notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘J.M. Coetzee’

A Posthumous Confession

In Masters on November 25, 2012 at 2:10 PM

Marcellus Emants

Marcellus Emants (1848–1923) was a Dutch poet, novelist, and playwriter. After coming into a substantial inheritance at the age of twenty-three following the death of his father, he threw over his law studies and dedicated his life to travel and literature. Emants had little contact with his contemporaries, and published his first poems and plays in two literary magazines he co-founded while still at the University of Leiden. He also founded a theater company, where many of his plays—productions that he directed and acted in as well—were performed.

Termeer, the narrator of A Posthumous Confession, is a twisted man and a troubled one. The emotionally stunted son of a cold, forbidding, and hypocritical father, Termeer has only succeeded in living up to his parents’ low expectations when, to his own and others’ astonishment, he finds himself wooing a beautiful and gifted woman—a woman whose love he wins. But instead of finding happiness in marriage, Termeer discovers it to be a new source of self-hatred, hatred that he turns upon his wife and child. And when he becomes caught up in an affair with a woman as demanding as his own self-loathing, he is driven to murder.

What is the self, and how does it evade or come to terms with itself? What can make it go permanently, lethally wrong? Marcellus Emants’s grueling and gripping novel—a late-nineteenth-century tour de force of psychological penetration—is a lacerating exposition of the logic of identity that looks backward to Dostoyevsky, forward to Simenon, and beyond to the confessional literature, whether fiction or fact, of our own day.

A Posthumous Confession by Marcellus Emants is translated by J. M. Coetzee
More info:  New York Review Books

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What Water Left Behind

In Books that need to be reprinted, More poetry please on November 10, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Rutger Kopland

The poet Rutger Kopland (1934-2012) made his debut in 1966 and has published over fifteen volumes of poetry, three essay collections and a collection of travel and translation notes. He has won numerous prizes for his poetry, including the prestigious VSB Poetry Prize 1998 and the P.C. Hooft Prize 1988, one of the Dutch-speaking world’s most important literary awards. Kopland ranks high as one of the Netherlands’ best-loved poets. He speaks to his readers in a quiet, conversational style, using ostensibly simple phrases.

In 1996, Vintage Books of New York used five Koplands in its anthology, The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, making Kopland “a world poet”. A collection of his work was published in the USA as early as 1977, in a translation by Ria Leigh-Loohuizen: An Empty Place to Stay and other selected poems.

Other published collections of Kopland’s poetry:

A World Beyond Myself, selected poems was published by Enitharmon in 1991 translated from the Dutch by James Brockway

Memoirs of the Unknownpublished by Harvill Press in 2001. A bilingual edition with a collection of 55 poems, introduced by J.M. Coetzee and translated by James Brockway.

Paul Binding wrote in the Times Literary Supplement (2002) “[A] fine selection….Brockway devoted himself to the translation and prorogation of Dutch writers, counting Kopland, as the love and care that inform these translations attest, among the very best of them.”

J.M. Coetzee selected Kopland for his anthology Landscape with Rowers; Poetry from the Netherlands (Princeton University Press 2004)

What Water Left Behind, a collection of 40 poems published by Waxwing Poems in 2005. The collection contains new translations and unpublished translations by the late James Brockway which have been edited by Willem GroenewegenWhat Water Left Behind was shortlisted for the 2007 Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation.

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.”

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