The Scattered ‘I’

The Ambivalent Work of Paul de Wispelaere The work of the Flemish writer, essayist and critic Paul de Wispelaere (1928-) is highly characteristic of the development of literature and literary criticism in Dutch during the second half of the twentieth century. When he came on the scene in the mid-sixties, De Wispelaere was much impressed…

Extract from ‘Public Works’ 

‘No, I am sorry, I cannot give you a fertility medicine.’ The clicking of the knitting needles in the side room had stopped, and for a second all Anijs could hear was the murmuring of his blood. There was nobody else in the chemist’s shop, only Johanna Bennemin. Her head bowed low, she remained standing…

To their Downfall, Eyes Wide Shut

About the Novels of Thomas Rosenboom The report by the panel of judges for one of the Netherlands’ literary prizes referred to Thomas Rosenboom as a ‘young writer’. An extraordinary description. It is certainly the case that the media have long had an appetite for ‘cool’ young writers. But Rosenboom was born in 1956. Leaving…

Cees Nooteboom as Nomadic Writer

For a British scholar to have produced a major monograph on a prominent, internationally known Dutch writer would be a coup in itself. However, Jane Fenoulhet’s ambitions extend much wider than the establishment of Cees Nooteboom’s ‘national canonical status’. (As is well known, until comparatively recently Nooteboom’s critical acceptance in the Low Countries lagged behind…

Extract from ‘To Merelbeke’

How God amputated my right leg At last – it was the longest day in the year, I lay dozing at the grassy edge of a forgotten old canal covered in duckweed – God alighted on my shirt. He first made his way laboriously as far as the fourth button and stopped to look around.…

In Search of Self

New Prose Writing in Dutch after 1985 Revisor Prose The wave of innovation which gave rise to the ‘new’ prose of the 1980s first made its appearance in the Netherlands with the publication in 1974 of the literary journal De revisor. The generation of young writers which it brought to the fore — Dirk Ayelt…

Hella S. Haasse and the Historical Novel

or: The Triumph of Fact over Fiction In her career as a historical novelist, Hella S. Haasse (1918-) undertook a journey to find new ways of bringing the past to life. Her first two historical novels, In a Dark Wood Wandering (Het woud der verwachting, 1949) and The Scarlet City (De scharlaken stad, 1952) are…

Against the Status Quo

Louis Paul Boon in a Wider Literary Context Louis Paul Boon (1912-1979) stands apart from other Flemish writers of his generation because of his insistence on finding his own voice. That distinct voice combines a rootedness in Boon’s own particular Flemish locality — the outskirts of Aalst, a provincial Flemish town — with an emphatic and even aggressive…