‘Let Us No Longer Express Ourselves in a Local Patois’

Gerard Reve and England Looking back, we cannot imagine Dutch literature of the second half of the twentieth century without great writers such as Willem Frederik Hermans and Gerard Reve. However, when these writers were at the beginning of their careers in around 1950, they found themselves confronted with a literary atmosphere in which they…

Growing up in Public

Josse De Pauw, the Marlon Brando of Flemish Theatre In Avignon they once called him ‘the Marlon Brando of Flemish theatre’. Then what would one call Josse De Pauw (1952) as a film actor? Or as a writer, director or head of a theatre company? Underlying everything he does is a great sincerity. His story…

With a Poet’s Eye

A Few Dutch Poems on Dutch Paintings No painting is safe from Dutch Poets. In fact, the writing of poems based on paintings seems to have become a national sport. From a reader’s perspective, picture-poems distinguish themselves from all other poems in one very important way: the poem’s source of inspiration, whether it be sculpture,…

An Explosive Spirit

The Romantic Poetry of a Neo-Dadaist: Hans Verhagen ‘To err is human. In time you learn to appreciate the quality. And if you can’t see it you’re a dickhead’. This pronouncement by the poet Lucebert (1924-1994) gives the briefest possible summary of the history of the critical appreciation of Hans Verhagen (1939) – from disparagement…

Death in a Cathedral

A Dog of Flanders How many literature-lovers still remember the oeuvre of Marie Louise de la Ramée? Yet, writing under the pseudonym ‘Ouida’, this author created an English-language novel which recounts what without exaggeration can be hailed as the best-known story about Flanders and the Flemings. A Dog of Flanders was published in 1872 and…

Extracts from ‘A Poet’s Diary 1979-2007’

Berchem, Friday 17 September 1993 How can the intelligence stay flexible when year after year at school it is pulled taut by parroting? Does intellectual freedom disappear when at the age of thirty it has to dress in three-piece suits? Does sufficient blood flow into a married penis? Can you stay a child if you…

Giving Form to the Fleeting

A Response to Leonard Nolens’ Diary Winterswijk, Sunday 29 November 2009 Poetry, love and alcoholism form a fatal triangle. It’s a fact that they are related, but it’s not that easy to pinpoint the source of their affinity or the reason they so often need each other. What does link them at any rate is…

A Dutch Exotic in His Own Country

On the Writer Maarten ’t Hart He is coming increasingly to resemble the prolific Simon Vestdijk (1898-1971) from Doorn, author of 52 novels, 23 collections of essays and thousands of poems, whom he greatly admired. Poems aside, the total output of Maarten ’t Hart (1944) is getting fairly close: 19 novels, 9 collections of stories…

So universal, yet so Dutch

Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin In Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin (transl. David Colmer, 2008, original: Boven is het stil, 2006) Helmer van Wonderen has ‘put Father upstairs’. That means the 55-year-old farmer is making a literal and figurative move. A power shift takes place on the West Frisian farm in the North of Holland (the province…