Every evening, as the clock strikes eight, the traffic around Ypres’ Menin Gate comes to a stillstand and buglers pay homage to all soldiers of the British Empire who lost their lives in the Ypres Salient in World War I. The very first Last Post was organised in 1928. The ceremony was suspended during the German occupation of Ypres from May 1940 to September 1944, but on Thursday 9 July it will be observed for the 30,000th time.
The Low Countries
Deze Engelstalige blog, gelinkt aan het jaarboek The Low Countries, brengt nieuws over taal, cultuur en maatschappij in de Lage Landen voor een breed buitenlands publiek.
Today we remember Waterloo, “where Napoleon did surrender” to quote Abba.
In the 23rd issue of The Low Countries Yearbook you can read all about how the British have got away with expropriating Waterloo unpunished for 200 years and how small neutral countries like Belgium and the Netherlands simply do not have great and glorious histories.
Find that remarkable article here.
On 8 June 2015 Anglo-Dutch writer, academic and member of the TLC advisory committee Ian Buruma was awarded the $10,000 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. He received the prize for Theater of Cruelty, an essay on World War II addressing the question of “what makes the human species behave atrociously”.
Read Buruma's essay on the Holocaust from the 2005 issue of The Low Countries Yearbook here.
A woman is standing in the emptiness of a landscape in the rain – rain that keeps changing in intensity.
That’s how Forbidden Territory. A Woman in No Man’s Land starts. It is a monologue, written by the Flemish author Erwin Mortier and translated by David Colmer.
The monologue is inspired by the writings of Mary Borden, Helena Zenna Smith, Irene Rathbone and many other women, witnesses of the Great War. They ended up as war volunteers or nurses and met with wounded bodies and torn limbs, the utter disintegration of humanity by war.
The Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie or Koninklijke Muntschouwburg in Brussels, Belgium’s leading opera house, has won a prestigious prize. During the International Opera Awards ceremony at The Savoy Theatre in London on 26th April the opera company received the World Premiere award for the opera Au Monde by Philippe Boesmans.
One could roam the collections of the National Gallery in London and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam endlessly. Comparing the two institutions would be a difficult task. But comparing two recent documentaries on these national museums is easier, finds Stefanie van Gemert. She concludes that Frederick Wiseman’s film about the National Gallery does not stand a chance against Oeke Hoogendijk’s The New Rijksmuseum.
Flemish theatre director Ivo Van Hove has won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director and dance theatre company Peeping Tom has won Best New Dance Production.
Out now: the 23rd volume of The Low Countries Yearbook. Find the table of contents here (scroll down). You can order the volume there as well. The theme of this edition is the sea, water in all its forms, turning tides.
Everything is water, claimed Thales of Miletus around 600 BC. Some assert that that statement was the beginning of philosophy. Water is life. All life comes from the water. The land is what is left behind by the sea. The Low Countries, and the Netherlands in particular, know all about that. They have been won from the sea. But that victory is never definitive.
In this book we take a closer look at water in all its forms, and at that specific sea of ours. You can travel the length of the Belgian coast by tram, from De Panne to Knokke. You can sail from Vlissingen to Texel. We wonder whether the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp could coordinate their activities, but perhaps, as far as China is concerned, Zeebruges, Ghent-Terneuzen and Vlissingen are just hubs of one and the same megaport offering access to Europe. There is a portfolio of pictures, too, showing what people do on the wide sandy beaches of the Low Countries in their summer hours of idleness. The great pirates of the past are also honoured. Today, Somali pirates raise the problem of the law(lessness) of the sea. Today we still need an international law of the sea, especially where pollution and overfishing are concerned. With regard to the latter, however, what food can we still obtain from our North Sea? And finally, there’s no sea without seascapes and poems, of course, a flood of words to conjure up the roar of the surf, the eternal lapping of the waves.
And the tides? They keep on turning.
Things are going well for Antwerp artist Jan Vanriet (b. 1948). The painter’s recent exhibition in Moscow was highly praised, and his work is now on show in Brussels (Roberto Polo Gallery, until 19th April 2015), with further exhibitions planned in Warsaw and Birmingham. The British Museum also recently purchased some of his watercolours. Art critic Charlotte Mullins describes the strength of his work as lying in its autobiographical nature while also treating universal themes.
Three years ago, The Low Countries Yearbook published an article on Jan Vanriet.
Sam Garrett’s translation of Tommy Wieringa’s novel These are the Names has received a glowing Guardian review for its ‘sensitivity and ingenuity’. Dit zijn de namen was originally published in The Netherlands by De Bezige Bij in 2012 and won the Libris Prize in 2013. The English translation was published in 2015 by the independent Australian publishing company Scribe.