notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘Hella S.Haasse’

A Pitcher from Arelate – Radio Books

In Masters on November 28, 2012 at 11:31 AM

The series Radio Books is an initiative of Flemish-Dutch Huis de Buren in Brussels, in association with the Flemish radio broadcaster Klara and Radio Netherlands Worldwide. A Pitcher from Arelate by Hella Haasse was translated by Ina Rilke. The story is read by Chris Chambers

Hella Haasse (1918 – 2011) was born in Batavia, the colonial Dutch East Indies. Her father was a government official and her mother a pianist. Her childhood there inspired many of her books, including her 1948 debut novel Oeroeg which has gained the status of a classic in Dutch literature. In 2009, it was selected for the Nederland Leest (Netherlands Reads) project which distributed thousands of copies free of charge through Dutch libraries.
Haasse has received numerous prestigious awards for her work, including the 2004 Dutch Literature Prize.

Haasse’s contribution to Radio Books is in the historical genre. It’s set in Arles in southern France when it was still known as Arelate – the very first Roman town to be built in what was then called Gaul. Arelate had been established by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar after the defeat of his enemy Pompey in 49BC. A shepherdess journeys from the stark scrubland of the Provencal countryside to Arelate in order to find the father of her new-born son.

Dizzy with all the sights she had seen, she rested in the warm breeze. People surged past in a sea of sounds. Many of their languages were unknown to her. She had drunk water at a fountain and eaten a piece of bread from her bag, and now she sat in the shade of the half-open passage beneath the many-columned building, which was crowded at this time of day. On her way there she had crossed a neighbourhood where the air was thick with chalk dust, and where the street noise was drowned out by the pounding of hammers and rasping of saws. She had been intrigued by the goods on display and the pungent smells of unfamiliar brews and bakeries, but had hurried onwards all the same.

Through this simple woman’s eyes one can imagine how awe-inspiring this new Roman town must have been. The narrator imagines the might and ambition of the Roman Empire and how its European colonies were changing beyond recognition.


Armchair Traveller

In Bookstores on October 26, 2012 at 3:21 AM

Mireille Berman, Manager of International Projects at the Dutch Foundation for Literature, gives a virtual tour of a Dutch bookshop.

If you walk into a Dutch bookshop – there are more than 1.500 in the Netherlands, struggling to survive – as a tourist, you will probably experience the joys of recognition. The inevitable international bestsellers – E.L. James, Suzanne Collins, Nicci French, Jonas Jonasson, Stephen King and Karin Slaughter – are all there, and selling very well. These titles, mostly translated from English, share their space on the bestseller tables with the occasional original Dutch title, like Paulien Cornelisse’s quirky observations of Dutch vernacular, and successful thrillers, all written by blond, high-heeled women authors (and if they happen to be male, they wisely use a female alias). The rest are sports books, mostly about football, which is very popular in the Netherlands.

A look at the top 60 bestselling titles shows that exactly 5 of them are literary titles. One is a quality, up-market non-fiction book about how we ‘are’ our brain (instead of just having one) from neurobiologist Dick Swaab. The other three are from authors who may very well be the new literary establishment, as the old masters (Mulisch, Wolkers, Claus, Haasse, and Reve) have passed away in the last couple of years. Read the whole blog

Strand Bookstore: where Dutch books are loved

In Second hand finds on October 17, 2012 at 5:06 PM

If you ever visited Strand Bookstore in NYC you know what I mean when I say I was a little overwhelmed! They have books everywhere and the shelves almost reach the high ceilings, this is “where books are loved”…

Where my local Barnes&Nobles fails to have even one Dutch writer in stock, Strand Bookstore turns out to be a very good place to find great Dutch writers in translation. A quick search on the website already shows that they have quite a few authors in stock. Bring a list, because you have to really look for specific titles. A lot of the books are otherwise hard to find!

Just a few of the great finds you can find here for a very good price: Hella S. Haasse (1918-2011), the grand old dame of the historical novels (The Tea Lordsa portrayal of three generations of Dutch colonial experience in the East Indies, is one of her most well-known books), Willem Frederik Hermans (Darkroom of Damocles and Beyond Sleep, classic post-war literature); terrific Belgium writer Hugo Claus (Sorrow of Belgium), Arthur Japin (the Director’s Cut, In Lucia’s Eyes, The Two hearts of Kwasi Boachi, and Tim Krabbe.

In Lucia's Eyes, novel by Arthur Japin

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