Judith Herzberg receives most prestigious Dutch Literature Prize

Judith Herzberg receives most prestigious Dutch Literature Prize

The Dutch poet, prose writer and playwright Judith Herzberg (b. 1934) has received the Dutch Literature Prize from His Majesty King Willem-Alexander at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. The award, the most prestigious literary prize in the Dutch-speaking world, is associated with a sum of 40,000 euros.

“Herzberg's tone is always natural, as if it was all thought up by someone on the spot. So natural that this tone can only be the result of an enormous command of language and form, of technique”, the jury chaired by Marita Mathijsen stated. And about the characteristic in Judith Herzberg's writing, the jury says: “Nothing is recorded, the depth is in the surface and what is not said comes out in a detour. (....) She follows her own path in all the genres she practices and which she easily mixes up. Her authorship is unique and limitless.” During the award ceremony Herzberg's work was performed in various ways.

© Chris van Houts & Erik Mattijssen
Celebration of our language

In his speech, King Willem-Alexander praised the laureate's ability to observe. “Few have been able to translate their observations into literature as much as you have. Not only your poems, but certainly also your plays and film scripts bear witness to this. (...) Your work is a celebration of our language. (...) You show how much eloquence Dutch can have.”


Judith Herzberg is one of the most famous Dutch poets. She made her debut in 1963 with the collection of poems Zeepost. This was followed by many collections including Beemdgras, Strijklicht, 27 liefdesliedjes, Wat zij wilde schilderen, Zoals and Soms vaak. In 1994 the anthology Doen en laten was one of the hundred best-selling books.

From the beginning of the seventies onwards, plays followed as well. Her theatre was groundbreaking in the eighties. Leedvermaak has made an indelible impression by the seemingly light-hearted way in which she expresses her silence about war experiences, according to the jury. In 1997 Herzberg received the P.C. Hooft Prize for her entire oeuvre. Besides drama, Herzberg also writes prose, published in Liever brieven and Er was er eens en er was er eens niet.

Oeuvre Prize

The Prize of Dutch Literature is the most prestigious literary prize in the Dutch-speaking world and distinguishes authors from important literary works originally written in Dutch. Once every three years De Taalunie awards the prize to an author whose oeuvre occupies an important place in Dutch literature. The prize is awarded alternately by the Dutch and Belgian kings.

The aim of the prize is to draw attention to Dutch-language culture both within and outside the linguistic region. The prize also underlines the fact that Dutch literature is written to a high standard.

The prize was first awarded in 1956 to Herman Teirlinck. The last time, in 2015, the Dutch poet and writer Remco Campert received the prize.

Read an analysis of the poetry of Judith Herzberg by clicking HERE.

Top image: Erik Mattijsen

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