Posts tagged Netherlands
No one reads Dutch writer Gerard Kornelis van het Reve (1923-2006), better known as Gerard Reve. His biography is as fascinating as his often controversial writing. (See “The Containment of Chaos: The work of Gerard Reve.”)
One of my all-time favorite books is Reve’s Werther Nieland, a novella buried in the Dedalus Book of Dutch Fantasy (1993). I say “buried” not to slight this fine anthology (which is stuffed with “fantastic literature” a la Borges and Calvino rather than “SF/fantasy”), but because it got completely overlooked there and because it’s an amazing piece of World Literature that deserves to stand alone. It’s about a disturbed child:
The novella Werther Nieland, published in 1949, was largely ignored by the critics. It is the story of a younger version of Frits van Egters [character of The Evenings], who—if such a thing is possible—is even more unable to face up to an incomprehensible and therefore terrifying reality. Despite the scant attention originally paid to the book, it is now regarded as a high point in Reve’s oeuvre, also by the author himself.
Reve in English (Amazon links):
—Werther Nieland (1949) in The Dedalus Book of Dutch Fantasy
—The Acrobat and Other Stories (1956), four long stories actually written in English: The Winter, The Acrobat, The Foreign Boy, Gossamer. I love the epigraph: "Time, Cash, Strength, Patience (a note found in the papers of Herman Melville)"
—Parents Worry (Bezorgde ouders, 1990, a novel). Publisher’s description: “Hilarious, audacious and powerfully disturbing, it is the story of 24 hours in the life and mind of Treger, an eccentric homosexual Roman Catholic translator and poet obsessed by sex, death, religion and booze; and by his spiralling fantasies about Unicorn, an amiable blond student in need of protection from a host of darkly threatening conspirators.”)
—”The Decline and Fall of the Boslowits Family”: included in the anthology Modern Stories from Holland and Flanders (1973). It’s about 30 pages. Not sure if it’s complete.
A fun fact found in the small book Contemporary Fiction of the Low Countries (I think this took place in the 60s):
A passage in which the “I” figure describes having sex with God when the latter visits him in the shape of a donkey, led to a court case in which Reve defended himself with great panache.
This Low Countries book also includes an 8-page excerpt from De avonden (The Evenings), Reve’s first novel (1947), published under the pseudonym Simon van het Reve. (Another pseudonym was Marquis Gerard Kornelius Franciscus van het Reve.) From what I can tell, De avonden never made it into English. Reve’s thoughts about the controversy surrounding the book should have special appeal to followers of “Writers No One Reads”:
I wrote “The Evenings” because I was convinced I had to write it: that seems to me a good enough reason. I hoped that ten of my friends would accept a free copy, and that twenty people would buy the book out of pity and ten others by mistake. Things turned out differently. It’s not my fault it caused such an uproar
Also of interest—not really, watch Robocop again instead—is Paul Verhoeven’s ”De vierde man" (The Fourth Man), an insanely-stylized 1983 thriller based on Reve’s book of that name.
From the Multatuli Museum:
“Multatuli,” W.F. Hermans states in his biography of the author, De Raadselachtige Multatuli (The Incomprehensible Multatuli) in 1976, “[is] undoubtedly the only Dutch writer who has remained interesting for over a century.” Many years later, we can safely state that Multatuli, pseudonym of Eduard Douwes Dekker (1860-1920), will continue to fascinate us for many more years to come. His exceptional writings, turbulent life and lasting battle against injustice is indeed attracting new generations of readers.
All the print-on-demand garbage clogging Amazon makes these damn near impossible to find there, but, in English:
Max Havelaar : Or the Coffee Auctions (Penguin)