notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘Hugo Claus’

Poetry from the Netherlands

In More poetry please on November 7, 2012 at 7:48 AM

Landscape with Rowers

But what about the poetry? I can hear you say…The rich poetry of the Netherlands stays more or less a secret for the rest of the world, mostly due to the status of Dutch as a “minor” language spoken by only twenty-two million people. Though the Netherlands has been the site of vigorous literary activity since at least the “Beweging van Vijftig” (Movement of the Fifties) poets.

Nobel prize winner J.M. Coetzee translated six for he most important modern and contemporary Dutch poets (side-by-side with the original text) in Landscape with Rowers in 2004.

His selection ranges in style from the rhetorical to the intensely lyrical, including examples of myth-influenced modernist verse, nature poetry, experimental poetry, poems conscious of themselves within a pan-European avant-garde. The poets represented are Gerrit Achterberg, Hugo Claus, Cees Nootenboom, Sybren Polet, Hans Faverey, and my personal favorite Rutger Kopland.

Eric Ormsby in the New York Sun

“The book has been lovingly and beautifully produced… I was struck by how much more starkly and conspicuously the effort to grapple with the horrific century just past comes through in the writings of smaller nations…Mr. Coetzee’s translations of these cool and astringent poems read well…By relying on slant or partial rhymes, he often succeeds in conveying the music of the originals–no mean feat.”

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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