shoulders at post-modern irony and want to tell tales again…

An Extract from ‘Omega Minor’

I repeat. Sometime the moment will come when the importance of even this history crumbles. When this war becomes just as unreal as the First Crusade, as the Hundred Years’ War, as tribal disputes in the fertile prehistoric deltas of the Tigris and Euphrates. Nothing exceptional happened, people will say. A war. Simply a war.…

Authenticity is Fiction

The Emergence of a New Narrative in the Works of Paul Verhaeghen Anyone reading a novel by Paul Verhaeghen (1965-) finds themselves balancing for a while on the boundary between fact and fiction. In his debut novel Lichtenberg (1996) Verhaeghen tells the story of Tom Pepermans, a young researcher who encounters strange figures, hears and…

An Extract from ‘Specht and Son’

Creator decided to set about the job in exactly the same way as when he painted a portrait of a living person, in so far as it was possible. That is to say, he agreed on three sittings with Specht. During those Saturday meetings, which lasted a couple of hours each and took place at…

Respect for the Mystery

The Works of Willem Jan Otten In December 1999 Willem Jan Otten (1951-) received the Constantijn Huygens Prize, the prestigious Dutch literary award given for an entire oeuvre. The author was 48 years old at the time, which made him the youngest winner in the history of the prize. In spite of this relatively young…

Girl

Whenever will that secret pain inside, which no one knows or ever will, subside? When will I have to cover myself, in shy distress, and act timid, when a man sees my nakedness? And, better, when will someone’s stronger hands embrace my shoulders and caress my skin, as I, exhausted with desire, do at night…

And my sweet love sat on a golden throne

An Extract from Nescio’s Little Poet The little poet had never fallen. To be a great poet and then to fall. When the little poet thought of what he wanted most, that was it. To amaze the world just once and just once have a fling with a poetess. He had had these thoughts repeatedly…

Love in a Cold Climate

Dangerous Liaisons in the Low Countries Some people have gone to France or Italy in search of passionate romance, but others have fallen hopelessly in love in the unpromising dampness of the Low Countries. A Utrecht lady’s charm James Boswell was miserable from the moment he arrived in Holland. A nine-hour journey in a Dutch…

Modern Minstrels

City Poets in the Low Countries The number of city poets in the Netherlands and Flanders is steadily increasing. The present figure for the Netherlands is about thirty. In Flanders only five cities so far have named a city poet: Antwerp, Ghent, Ninove in East Flanders, Damme in West Flanders and Diest in Flemish Brabant,…