The Low Countries - 2016, № 24
21 March 2016
‘Read it: it doesn’t say what it says.’
In 1993 Dutch literature was, for the first time, the guest of honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse, the biggest book fair in the world. This year it will again be the guest of honour, which is unique. It is not a nation state but a language that links this literature, written in Flanders, the Netherlands and the ‘warmer parts of the kingdom’ such as Suriname and the Antilles.
Blessed are a language that is spoken and a literature that is written in different countries. They can only be enriched by it.
There are many clichés doing the rounds about the different characteristics of Dutch language and literature in the North and the South. Apparently minimalism is prized in the North. Writing there is sober and accurate. In the South, on the other hand, extravagance - linguistic diversity and impurity, mannerism - is said to be rife. The critic Kees Fens once used the metaphor of black pudding and cheese to characterise the literature of Flanders and the Netherlands.
But the truth is more nuanced.
In five substantial essays in this yearbook we take stock of the most important literary genres in the Low Countries today: poetry, prose, essays and non-fiction, children’s and young adult literature, the art of illustration, comics and graphic novels.
We sing the praises of language, the raw material of all the writers who use it. We give a platform to translators, the ultimate carriers, for they journey back and forth not only between languages but between cultures. What a paradox that the more successful their work, the more they disappear behind the text, the more we forget them. After all, as Umberto Eco once remarked, the language of Europe is translation.
To round it all off we suggest a canon, a clear choice of the books that matter in Dutch literature, from an amorous eleventh-century lament to Harry Mulisch and Hugo Claus. It is a canon that is intended as an invitation not as an imposition. A canon is, after all, always the conversation, the discussion about the canon.
In this book you will also find illustrations of people reading, in all forms, attitudes and formats, caught in all sorts of places. Those who read withdraw, absorbed into a parallel universe, to emerge again changed.
Tolle et lege. Take and read. For this is a treasure trove.
Articles in this issue
- Black Pudding and Cheese? ‘Read it: it doesn’t say what it says.’
- How Free is Dutch-Language Poetry?
- Dutch and Flemish Prose of the Early Twenty-First Century
- Prometheus Unbound. Essays as an Orphic Counterforce
- A Gaze Trained on the Horizon. Children’s Books in the Low Countries
- Farewell to the Serial. About Comic Strips and Graphic Novels
- New Roads to Paradise. In Praise of Hans Boland
- Love in the Lost Republic of Amsterdam. In Praise of Doeschka Meijsing
- Flemish Master of the Small Canvas. In Praise of Willem Elsschot
- Ode to a Bastard Called ‘Dutch’
- Olla Vogala (hinase) (All Birds (save)). A Canon of Dutch Literature
- In Search of Utopia. On the Trail of the Most Influential Book Ever Published in the Low Countries
- Hieronymus Bosch – Both Trendsetter and Representative of His Time. Reflections on the Significance of His Oeuvre
- No Sheep. Arno, Teetering Between Emotion and Banality
- Extremely Distant, Yet Incredibly Close. Bieke Depoorter’s Travel Photography
- Ton Koopman - Conductor, Organist and Harpsichordist. A Seventy-Year-Old with an Overfull Diary
- On Rembrandtness. The Rembrandt Research Project Revisited
- Unsentimental Compassion. The Documentaries of Peter and Petra Lataster
- The Lessons of Medea and La Falstaff. A Tribute to My Theatre Work
- The Low Countries and the Concert of Nations. Contributions to European Culture
- His Portraits Got the Blues. The Photography of Koos Breukel
- Magic and the Creation of Illusion. The Design Work of Marcel Wanders
- The Low Countries: Growing Apart. Belgium and the Netherlands and Their Attitudes to the European Union
- The Magic of Charcoal. Rinus Van de Velde, Rising Star in the Flemish Art World
- The Reform-Resistant Belgian Welfare State
- The Rebuilding of the Dutch Welfare State
- Revealing Concealment. On the Visual Artwork of Krijn de Koning
- Let There Be Light. Discovering Eindhoven
- Silent Witnesses on the Table. Still Lifes Today
- Digital Humanities and Low Countries Culture
- Life after Rotterdam. Dutch Architecture Edges Its Way out of Crisis
- The Beer Giant with Belgian Roots. AB InBev and SABMiller Merge
- Iconoclasm as a War Strategy. Past and Present
- ‘Dutch Translation in Practice’. Essential Strategies for Translation and a Wealth of Resources
- Dutch and Other Languages in Seventeenth Century Britain and the Dutch Republic. Two Monographs by Christopher Joby
- Émile Verhaeren. The Only National Poet Belgium Has Ever Had
- In Honour of a Forerunner. The First Gay Novel in Modern World Literature
- Passionately Aware of Past Civilisations. Poems by Benno Barnard
- A Sensational New Translation of Herman Gorter
- ‘Das Magazin’ and the Literary Journal in the Low Countries
- Ideas, Ideals and Pressure for Change. Fifty Years of D66
- The Tong Tong Fair. The Biggest Eurasian Festival in the World
- Shaking the Audience Awake. Johan Simons’ Personal Style and Mission
- Falling Down, Getting Up and Carrying On. Ann Van den Broek’s Choreography
- An Echoless Organ Grinder. The Life Story of Felix Nussbaum
- ‘The Way of All Flesh’. The Graffiti Artist ROA
- Adriaen de Vries. ‘The Most Famous Modeller-Artist of All’