A Guided Tour of the Gilded Cage

Jan Van Loy Takes the Reader by the Ear ‘It’s not very nice when the rest of the world sees you as an idle layabout’, Jan Van Loy (1964-) told the Flemish newspaper De Standaard in 2006. For years he had cherished the dream of becoming a writer, but not a single text had ever…

Not a Cheerful Science

The Unrelenting World-Picture of Willem Frederik Hermans I must have been fourteen or fifteen when I informed my mother that I had now read all of juvenile literature. The school library I had exhausted; the bookshelves at home I had already utterly devoured. I had even read my father’s books, admittedly numerous but with only…

Deeper and Deeper into the Forest

On the Work of Oek de Jong Before the publication of Pier en oceaan (Pier and Ocean, 2012), I asked myself once or twice whether it would be more accurate to refer to the work of Oek de Jong’s ‘pens’ rather than the work of his ‘pen’. After all, each new book bearing his name…

A Sailor’s Grave for Captain Jan

Dutch and American writer Jan de Hartog The Dutch novelist and playwright Jan de Hartog, who died in Houston, Texas, in September 2002, was born in Haarlem in 1914, the son of a professor of Calvinist theology and a Quaker mother. A born rebel, he ran away to sea at the age of ten. In the…

Translator or Actor?

I find myself asking myself more and more: ‘Why do you sit translating?’ What are the deeper-lying, the ultimate reasons for it? After all, for years I have objected to being referred to as ‘James Brockway, the translator’, for translating is only one of the things I have done in the Netherlands since the war.…

Postmodernism in the Literature of the Low Countries

The Dutch language area, like the rest of Europe, did not see the term postmodernism come into use until the early 1980s. The interest generated by this new ‘concept of criticism’ soon gave rise to a welter of publications, all more or less inspired by Jean-Francois Lyotard’s philosophical essay, The Postmodern Condition (La condition postmoderne,…

Remco Campert and the Dubious Lightness of Being

If ever a writer in Dutch literature was blessed with eternal youth, that writer was Remco Campert. For decades his books bore witness to an almost provocative insouciance, which was perfectly expressed by the boyish, slightly mocking laugh in most of his portraits. His own preferred image of himself was as he appeared on the…