Publications
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Foreword

About the purpose of the yearbook The Low Countries. Foreword to the very first issue.

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Claus the Chameleon

However perilous it may be to attempt to pin down an artist as protean as Hugo Claus to a single basic attitude, it is perhaps possible to trace his incessant experimenting and his continual shifts in form of expression back to a fundamenta...

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Seven Woman Poets from the Low Countries

Mini-essays on and translated poems by Miriam Van hee, Elma van Haren, Anneke Brassinga, Anna Enquist, Christine D'Haen, Eva Gerlach and Marieke Jonkman (who turned out to be a male poet in the end).

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The Painter and his Surroundings. The Work of Roger Raveel

Roger Raveel's contemporary painting is rooted in a tradition which begins with the Flemish Primitives. The power of his art lies in the exceptionally varied way in which he attempts to give shape to the complexity of life. His work, which ...

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Postmodernism in the Literature of the Low Countries

A brief look at some of the leading 'postmodernist' (post-war) writers in the Netherlands and Flanders, such as Louis Paul Boon, Sybren Polet, Louis Ferron and Ivo Michiels. The author notes that the picture of postmodernist literature in D...

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Church and Ideology in the Netherlands

Although the Netherlands is no longer the 'Christian nation' of the 19th century, the importance of religion nowadays should not be underestimated. Apart from being an important historical heritage, Christian ideology and the churches still...

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Indonesia and the Netherlands. A Renewed Interest

About the mutual increase of interest between ex-colony and ex-colonizer. At the beginning of 1993, after a confusing and tumultuous year, the author notes that the prospects for wide-ranging intensive cooperation between the two countries ...

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Belgian Federalisation

Belgium was born of a divorce and in 1992 we see a state with three linguistic and cultural communities that are officially recognised. And the author concludes that the evolution towards a Belgian confederation does not seem to be grinding...

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Creations of Earth and Fire. The Ceramics of José Vermeersch

Within the context of contemporary Flemish art history, the sculptor José Vermeersch is a unique figure. The way he uses his fragile material to express his feelings is both classical and contemporary. He has also succeeded in using ceramic...

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Huizinga and Geyl. A Portrait of Two Dutch Historians

A double portrait of two great Dutch historians. Between the two world wars and during the first decade thereafter both were considered abroad to be the best representatives of the Dutch historical profession and both wrote books and essays...

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Visiting Professor

A poet among the professors: the writer's personal take on his time as a visiting lecturer at Berkeley University.

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Cees Nooteboom

A short portrait of Cees Nooteboom as novelist, poet and travel writer.

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Picturing Dutch Culture

The 'reality effect' peculiar to much Dutch painting has persuaded many viewers that this art registers how things are or how they were. But art historians have argued that things are not what they seem to the eye - they are devised with me...

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Flemish Tapestry

A brief historical survey of Flemish tapestry: from about 1300 to the Royal Gaspard de Wit Factory.

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Newton in the Netherlands

The notion of the Netherlands as the pivot for ideas from other countries was largely an illusion of early 20th-century Dutch historians. But instances can be found in history where the Low Countries did indeed fulfil such a function. One s...

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Dutch Painting. A Personal View

A personal account of Christopher Brown's dealings with Dutch art as an admirer and scholar. In his opinion the essence of Dutch art resides in its truthfulness both about the world itself and the individuals who inhabit it.

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From First Sight to Insight. The Emblem in the Low Countries

The emblem literature of the Low Countries has become a paradigm in the discourse on European cultural history. But what actually are emblems? Why are they now so widely studied? What is so special about Dutch and Flemish emblem books?

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An Anatomy of Dutch Cabaret

Dutch cabaret is unique in the world. That at least is what Dutch people believe. In a country that has always been a melting pot of cultures and influences owing its existence to its neighbours, this cannot be true. An overview of the genr...

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Rietveld Revisited

To many people Gerrit Rietveld is known only as the architect of De Stijl. This one-sided picture was in need of correction and led to an oeuvre catalogue and an exhibition in the Utrecht Central Museum in 1993 which showed Rietveld's versa...

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Henry van de Velde, a European Artist

The Belgian architect Henry van de Velde occupies a special place in the development of 20th-century architecture and design. He is a man whose failures have turned out to be more than significant.

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The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

Review of 'Antwerp Cathedral' (Antwerp: Mercatorfonds, 1993), a large volume commemorating the restoration of the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp.

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The Dutch Language Union

In 1980 the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Belgium signed a treaty which officially recognised that Dutch was the common language of the Dutch and the Flemish. This treaty also provided for the founding of a body to develop t...

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The Promotion of Translation in the Netherlands and Flanders

At the beginning of the 1990s Dutch literature started getting some relative success abroad. This was obviously due primarily to the quality of the books. But we can also state that the policies promoting translations in the Netherlands and...

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Writers in Residence

Hosting a Dutch writer in residence at a Dutch programme offered at a US university is a bittersweet experience, as the author explains from personal experience in this piece.

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Dutch Arts. An Introduction to Culture in the Netherlands

The Department of International Relations of the Ministry of Welfare, Health and Cultural Affairs in the Netherlands has published a series of booklets in English called 'Dutch Arts'. The aim of these publications is to give foreign readers...

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'Daens', or Flanders in the Year 1900

This piece is both a socio-political portrait of the priest Adolf Daens and a short review of Stijn Coninx' film about this Flemish champion of the working man.

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The Flemish Movement

Review of 'The Flemish Movement' (London: The Athlone Press, 1992), a study and reader documenting the process of federalisation in Belgium.

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Digging into Bruges' Past

Bruges reflects the European past as a whole, as we can see in the review of 'Bruges and Europe' (Antwerp: Mercatorfonds, 1993)

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Mulisch's Intellectual Challenge

The significance and the scope of Mulisch's subjects certainly entitle this author to a readership beyond his own borders. 'Last Call', 'The Assault' and 'The Discovery of Heaven' are all novels that are extremely readable and at the same t...

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Poetry International Rotterdam

Poetry International started out in 1970 as a small ambitious festival in Rotterdam, gradually turning the city on the Maas into a free-port for poetry from the whole world and in every language.

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Keeping up. J. Bernlef's ‘Driftwood House'

In this review of J. Bernlef's 'Driftwood House' (Francestown: Typographeum, 1992) Yann Lovelock points out that the artist cannot afford to stand still, but should run to keep up with what has inspired his/her vision. And that is exactly w...

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Willem Elsschot. Villa des Roses

A review of Elsschot's tragi-comic novel of manners 'Villa des Roses', now included in translation in the Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics series

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Court and Culture

A review of Frits van Oostrom's 'Court and Culture' (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), an elegantly written panoramic book which focuses on very particular detail.

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A Crown for Christine D'haen

In 1992 Christine D'haen, a relatively obscure Flemish poet with a consciously anti-fashionable and complex oeuvre, was presented the prestigious Prize for Dutch literature.

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Gaudeamus

A piece about the importance of the Gaudeamus foundation for contemporary music in the Netherlands.

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Leo Apostel. In the Tradition of the Enlightenment

The Flemish philosopher Leo Apostel is a typical representative of an intellectual culture open to enrichment by international influences in his attempt to create a contemporary form for the ideals of the enlightenment.

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Ad Peperzak. Philosophy as Dialogue and Quest

Portrait of a Dutch philosopher with a care for man's well-being: war and peace, education, practical ethics, suffering, life and death - in short, the philosophy of everyday life.

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Flanders. An Englishman's Experience

Flanders and the Netherlands have played an important role in both the personal and professional life of Sir Michael Jenkins, who looks back on his boyhood in French Flanders, his work on the European Commission in Brussels and his time as ...

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20 Years of Opzij

In November 1992, the Dutch feminist monthly 'Opzij' celebrated its 20th anniversary. No other journal in the Low Countries writes in the same way about feminism and the women's movement.

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Dutch Catholics on Women and the Priesthood

Is the exclusively male priesthood staying enshrined in the Netherlands, especially after the decision in November 1992 by the Church of England to allow women to be ordained into the priesthood?

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Half a Century of Trouw

Trouw is a newspaper with an individual and widely respected voice among the Dutch media; the ego of a principled resistance, with its roots in World War Two, was and is still there between the lines, however 'law-abiding' the paper may be.

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Radio Netherlands World Service

Radio Netherlands World Service is upholding the ancient Dutch tradition of tolerant and free distribution of information, using the most modern mass-media.

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Publishing in the Low Countries

About some of the major differences in publishing, book retailing, readership and government initiative in Flanders and the Netherlands.

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Peter van Straaten. Drawn from Life

Peter van Straaten's cartoons display an immense technical mastery; they give us the impression that he can tell every story, express every emotion with his pen.

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Rudi Fuchs Grabs his Chance

From 1993 on, Rudi Fuchs, the new curator of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, will be able to throw himself to his heart's content into Amsterdam's collection of 19th and 20th-century art.

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The Ninth Documenta and its Director, Jan Hoet

The large international exhibition Documenta was held in Kassel for the ninth time in 1992. This time the Fleming Jan Hoet was its Director and he proved that great achievements can also come from a small country.

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Paleis Lange Voorhout

Paleis Lange Voorhout, Princess Juliana's former winter residence in The Hague, has been turned into an annex to the Gemeentemuseum. It has become an 'interior', a house of memories.

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Panamarenko. 30 Years of Thinking about Space

Review of 'Panamarenko. A Book by Hans Theys' (Tervuren, 1992), about quite possibly the most spectacular figure in the story of Flemish art in the second half of the 20th century.

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Flemish Art. Symbolism to Expressionism

Piet Boyens has rewritten the entire, fascinating history of artistic life in the artists' village of Sint-Martens-Latem between 1900 and 1930 in his book 'Flemish Art. Symbolism to Expressionism' (Tielt, 1992).

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Old Masters from the Low Countries in American Collections

Anyon who wants to know about the image of the Old Masters from the Low Countries in the USA cannot do without the two volumes reviewed here: 'Great Dutch Paintings from America' (Ben Broos, Zwolle, 1990) and 'Flemish Paintings in America' ...

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Jan Dibbets. In the Tradition of Dutch Light

Jan Dibbets is a contemporary Dutch artist who continues the tradition of concentrating on the changeability of light in space, as can be seen in Rudi Fuchs & Gloria Moure's 'Jan Dibbets. Interior Light-Works on Architecture 1969-1990' ...

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Splendours of Flanders. Flemish Art in Cambridge

About a major Cambridge exhibition and catalogue of late medieval Flemish art in the summer of 1993 (Alain Arnould & J-M. Massing, 'Splendours of Flanders. Late Medieval Art in Cambridge'. Cambridge/Brussels, 1993).

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Benoît's Smile. A Minimal Registration of the Nonsensical

The situation's potential for universal recognition is often great in the work of the internationally recognised Flemish cartoonist Benoît, and precisely this 'irritating' little feature turns his cartoons into so many small, but real maste...

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Brussels, City of the Coming Century

Brussels is a textbook example of a twenty-first century city: its inhabitants have blown in from all the winds, and it has experience in accomodating minorities and having many different cultures living together. If the techocratic violenc...

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‘I like Being Naughty!'. The Work of Annie M.G. Schmidt

The writer Annie M.G. Schmidt is often affectionately called the Grandmother of the Netherlands; or, if it doesn't sound too solemn, the Mother of the Fatherland. She owes this title to a combination of talents which it would be hard to fin...

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Five Times Two Picture-Poems

It is inevitable — a language-area such as the Low Countries famous above all for its painters is bound also to produce a good many poets who allow themselves to be inspired by paintings. And it does. (with translated poems by E. du Perron,...

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Between Theatre and Cinema. The Films of Alex van Warmerdam

Coming from the world of the theatre, the young Alex van Warmerdam occupies a special place in the still not fully developed field of the Dutch feature film. To date he has made only two features, Abel (1986) and The Northerners (De Noorder...

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‘Read me in full or not at all'. The Poetry of Leonard Nolens

The reader of Leonard Nolens' poems is soon struck by the monomaniacal, quasi-obsessional nature of the work. His work is perhaps best read as the monumental symbolisation of an autobiography. A life which obsessively writes and rewrites it...

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Spinoza and the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic

One of the most important propositions in Spinoza's Ethics is this: ‘In nature there is nothing contingent, but all things have been determined from the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.' You do...

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Euthanasia in the Netherlands. Facts and Moral Arguments

The principle of euthanasia analysed with the Dutch situation as a guideline. According to the author respect for the patient is quintessential. Almost no one wants to die sooner than is necessary. Life is surely our most precious possessio...

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‘Nothing helps'. The Poems of Hans Faverey

The spring of 1993, almost three years after his death, saw the publication of the ‘Collected Poems' of Hans Faverey (1933-1990): just over five hundred poems in one sober volume on india paper, in an almost classical format. Although the b...

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Middle Dutch Literature as a Mirror of European Culture

The literature of the Middle Ages is a truly European literature, probably much more so than the literature of today. Paradoxically, the main reason for this was the omnipresence of a language and a literature which were not a natural envir...

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The Unfinished Work of Art. The Paintings of René Daniëls

René Daniëls introduced an entirely different way of painting. His fiercely painted canvasses at first resembled eruptions of punk-like violence. But Daniëls' great merit lies in the combination of the conceptual or fundamental tradition in...

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Babel behind the Dikes. Living in the Bijlmermeer

The Bijlmermeer is new. That in itself is enough to put many people off. Anything new is bound to be hated by an Amsterdammer. How often has the author, who lives in the Bijlmermeer, had to listen to the argument: ‘That sort of place is art...

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Myth and Reality in the Human Geography of the Netherlands

The intention of this article is not to distill into one dense survey a comprehensive assessment of the Netherlands' human geography. Instead, an overriding aim is to expose levels of complexity and diversity that are commonly overlooked by...

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The Wadden Sea: A Special Area - Specially Protected?

After years of comparative peace and quiet there is once again a threat to the environment of the Wadden Sea. In December 1993 the Dutch cabinet decided that, after a ten-year moratorium, from 1994 onwards it is permissible to drill for gas...

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Gardening in the Netherlands

The English influence is enormous in the Netherlands when it comes to gardening. In the Netherlands, just as in England, gardening is becoming ever more popular; also, as in England, it is English gardening, taken over bodily, that is popul...

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The Art of Evocation. The Symbolist Movement in Belgium

In Belgium, the flowering of symbolism coincided with the rise of avant-garde art in the final years of the nineteenth century, a period which produced an amalgamation of artists and art forms such as had never been seen before (nor has eve...

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James Ensor, Pioneer of Modern European Art

James Ensor (1860-1949), the Ostend ‘prince of painters', was a European painter of considerable stature and along with Gauguin, Van Gogh and Munch a pioneer of modern European art. He left behind an oeuvre of paintings, drawings and etchin...

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Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. An Approach to Viewing Vermeer

A ‘Vermeer', like a ‘Rembrandt' or a ‘Van Gogh', is something more than a painting. A ‘Vermeer', whether it be a painting of a young girl in a turban, a woman with a watering can, a lady with a balance, or a music lesson, will bring associa...

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A Naïve Engineer. Panamarenko's Art

Panamarenko made aeroplanes. Or are they works of art as well? If you asked him this question, he gave various answers or, probably, no answer at all. Being an artist meant nothing to him.

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‘A sacred duty'. The Holocaust in Dutch Historiography

The ‘Final Solution' hit Jews in the Netherlands particularly hard: 100,000 of the 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands were murdered. Expressed as a percentage, over 70% became victims of the German extermination machine. The percentage ...

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A Unity of Opposites. The Paradoxical Oeuvre of Harry Mulisch

Harry Mulisch is emphatically un-Dutch, not only as a person, but also in his work. He frequently uses a form of irony which is used seldom by the average Dutchman: self-irony, often in the form of hyperbole. Furthermore, and more significa...

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Performing Early Music in the Low Countries

During the last few decades musicologists have abandoned the general philosophical approach in favour of more scientific investigations. Research into archive material has been undertaken on a large scale. As well as the works of important ...

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Ger van Elk Was Here

The Dutch artist Ger van Elk has frequently assigns himself a particular role in his work. In his latest works Van Elk is more present than ever. It can no longer be maintained, as he himself has done in various interviews, that he presents...

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Gold Leather and Lead Letters. Antwerp's Plantin-Moretus Museum

The Plantin-Moretus Museum is not a museum where you just drop in casually on your way through the busy port city of Antwerp. Its exceptionally well-preserved interior and enviable typographical and art collections make it a place worth see...

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The Art of Glass

Research carried out in recent years has shown that in the Middle Ages a considerable amount of glass was already being produced in the Low Countries, particularly in the southern, more wealthy part which today is Belgium. This article prov...

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An Impressive Home for Dutch Architecture

29 October 1993 saw the opening in Rotterdam of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, designed by Jo Coenen. The Institute's principal activities are collecting and making the collection available to the public, and the mounting of exhibi...

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Three Notable Restorations

About three majorly restorated buildings in Flanders: The Bourla Theatre (Antwerp), the Ghent Opera and the Royal Dutch Theatre (Ghent)

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Dutch and English Ears

For six weeks J. Bernlef was ‘writer in residence' at University College London. But what has a writer to do with a university?

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Dutch-Speaking Culture in the United States

About two groups of Americans interested in the culture of the Low Countries: the ‘immigrants' in several Dutch and Flemish clubs, and the dozens of American academics who have chosen the history, culture and language of the Low Countries a...

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Dutch Cultural Policy. A European Appraisal

For a number of years now the Council of Europe in Strasbourg has conducted a programme for the evaluation of the national cultural policies of its member states. In 1993 it was the Netherlands' turn to be assessed (review of ‘Cultural Poli...

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Kaaitheater. A House of Many Rooms

A short history of the Flemish Kaaitheater in Brussels (on the occasion of the publication of ‘HUMUS. Vijftien jaar Kaaitheater'. Bruges/Brussels, 1993)

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Dogtroep. Nomads of the Wild Theatre

About Dogtroep's unique total theatre which transcends ordinary theatrical limitations. The Dogtroep nomads' wild, visual and musical theatre has developed into an important Dutch cultural export item.

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Oeroeg and the Dutch-East Indian Trauma

The main problem with the film ‘Oeroeg', based on Hella S. Haase's autobiographical novel, is the rather simplistic approach to the so-called (post-)colonial Dutch-East Indian trauma

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Flanders Fields, Somewhere in France

Eighty years after World War I, the survivors have been reduced to a mere handful and all that can still be seen in the landscape of Flanders Fields is the cemeteries and the monuments. They are now your best guides to understanding what ha...

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A Pictorial History of the Grand' Place in Brussels

In Edgar Goedleven's book ‘The Grand' Place in Brussels. Centre of 500 Years of History' (Tielt, 1993) random pictures are used to provide an undoubtedly incomplete but always fascinating account of the historical significance of the Brusse...

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Gerard Mercator and Cartography in Flanders

The image of the world that the Flemish cartographer Mercator, whose death was commemorated in 1994, created with his work was not improved upon until the 18th century.

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The Story of a Metropolis

Review of ‘Antwerp: Story of a Metropolis. 16th-17th Century' (Antwerp, 1993), a handsome book that attempts to take on board the ideological basis to the evaluation of an era and the creation of an exhibition.

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The Dutch Church in London. Past and Present

About the long, rich and continuing history of the Dutch Reformed Church at Austin Friars in the City of London. After 444 years it is alive and well – a corner of a foreign field that is forever Holland.

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A Useful Synthesis on Medieval Flanders

Review of David Nicholas' ‘Medieval Flanders' (London/New York, 1992). There's a clear emphasis on landscape, agriculture and socio-economic aspects in this book, but less so for culture, religion and politics.

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The Battle of Arnhem. 17-26 September 1944

In September 1994 the Battle of Arnhem was commemorated on a large scale. The author looks back at this battle and the long cold winter which followed in the Netherlands in 1944.

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A Literary Peep Show

Review of ‘The Dedalus Book of Dutch Fantasy' (ed. Richard Huijing; Sawtry, 1993), a collection that functions as a peep show of the Dutch literary imagination.

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Back to the Netherlands

Manfred Wolf writes about his stay in the Translators' House in Amsterdam in 1993: an opportunity for him to be Dutch, an occasion to merge into a neighborhood and become part of a setting which ever since his childhood as the son of refuge...

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Otto Ketting. ‘The good notes in our age'

A portrait of Dutch composer Otto Ketting, who experiments with tradition rather than listening habits. Ketting sometimes compares composing with the work of a director recording instructions so that the notes find their place.

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BIMHuis. A Concert Venue for Improvised Music

in 1974 the Netherlands Foundation for Jazz and Improvised Music opened the BIMhuis, its own concert venue in Amsterdam, but also a centre for international cooperation in the field of this music.

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Tropical Medicine in Antwerp

The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp was founded in 1931 as a private institution. Nowadays it is linked with the University Hospital of Antwerp. It plays a vital role as a link between the populations in developing countries on on...

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Open-Mindedness in Flanders

The English author of this piece reflects on the mushrooming international and multicultural festivals in Flanders in recent years. She sees Flanders as a place with a climate in which creativity can flourish even when funds are in lamentab...

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The Story of ‘De Nederlandse Courant' in Canada

1954 was the year in which De Nederlandse Courant – Canada's oldest Dutch-language newspaper – was first published in Toronto. With effective marketing it still continues to grow and manages to also meet the interest of the younger generati...

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Feminists in a Church

About the International Information and Archive for the Women's Movement, that has been housed in the Gerardus Majella Church in Amsterdam East since December 1993.

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Dawn of the Golden Age

About the exhibition ‘Dawn of the Golden Age' held at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and its catalogue: it gave an overview of Dutch art between 1580 and 1620, the period which led up to the Golden Age itself. (‘Dawn of the Golden Age. North...

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Art in the Brussels Metro

By 1993 the Brussels metro still had 55 stations which had been ‘humanised' by artists. We might say that the function of wall paintings in caves and later in catacombs has now been taken over by art in the metro.

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Painting on the Couch

It is the artists, rather than the works of art, that are central to ‘Dutch Art and Character' (Amsterdam/Lisse, 1993). It is they who are on the couch, according to the reviewer of this collection of essays.

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Bart van der Leck. Architectural Painter and Fine Artist

To Bart van der Leck the painter and the architect complemented each other. That was not a popular view, and, moreover, the architects with whom he worked often gave him only a subordinate role. An exhibition at the Kröller-Müller Museum in...

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The Tulip. 400 Years in the Netherlands

The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem commemorated the 400th anniversary of the tulip in the Netherlands with an indoor and outdoor exhibition in 1994. The author also gives a short history of the tulip in Holland.

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A Brightly Coloured Ocean Liner. The New Groninger Museum

In the autumn of 1994 the skyline of the Dutch provincial capital of Groningen was dramatically transformed by the building of the Groninger Museum. This striking construction, which houses a highly diverse collection of art both ancient an...

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Kattenbroek, a Provocative Housing Development

About the Kattenbroek district in Amersfoort, where the development plan of Ashok Bhalotra has broken the mould of planological thinking, so that since 1990 the urban landscape in the Netherlands has been acquiring a slightly different aspe...

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The Gothic Revival in Britain and Belgium

In the field of Gothic artistic expression a remarkable interplay appears to have existed between England and Flanders. This interplay was a leitmotif for the special exhibition The Gothic Revival in Belgium held in the Bijloke Museum in Gh...

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Brussels Calling. Live from Flanders

About Radio Vlaanderen Internationaal, which makes contact with fellow countrymen abroad and also makes the world more familiar with Flanders.

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Seventy-Five Years of Dutch Studies in London

1994 marked a milestone in Dutch Studies in the United Kingdom: it was precisely 75 years since the foundation of the chairs in Dutch Language and Literature and in Dutch History at the University of London.

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Fifty Years of Shakespeare in Diever

The 50-year-old tradition of the open-air theatre in Diever may confidently said to be unique, because these Dutch amateurs consistently play the work of a single author - Shakespeare, whose most popular plays seem to lend themselves except...

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Dominique Deruddere, a Flemish Anglophile

Dominique Deruddere has made three full-length feature films up to now, and all three have been closely tied to English-language culture: 'Crazy Love' (1987), 'Wait until Spring, Bandini' (1989) and Suite 16 (1994).

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A Fresh Look at Old Material. The Netherlands Film Museum

Like every other self-respecting country, the Netherlands has its own national film museum. This institution, located in Amsterdam, combines the tasks of maintaining an archive with conservation and educational activities, and its film libr...

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The Richness of Imagination. Children's Books in the Netherlands

In recent years Dutch authors and illustrators have become firmly established figures in the international literary trade. In the words of the travel guides, the modem Dutch children's book is ‘different, witty, innovative, courageous and a...

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The Jerusalem of the West. Jews and Goyim in Antwerp

About the long history of the Jews in Antwerp, a story of tolerance, but also of intolerance and persecution. The author believes that, despite popular belief, history never repeats itself; so the next wave of anti-Jewish intolerance will m...

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Dutch Highest. Drugs and Drugs Policy in the Netherlands

‘What's the price of “Dark Maroc” and how much is Superskunk” ?‘ The Netherlands is the only country where hashish and marijuana are on the menu and where questions like this are perfectly normal. It has been going on for almost twenty-five...

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Fifty Years of Bob and Bobette

Flanders' most popular comic strip characters, Bob and Bobette (in Dutch: 'Suske en Wiske'), are already fifty years old; but in all that time they have not aged a day. Several generations of children have grown up with their adventures. Th...

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In Motion. Animated Film in Flanders

About the state of the animation film in Flanders, including a survey of the most important filmmakers. Unfortunately, neither the national radio and television station BRTN nor the commercial TV station VTM have shown any interest either i...

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Marc Mulders, Heir to Tradition

From close up, Marc Mulders' paintings look like tanned hides covered in scars, or the gnarled bark of a tree. The canvas is covered in scratches and scoring, traces of the knife that appears to have tattooed the paint into it. The likeness...

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Hardy Perennials of Dutch and Flemish Poetry

The 'evergreens' of Flemish and Dutch poetry. The Dutch and Flemings, like other people, have poems which everybody knows, or ought to know. Poems which are in every anthology and from which everybody can quote at least one line — usually t...

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Jan Tinbergen, Economist and Visionary

Professor Jan Tinbergen, who was bom in 1903 and died on 9 June 1994, was in some respects an extraordinary man and in others quite the reverse. His ideas and theories bore witness to exceptional gifts and very high moral standards. In his ...

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The Delicacy of a Rain Forest. About the Poetry of Leo Vroman

Leo Vroman's collected poems (Collected Poems 1946-1984 — Gedichten 1946-1984), published in one volume in 1985, amount to over 1 ,000 pages; but the collection is far removed from any notion of an ornate tombstone on a productive life. Vro...

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Resting on Doubt

The editorial board of The Low Countries invited Leo Vroman to write about his position as a Dutch-bom poet / writer / biologist living in the United States. This is the text he sent them on 16 July 1994.

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Crossing the Borders. Contemporary Theatre in the Low Countries

It is the presence of all kinds of borders, and the tendency to cross and re-cross them, from which the constant tensions of cultural identity and place in Dutch and Flemish theatre arise. Identities are anything but constant or pre-given: ...

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A General of Beauty. The Work of Jan Fabre

If there was ever an artist who entered the performing arts in an unorthodox way, that artist is Jan Fabre. A native of Antwerp, Fabre had no theatrical training, but studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and at the Municipal Institute for De...

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Step by Step. The Story of the Nederlands Dans Theater

In 1959 business manager Carel Birnie, ballet master Benjamin Harkarvy and fourteen prominent dancers of what was then the Nederlands Ballet decided to leave and set up their own company: the Nederlands Dans Theater. There were no prospects...

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The Melody Makers. Contemporary Music in the Netherlands

The history of today's contemporary music in the Netherlands has its roots in the sixties, that turbulent decade which disposed of so many outdated standards and values. This fresh start was not unique to the Netherlands, nor to the world o...

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Bob van Reeth and the Demands of Architecture

Precisely because he has always resisted originality, Bob van Reeth is one of today' s most original architects. He does not fit into any school or movement, not even that of the traditionalists who reject all schools and trends. He was lik...

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Flemish and Dutch Brazil. The Story of a Missed Opportunity

The founding in 1621 of a West India Company enabled the Dutch to attack increasing numbers of Spanish and Portuguese ships in the Atlantic, and in 1628 Piet Hein captured the Spanish silver fleet. The proceeds of this exploit financed a se...

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Looking for the Other Self. The Work of Kristien Hemmerechts

In a relatively short time Kristien Hemmerechts has become one of the most prominent of her generation of authors, a large group who are innovative in different fields. In the second half of the eighties, that group brought a long period of...

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Margriet de Moor's Defeat of Loneliness

Margriet de Moor suddenly emerged as a writer at the age of forty-six. In the course of a few years she has become one of the best-loved Dutch novelists. De Moor's career is all the more remarkable because she makes hardly any concessions t...

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Between Christendom and Christianity. The Church in Flanders

Flanders remained a strong and homogeneous Roman Catholic area shortly after the Second World War. Today the Church in Flanders is not longer as strong as it used to be, but in a whole new phase. The change is gathering momentum. It is impo...

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Reynard the Fox. The Triumph of the Individual in a Beast Epic

‘Reynard the Fox' (Van den Vos reynaerde) was written around 1260 by a certain Willem, part of it being an extremely free version of a French tale. Even if Reynard the Fox is portrayed as a ruthless villain, it is actually inconceivable tha...

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Flemish Miniatures for England

In 1479 the King of England, Edward IV, paid a merchant called Philip Maisertuell ‘for certaine boks by the said Philip to be provided to the kyngs use in the partees beyond the see'. The King' s commission had been for the purchase of manu...

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The Poet in the Mixer. The Work of Breyten Breytenbach

The South African poet and artist Breyten Breytenbach once said that he wrote in a ‘bastard language', Afrikaans.Nowadays he publishes mostly in English, having turned his back on the Afrikaans literary establishment which once showered him...

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Piecing the Scraps Together. Roel D'Haese and his Sculptures

The Flemish sculptor Roel D'Haese casts bronze sculptures using the ‘lost wax' process. This technique was developed more than four thousand years ago in order to make durable bronze casts from fragile, complex three-dimensional models. D' ...

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Women of the Golden Age

Review of 'Women of the Golden Age. An International Debate on Women in Seventeenth-Century Holland, England and Italy' (ed. Els Kloek et al., Hilversum, 1994). The book's interdisciplinarity offers a prismatic view of gender in the Golden ...

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The Anglo-Dutch Connection in Prints and Drawings

The Atlas Van Stolk collection, housed in the Shielandshuis in Rotterdam, is a unique assemblage of drawings, prints, photos and posters. From 4 February to 28 May 1995, fifty of the prints from this collection were exhibited under the titl...

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The Dutch Republic

Jonathan Israel's 'Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall' (Oxford, 1995) is an immensely stimulating book, a thoughtful synthesis that is scholarly, intelligently argued and elegantly written. It is indispensable for anyone intereste...

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Multilingual Speech Technology from West-Flanders

Voice and speech technology, when properly applied, has the potential to propel people of all nations, at all stages of development, into a much broader use of the latest available technology, boosting their productivity level to unknown he...

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Frisian Language and Culture Today

About efforts and initiatives in the field of Frisian cultural and linguistic policy and the production of new and succesful works of art and imagination in Frisian which enhance the quality and diversity of Frisian cultural life.

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Total Writing. An Anthology of New Flemish Fiction

Review of 'New Flemish Fiction' (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, vol xiv, no. 2, Summer 1994). Apart from some hiccups in this special issue, the final impression one gains of Flemish writing is of strength, not simply of the writing bu...

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Translator or Actor?

Self-portrait of the translator as an actor. James Brockway finds himself asking himself more and more: 'Why do you sit translating?' What are the deeper-lying, the ultimate reasons for it?

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A Paper Memory. The Archive and Museum of Flemish Culture

A portrait of the AMVC as a contemporary documentation centre. It is a unique institution, which helps ensure that authentic source material, on which all scholarly research must be based, is preserved and made accessible;: from death masks...

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'Bitten by the Bug'. Peter Greenaway Goes Opera

British film-maker Peter Greenaway regards himelf as 'almost, in some senses, an honorary Dutchman'. No wonder, then, that he chose Amsterdam for his debut in a new perfomance art form, opera. Rosa: A Horse Drama (music by Louis Andriessen)...

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The Splendour of Flemish Polyphony

Review of Ignace Bossuyt's 'De Vlaamse polyfonie' (Leuven, 1994, with 10 CDs), a brilliant synthesis of the evolution of Flemish polyphonic music over two centuries.

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The More Breuker, the Better

Is Willem Breuker the biggest comic turn in Dutch jazz, or just the worst-dressed jazz musician in the Netherlands? Turns out he is both!

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Jean Bourgain and the Fields Medal

The Flemish mathematician Jean Bourgain works in the field of functional analysis. His work earned him the Fields Medal in 1994.

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Floods. The Netherlands Attacked from Behind

The threat of danger by water had always come from the sea. Few people realised that the same water could also creep up on the Dutch from behind. Yet that is what happened at the beginning of February 1995.

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Blacks in the Dutch World

Review of Allison Blakeley's 'Blacks in the Dutch World. The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society' (Bloomington/Indianapolis, 1994)

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What I like about Vermeer

A personal appreciation of the famous 17th-century Dutch Master, whose art is both specific and general: historical and transcending history. His paintings take up the challenge to determine themselves.

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Dutch Studies in South Africa

About the state of affairs of Dutch Studies in the 'new' South Africa. So long as Afrikaans contniues to survive, there will continue to be an interest in Dutch.

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Water and the Netherlands. Friends or Foes?

In the last week of January and the first week of February 1995, during an exceptionally high flood in the Maas (or Meuse) and Rhine rivers, there were large-scale evacuations of people and livestock from the embanked flood plains where the...

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Ten Water Poems

‘Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink' is not a lament you are likely to hear from anyone faced with making a selection from the vast quantity of ‘watery' poetry produced in the Low Countries by the Sea. A selection of translate...

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The Terminus of the Continent. The Life and Times of Ostend

Ostend is a phoenix. Every town has periods of prosperity and decay in its history, but the history of this Flemish coastal town is indisputably a remarkable story, with many ups and downs. This portrait of past and present shows that conte...

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Art Nouveau in Flanders

At the end of the twentieth century, Brussels, in spite of its prominence as the administrative nerve-centre of Europe, boasts little or no good recent architecture. There seems to be an utter lack of ambition to express its European dimens...

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The Sounds of the Low Countries

The Low Countries provide a colourful meeting place for exciting pop styles that draw large audiences. The hugely broad spectrum offered by pop music not only provides each new generation with its first acquaintanc with culture, but also mo...

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New Music in Flanders

There was a time when Flemish composers dominated and dictated international musical life. During the Renaissance, musicians from the Low Countries were invited to every corner of Europe, and to Italy in particular to introduce their ‘new m...

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A World of Difference. Women in the Netherlands and Flanders

The position of women in Flanders and the Netherlands in the year 1996 is fundamentally different from what it was during the period between the wars and before. Not only has the situation changed, but it has changed in just those areas in ...

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‘A Tribute to Fine Schooling'. The Royal Flanders Ballet

If Dame Ninette de Valois was the driving force behind the creation of the Royal Ballet in England, then the Royal Flanders Ballet owes its existence to Jeanne Brabants, ‘the woman who taught Flanders to dance professionally'. Under the lea...

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A Champion with a Cause? Conflicting Views on Multatuli

Multatuli's position as the most important, most up-to-date and most widely read author to come out of the Low Countries in the nineteenth century is beyond dispute. But in all other respects, Eduard Douwes Dekker (1820-1887), who at thirty...

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Truth Kills. The Art of Jan Vercruysse

Jan Vercruysse's work is regarded by some art critics as the textbook example of what a certain type of contemporary art is currently producing: elitist, hermetic work, estranged from the public and intended for a small in-crowd of experts,...

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Arranger of Voices. The Literary Work of Leo Pleysier

Leo Pleysier is, in some sense, a writer of small literature. His gaze is not fixed on literary history, nor on the all-embracing and universal, the themes not tied to time and place in which ‘the Great' seem to feel so at home. He has stri...

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The Tale of a Cow

The Dutch cow has come a long way. Though most Americans are apt to think of Rembrandt when they think of Dutch art it is instructive to realise that one of the first Dutch images to serve as a prototype for American artists was the anonymo...

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A Brief History of the Dutch Language

Reckoned by the number of people who speak it, Dutch is the third Germanic language. Compared with most of the world's languages the history of Dutch is very well documented, and for this reason it gained attention very early on in internat...

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Flemish Nationalism, a Rainbow Phenomenon

Flemish Nationalism is a fairly recent phenomenon in the history of the Low Countries. It had its origin, as a by-product of Belgian politics, in the decade after the First World War and evolved, in various forms, into a factor that coloure...

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James van Artevelde, Myth or Reality?

When the statue of James van Artevelde was unveiled in the Friday Market in Ghent in 1863, the burgomaster pronounced the following: ‘He thought of the Belgian nation and gave his life to realise his dream.' Many peculiar things are said on...

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Martinus Nijhoff, a Dutch Master of Modernism

Martinus Nijhoff (1894- 1953) belongs among the most important poets to have emerged from the Dutch-speaking countries in the twentieth century. He has always striven to make his poetry as timeless as possible and, given that he is still on...

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Lucebert: As a Poet a Visonary, as a Painter an Eye-Witness

The poet and painter Lucebert (ps. of Lubertus Jacobus Swaanswijk, 1924- 1994) has an uncontested place in Dutch literature as the ‘Emperor' of the new post-war poets. The impression of wonderment and, sometimes, of foolishness which Lucebe...

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‘A Living Idea in Time'. The Work of Maurice Gilliams

When asked in an interview: ‘You are a poet, a writer of prose, and an essayist, which one are you the most of, which one would you rather be, or which one are you really?' Maurice Gilliams (1900-1982) replied with a quote from a study he h...

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A Boxful of Styles. The Work of Jan Toorop

The Dutch painter Jan Theodoor Toorop (1858-1928) enjoyed considerable fame throughout much of Europe at the turn of the century, but it seems that now he is only studied in the Netherlands. While most general books on art contain his Symbo...

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Relativity and Architecture. The Work of Aldo van Eyck

In July 1995, the foundation stone for the new building for the General Au ditor's Office was laid in The Hague. This official event was of special significance to the architect Aldo van Eyck (1918-). In a practice spanning more than 40 yea...

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Edward Schillebeeckx and Christian Humanism

Herman Schillebeeckx's humanism is grounded in the Christian doctrine of creation, which forms the basis of his entire theology, and on the illuminating example of the historical Jesus, confessed as the liberating Christ. The focus is on an...

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Marleen Gorris, a Feminist Moralist

About the movies of Marleen Gorris. The author concludes that however effective her oeuvre may have been to date, the time now seems ripe for a more subtle approach than the habitual feminist fundamentalism that tolerates no contradiction, ...

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Manneken Pis. A Belgian Film from Flanders

In 1995 the Plateau awards, the most important of the Belgian film awards, went almost without exception to the Flemish film 'Manneken Pis' by Frank van Passel. Although it is a promising debut, it is nonetheless not a truly great film.

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P.A.R.T.S. A School of Contemporary Dance

In September 1995 a new school of contemporary dance was opened in Brussels: P.A.R.T.S., Performing Arts Research and Training Studios. The school is led by famous choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker.

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Small History. Geert Mak's Amsterdam

Geert Mak's 'A Concise History of Amsterdam' (1994) is not an academic history, it is a general interest history; it is not a reference book, it is a personal document; it is not a short history, it is a small history.

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Language Databases for Dutch

Language databases demand a level of investment beyond the means of individuals, universities and medium-sized and small businesses, particularly where a minor language such as Dutch is concerned. Fort This reason the Dutch Language Union h...

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Beekman's Indies

Review of E.M. Beekman's 'Troubled Pleasures. Dutch Colonial Literature from the East Indies 1600-1950' (Oxford, 1996).

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Nobel Prize for Paul J. Crutzen

In December 1995 the Dutchman Paul J. Crutzen shared a Nobel Prize with two other chemists: it was awarded for their pioneering research in the field of atmospheric chemistry, and ozone chemistry in particular.

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The Flemish Parliament

On 21 May 1995 the Flemish Parliament became a directly elected body for the first time, adding a fresh dynamic to an institution which is still at the genning of its life.

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Jan Steen's Comic Vision

A portrait of the painter Jan Steen, on the occasion of an exhibition that took place in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1996.

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In the Shadow of Vermeer. Master Forger Han van Meegeren

In 1996 the Kunsthal in Rotterdam mounted a large-scale Han van Meegeren retrospective, showing his much-discussed forgeries in the style of Vermeer and Frans Hals, and also over 200 works from his regular oeuvre.

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Antwerp, World Port and Provincial City

Antwerp now and then. According to the author it is still a European metropolis with much to offer in terms of national and international culture. But in the long term, spontaneous ‘ghettoising' such as is happening now is of little good to...

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Toleration and Tolerance in the Netherlands

The Dutch have long been convinced that their society displays the virtue of tolerance. For centuries they have cherished tolerance as a priceless heritage. Even today, when tolerance has come to be regarded as the hall-mark of a decent soc...

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Pandora's Box. Political Culture in Belgium

The Kingdom of Belgium will never be the same again after the extraordinary summer and autumn of 1996. The arrest of Marc Dutroux and the subsequent shocking discovery of the bodies of children who had been abducted, sexually assaulted and ...

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The Low Countries through British Eyes in Ages Past

Long before the advent of mass-tourism, the British were already the most numerous foreign travellers in the Low Countries. This article tells the story of writers, painters and other remarkable and unremarkable Englishmen who travelled to ...

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In Search of Self. New Prose Writing in Dutch after 1985

This essay deals with the various trends and currents in contemporary Dutch and Flemish prose, from postmodernist prose to a return to the tradition of autobiographical writing. (with translated extracts by Connie Palmen, Arnon Grunberg, Er...

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Dutch Books in London Libraries

About Dutch and Flemish books in a number of London collections, constituting a cultural capital waiting to be discovered and explored.

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St Anna's Chapel in Antwerp

About St Anan's Chapel, one of the few small chapels to have survived in Antwerp. In 1995 the magnificent restoration won an important prize.

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Anne Frank and After

Review of Dick van Galen Last & Rolf Wolfswinkel's 'Anne Frank and After: Dutch Holocaust Literature in Historical Perspective' (Amsterdam, 1996)

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The TLS Vondel Translation Prize

1996 saw the launch of a new translation prize in England: the Vondel Prize for translations of work originally written in Dutch. It was awarded to Stacey Knecht's translation of Marcel Möring's 'The Great Longing'.

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Max Wildiers, Theologian and Cultural Philosopher

17 August 1996 saw the passing of the internationally renowned theologian and cultural philosopher Max Wildiers, for decades one of the most influential champions of culture in the Low Countries.

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Dutch American Voices

Review of 'Dutch American Voices. Letters from the United States, 1850-1930' (ed. Herbert J. Brinks, Ithaca/London, 1995)

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Panorama Mesdag. A Dutch Mega-Painting

About this mega-painting in The Hague, 120 m in length, and 14 m high. In Autumn 1996 Museum Mesdag reopened, to great interest from the international press.

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A Brief History of Dutch Tiles

Between the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, hundreds of millions of majolica wall tiles were produced in the Netherlands. Tiles were the first items to be mass-produced for a growing Dutch middle class. Th...

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Exploring the Limits of the Familiar. The Art of Guido Geelen

Guido Geelen work inspires the viewer with a deep sense of liberation. He has accomplished that which others, given the practical obstacles, can only dream of; he has wrested objects from their fixed forms. He uses actual objects as moulds ...

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The DNA of Art. The Ceramic Work of Tjok Dessauvage

Great Britain is regarded internationally as the Mecca of ceramic art. Albion has a long tradition in this genre; there exist full courses of study and the artistic climate is extremely favourable to this art form. The specific attention de...

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David v. Goliath. Fashion from Flanders

What's that ? Flemish fashion ? Is there such a thing ? And is it up with the big boys ? About a decade ago it would indeed have been inconceivable, but today there is no doubt about it. Flemish fashion does exist. Though it took some time ...

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Official Anarchy. Dutch Graphic Design

Amsterdam-based designer Shigeru Watano once remarked: ‘Analytical and rational design principles govern Dutch design.' He was right. Dutch graphic design has emerged from an essentially typographic tradition, and this analytical background...

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A Museum of Museums.The Story of the Teyler Museum

With the opening of its new wing in 1996, visitors to the Teyler Museum in Haarlem are now better able than ever before to enjoy the treasures of this oldest (1784) public museum in the Netherlands. For more than two centuries art and scien...

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Bridging Two Cultures. The Story of the Huygens Family

The Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century was a period which saw a quite extraordinary convergence of talent, not just in society as a whole, but also within the confines of a single family. There is no doubt that on the international...

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A Master of Everyday Life. The Work of Constant Permeke

The Flemish painter and sculptor Constant Permeke (1886-1952) sought in his work to represent everyday reality. His subjects usually related to the geographical area in which he found himself at a given moment; he feltit personally drawn to...

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Reality and Art in the Work of Jan Dibbets and Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer painted the essence of his subjects with such fidelity that three hundred years later we are convinced that this is what Dutch interiors were like in Delft in the Golden Age. Even when conscientious scholars prove the reve...

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Flemish Comic Strips Today

There are few places in the world where the comic strip is so closely interwoven with daily life as it is in Flanders. Most of these comic books are however tailored to a juvenile readership. Adult comics are still in their infancy in Flan...

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Blauwe Maandag's Great Shakespearian Adventure

The Flemish author Tom Lanoye and producer Luk Perceval adapted Shakespeare's eight 'kings' plays to make a 'serial drama' of almost 12 hours duration, entitled 'To War' and performed by Blauwe Maandag company.

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The Arctic Adventures of Olivier Brunel

Review of Marijke Spies' 'Arctic Routes to Fabled Lands: Olivier Brunel and the Passage to China and Cathay in the Sixteenth Century' (1msterdam, 1997)

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The Peace of Münster

On 30 January 1648, representatives of Spain and the United Provinces signed a peace treaty at Münster. The cornerstone of the agreement was Spain's juridical recognition of the independence and soverignty of the United Provinces.

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Talbot House in Pops

About Talbot House in Poperinghe, a 'Home from Home' during World War I, a place where soldiers could step out of the war's madness into a friendly world.

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Outside the Lines

Review of 'Outside the Lines: New Dutch and Flemish Writing' (Madison, NJ, 1997)

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A Season of Flemish and Dutch Poetry

Review of 'Dutch Poetry in Translation: Kaleidoscope. From Medieval Times to the Present' (Wilmette, IL, 1998) and 'Modern Poetry in Translation: Dutch and Flemish Issue' (London, 1998)

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Solving the Rembrandt Mystery

Review of Ernst van de Wetering's 'Rembrandt. the Painter at Work' (Amsterdam, 1997) and Albert Blankert's 'Rembrandt: A Genius and his Impact' (Zwolle/Melbourne/Sydney, 1997)

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A Naturally Gifted Painter. The Work of Anthony van Dyck

Van Dyck' s influence on painting not only in England but also in Italy and the Low Countries was profound and long-lasting. He transformed portrait painting in the three cities in which he worked. In Genoa his style was imitated by a whole...

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Myth and Reality of the Polder Model

The Dutch ‘polder model' for running the national economy appears to attracting a sizeable following. Some people even talk of a ‘Dutch miracle'. This article explores whether ‘economic model' and ‘miracle' are the appropriate terms here, o...

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Belgian Welfare Reform

Belgian welfare policy is responding to a variety of problems and pursuing several objectives: The author distinguishes four agendas for welfare policy. Two agendas are already old; one is new. Alas, none can be abandoned for the others. Bu...

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The Hague, a Royal City

A visitor to The Hague at the beginning of the nineteenth century would have found that the town offered many attractions. The fact that The Hague has the image of a ‘green town' and a ‘special town'is all due to the fact that for 750 years...

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A Forgotten Classic. The Work of Louis Couperus in English

Louis Couperus' prolific talent as a storyteller, virtually unrivalled among his contemporaries, won him many admiring readers in English translation at the turn of the twentieth century, and provoked favourable comparisons with both Galswo...

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The Hague, a Divided City

The Dutch essayist Rudy Kousbroek once wrote of The Hague that some parts of the post-war city evoked images of half-eaten plates of food piled one on top of the other. Certainly, no other city in the Netherlands has undergone as much recon...

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Nine City Poems

Nine translated city poems by Hanny Michaelis, Georgine Sanders, Hugo Claus, Richard Minne , J.A. Deelder, Anton Korteweg, Adriaan de Roover, Hans van de Waarsenburg and Willem M. Roggeman

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The American Adventure of Frederik van Eeden

‘Unexpectedly beautiful and special. A wondrous city, destined for great wonders. ‘ This was how Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932), the well-known Dutch writer, psychiatrist and social reformer, enthusiastically wrote about New York on 29 Febr...

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The Jews in the Netherlands

A short history of the Jews in the Netherlands. All in all, the author concludes there is plenty of reason to assert that Jewish life in the Netherlands at this point in time is functioning, and full of variety and interesting possibilities...

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A Traveller through Time. The Work of Marcel Möring

With his first novel, ‘Mendel's Legacy', Marcel Möring was at once hailed by Dutch critics as a major author, one who dared to raise wide-ranging problems. They liked the way he did not go for ironic solutions but rather remained weighty an...

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The Heart that Skips a Beat. Charlotte Mutsaers' Poetic Prose

Charlotte Mutsaers is not one of those writers whose goal is a revolutionary new form at all costs, nor is her aim that of for instance Italo Calvino, to write a totally different book that bears no relation to previous books each time. On ...

Article

Dutch Intellectual Hospitality

The author paid wondered in one of his earlier lectures why more outsiders did not take advantage of Dutch intellectual hospitality. In this piece he recounts his own experience of this phenomenon.

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Chronicle of a Crisis Foretold. The Judicial System in Belgium

The Belgian judicial system is failing. This is not a conclusion which has been reached recently, following the failure of judicial bodies in a number of cases involving missing children and the consequent mass protests. The maladies of the...

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Elisabeth Eybers, a Monumental Poet

The poet Elisabeth Eybers is an unusual figure in contemporary Dutch liter ature. In the first place, of course, she owes this to the power and the originality of her talent, which makes her one of the most important poets in the Dutch-spea...

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Léon Spilliaert, a Troubled and Troubling Painter

From his celebrated self-portraits to dreamlike scenes of the North Sea coast, a major exhibition in London will introduce UK audiences to the visionary work of Flemish artist Léon Spilliaert.

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The Sculptor as Craftsman. The Work of Rik Poot

Rik Poot is a hardworking and skilful artist, a true craftsman who never allowed himself to be influenced by trends, fashions or schools. He has had no part in the peripheral phenomena of the art world, nor has he tried to find favour with ...

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A Bulwark against the Water. The Ir. D.F. Wouda Pumping Station

Like a sober, brick-built castle, the Ir. D.F. Wouda pumping station (1920) stands proud on the IJsselmeer dike near the Friesian town of Lemmer. The largest and oldest steam-driven pumping station in the Netherlands (and still in use!) now...

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'Film is a medium for women'. Patrice Toye and 'Rosie'

When Patrice Toye began to produce her first short films in the late eighties and early nineties and was busily making all sorts of documentaries, it was quickly realised that she was a very promising film maker. 'Rosie' is not only Toye's ...

Article

Theater Based on Commitment. The New Realism of Trust

Trust has developed from a small, unsubsidised group of like-minded theatre-makers, into a company that can bear comparison with the large ensembles in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. It is a company that wants to mirror a new era, a ti...

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Nature Teaching Art. Painted Landscapes in the Low Countries

Landscape painting, and especially the realistic rendering of the physical landscape we see around us, is a speciality that has always thrived particularly well in the Low Countries. In this article we get all the classics (Bruegel, Jan van...

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No Paradise without a Surveyor. Landscape in Literature

Geometry won't get you far in Flanders. There the horizon is closer, the roads are not as straight and the water is not such an overwhelming presence. Here everything is on a smaller scale and more cluttered than in the Netherlands. Messier...

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Lost Landscape?

Every nation gets the landscape it deserves. The Low Countries: affluent and very densely populated, having increasingly to contend with the tension and perhaps discrepancy between prosperity and well-being, between working and living, betw...

Article

Three Faces of Dutch Animation

Dutch animation has a particular reputation for individualism. Over the last twenty years, Dutch animators, working in a spectrum of personal styles and techniques a million miles removed from Disney bluebirds and the mass children's market...

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A Fascinating Malaise. The Painting of Luc Tuymans

Among collectors, it is the Americans and Germans especially who show a keen interest in paintings by Luc Tuymans, an artist from Antwerp who, as Adrian Searle once wrote, ‘examines the malaise of European culture'. But to Tuymans himself t...

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‘I turn violence into art'. The Work of Armando

Right from the beginning Armando's work was no imaginary depiction of an internalised experience. This Dutch writer and artist presents reality in the raw, without comment or interpretation, mercilessly. His work is always focused, and with...

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Guido Gezelle, a Limpid Singer

As a poet, Guido Gezelle is as much a seeker as a finder. Whatever he touches with his words rediscovers the purity of the first day. This makes him unique. It also explains why those who sought to imitate him always fell short of him. In h...

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Saintly and Generous. Saint Nicholas and the Low Countries

The feast of Saint Nicholas (more popularly known as ‘Sinterklaas') was originally a feast for children. That's how it began during the Middle Ages, and that's how it's still regarded in Flanders. In the Netherlands, however, the adults hav...

Article

The Painter of Silence. Dirk Bouts Revisited

Art-lovers who visit Flanders now have a new five-star attraction: the gothic church of St Peter in Leuven, where ‘The Last Supper' painted by Dirk Bouts hangs. Both church and painting have been completely restored. This was celebrated in ...

Article

Rembrandt's Practical Approach to Italian Art. Three Variations

An international outlook is a constant component in the ongoing definition of Dutch identity and character. Rembrandt's interest in visual culture beyond the Netherlands is one measure of his own Dutchness, and his practice of assimilating ...

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‘Japonaiserie forever'. Vincent van Gogh and Japan

There are few artists in whose life and work Japonism played such an important role as in that of Vincent van Gogh. In the latter half of the 19th century Japonism was what we would nowadays call a ‘hype', a craze that left its marks on the...

Article

A Financial History of the Netherlands

Review of a 'A Financial History of the Netherlands' (1997), a book that attempts to describe the main features of almost five centuries of development in the relationship between banking, currency and public finance in the Netherlands.

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Emotion at the Museum. In Flanders Fields

The 'In Flanders Fields' museum is not a traditional museum. It's a 'layered' museum, a museum you can put together yourself, and so it's eclectic and postmodern in the sense that the big stories are replaced by the countless small ones.

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Dutch-Language Caribbean Voices in English

Review of guest editor Hilda van Neck-Yoder's issue of Callaloo devoted to 'Caribbean Literature from Surinam, the Netherlands antilles, Aruba and the Netherlands'.

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Snowed-In Poems. The Poetry of Miriam Van hee

Miriam Van hee's poetry plays with a number of central concepts or constants, which change their meaning in ever changing contexts. Her verse is in this way both familiar and always different.

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The Defiant Muse

Review of 'The Defiant Muse. Dutch and Flemish Feminist Poems from the Middle Ages to the Present.' (ed. Maaike Meijer), an anthology of 'woman-identified works'.

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Literature from the Low Countries in London

From 21 to 27 March 1999 eighteen Dutch-language writers were guests at the London Festival of Literature. The 'Stichting Frankfurter Buchmesse '93' supported this event with an impressive promotional campaign.

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Hugo de Vries in America

Short biography of the Amsterdam botanist Hugo de Vries (1848-1935), whose ideas about saltatory evolution were also enthusiastically received in far-off America. De Vries also travelled widely across the United States.

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Gender and the Politics of Office Work

Review of Francisca de Haan's 'Gender and the Politics of Office Work. The Netherlands 1860-1940', which provides an insight into the difficult struggle facing women in a country which is so hostile to female labour, and where so many thing...

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The Salve of Humour

A personal view on Dutch contemporary art by Janet Koplos, senior editor of 'Art in America'. In 1992 she visited the Netherlands for the first time and was fascinated by the ways in which that art differed from New York art. She considers ...

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Early Low Countries Painting in New York

From late September 1998 to early January 1999, for the first time in its history, the Metropolitan Museum in New York exhibited its own rich collection of 'Early Netherlandish Painting' - paintings produced in the Northern and especially t...

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The Mondrian Bible

Review of ' Piet Mondrian. Catalogue Raisonné'. An impressive work at almost 7 kilos for 2 volumes, it also advances research on the painter and his work enormously.

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Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age

Review of Michael North's 'Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age', a readable and comprehensive survey of Dutch seventeenth-century art from an economic and social-historical viewpoint.

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Challenging Art History. The Sculptures of Peter Rogiers

Rogiers is one of the great talents of contemporary Belgian sculpture. His work displays an unbelievably powerful urge to challenge the established traditions of art. His work has also been linked to Mannerism, seeking to draw attention to ...

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Short Takes

A regular feature comprising short reviews of a selection of socio-cultural events and works recently published in the Low Countries.

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‘Only in my poems can I dwell' The Work of J. Slauerhoff

The poet and prose writer J. Slauerhoff is one of the most important authors in Dutch literature. Critical views on his work have nevertheless always been mixed. This article paints a portrait of this 'Frisian Rimbaud', a late romantic whos...

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Robert Zandvliet's Vision

The clear, powerful paintings of Robert Zandvliet demonstrate the zest for life of the art of painting. He shows that the white canvas still holds a promise and hides a world of boundless possibilities. He is not encumbered by the ballast o...

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Recycling Shakespeare in the Low Countries

In the late nineties, theatre audiences in the Low Countries were treated to a series of remarkable Shakespeare productions, the chief event being the production of Tom Lanoye and Luk Perceval's 'To War', a startling production of Shakespea...

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A Big Kid. The Work of Edgar Tytgat

Edgar Tytgat was a child who was born old and did not get any older. Time had a special relationship with this man who had wanted to be a clockmaker. Critics did not really know what to make of him. But he became an exceptional painter. Tha...

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Writing for Love's Sake. The Work of Hadewijch

Hadewijch's entire work, but especially the 'Poems in Stanzas', expresses in a way unique in her time (the Middle Ages) the condition of man confronted with the riddle of the absolute, the transcendent, whatever you want to call it - that s...

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Hugo de Groot, a Passionate Thinker

Hugo de Groot, better known as Grotius, is one of that select band of Dutchmen who can boast an enduring world-wide reputation. Internationally he will always be regarded as 'the father of international law'. To many he is a visionary think...

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The Medieval Way of Death

The author tells of the yearning for death in the Middle Ages and the associated distaste for bodily things. Later this attitude gradually changed; enjoying life was no longer regarded as sinful and the human soul became more than an exile ...

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From Midwife to Caesarean. Confinement and Beyond in Flanders

About birth in Flanders. These days birth is no longer a mysterious female event, but a medical one: the ancient rituals have been replaced by the consultant gynaecologist, advanced equipment, painless childbirth and Caesarean section. The ...

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Death Unveiled. Dead and Remembered in Flanders

In the year 2000 the sight of the dying and the dead is no longer part of daily life in Flanders. Here too the medical world has taken over; nowadays most Flemings die in the seclusion of a hospital ward, while laying out a corpse at home h...

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The Low Countries Growing Old. The Second Demographic Transition

An essay which asserts that in the 1960s the Low Countries entered on a ‘second demographic transition'. The number of divorces rose, the birth rate fell and cohabitation increased. And today we see a rapid rise in the number of one-person ...

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Abortion and the Discrepancy between Reality and the Law

In the field of abortion the Netherlands and Belgium are exceptional: the figures there are the lowest in the world, despite the liberal legislation on the subject. Consequently, the prevention of abortion seems to be a matter more of effic...

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Off with their Heads. The Death Penalty in Belgium

The story of capital punishment in Belgium. Though it was not officially removed from the statute book until 1991, in practice sentence of death was automatically commuted to penal servitude with hard labour for life from as early as 1863.

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The Decorous Dead. The Great War Revisited

A journey through the First World War cemeteries of West Flanders and Northern France. These ‘lieux de mémoire' speak of a war whose last eye-witnesses are fast vanishing from the scene. And so the Great War will finally become part of `gre...

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Conrad's Dutch Connection

Bachrach charts the Dutch influences on the work of Joseph Conrad. We see Conrad signing on on the Highland Forest in Amsterdam. Later he dines in Borneo with the Dutch colonial trader Olmeyer, who would provide the model for the protagonis...

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A Brit Takes on Van Gogh

John Leighton, British director of the Van Gogh Museum, tells in A Brit Takes On Van Gogh not only about his renovated museum, but also about the differences between the museum scene in Britain and the Netherlands.

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One-Third Land and Two-Thirds Sky

‘One-Third Land and Two-Thirds Sky' – that is how the film director Peter Greenaway saw, and sees, the Netherlands. He works regularly in that country, and in his account he tells what fascinates him in Dutch society, from the landscape pai...

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A Rhapsody of Facades. The Zurenborg District in Antwerp

A description of Antwerp's Zurenborgwijk as a miniature city of illusion. The diversity of building style in the houses, which date roughly from the turn of the nineteenth-twentieth century, make of the area a permanent architectural exhibi...

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‘I hate messages'. The Work of Willem Elsschot

Vincent speculates about the international renown which Flemish author Willem Elsschot might have achieved if efforts to publish his work in English had been more successful. However, he does not seek to portray Elsschot as a misunderstood ...

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Jewellery in the Low Countries

A survey of the work of Dutch and Flemish jewellery designers. The author describes the differences between them, but also comments on the increasing cooperation between designers from the two regions.

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Everywhere a Tourist. Wim Delvoye's Lively ‘Almost-Art'

An introduction to the `almost-art' of the Fleming Wim Delvoye. His work is based on the principle of duality, in which images are confronted with the identity of their material support; for instance, in his ironing boards adorned with hera...

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Poetry in Print. Hendrik N. Werkman, Master Printer

His inventive use of the printing-press has assured Hendrik N. Werkman of a unique place in Dutch art history. This essay offers an overview of the work of this master-printer, whose social conscience and Resistance activities cost him his ...

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Anne Frank's Literary Connections

Millions of people have read Anne Frank's diary, but Ton Broos investigates what books Anne herself read. The result is a more balanced picture of a girl too often portrayed as a semi-saint or a `cute Shirley Temple in wartime'.

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The Containment of Chaos. The Work of Gerard Reve

This article surveys the extensive oeuvre of Gerard Reve and discusses the author's controversial attitudes to sex, death and religion. With four extracts by Gerard Reve in English translation.

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Two Tales of a City. Ghent, Tale No.1: A Mind of its Own

Daniël Vanacker outlines the history of Ghent. He tells of the Flemish city's prosperity in the Middle Ages, its difficult relations with Emperor Charles V, its development as an industrial centre in the nineteenth century and the cultural ...

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Two Tales of a City. Ghent, Tale No. 2: Clouds – Home

Flemish writer Stefan Hertmans' personal account of Ghent. He says that he can't write about his city. But of course he does, and then maintains that he has said nothing at all; at most he has captured something fleeting.

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The Other Languages of the Netherlands

Salverda discusses the multilingualism of Dutch society as the consequence of continuing migration. The strong, open economy attracts people to the Netherlands from a multitude of countries, so that today over a hundred languages are spoken...

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The Scattered 'I'. The Ambivalent Work of Paul de Wispelaere

About the work of Paul de Wispelaere. This Flemish writer cultivates ambivalence and contradiction, both in his essays on literature and in his own creative work. In his view, uncertainty and doubt are the great themes that gnaw at the hear...

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The ‘Best of Flanders and the Netherlands'. BVN-TV

The joint Flemish / Dutch satellite TV-station BVN-TV seeks to provide viewers abroad with information about Flanders and the Netherlands. On 1 September 1999 the reception area of BVN-TV was extended substantially. BVN can now also be rece...

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An Ode to Transience. Terschellings Oerol

Oerol – a ten-day, international summer festival of theatre which includes music and dance, and also a wide variety of visual arts. The first festival, in the summer of 1982, did little more than blaze the trail. Now each year the whole isl...

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The Taboos of the Documentary Film. The Work of Henri Storck

According to Flemish filmmaker Storck, two taboos distinguish the documentary from the feature film. A true documentary maker will never violate human suffering, grief and death, nor the intimate act of lovemaking, whereas there is scarcely...

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Theatre on the Edge. Jan Lauwers' Needcompany

Few makers of theatre in the Low Countries today explore the limits of their medium as intensively as the Fleming Jan Lauwers. What he tries to achieve in his productions is to make speech, text, movement and form rub up against and merge i...

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Truth or Legend? Thomas Becket in Flanders

When, in 1164, Archbishop Thomas Becket opposed the arrogations the English king, Henry II of the Plantagenets, placed on the English church, he incurred the wrath of both the royal court and the English clergy. Was Thomas Becket also known...

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From Boer War to South African War

A century ago, the whole world was following events in South Africa with intense interest. Two small Afrikaner Boer republics were fighting there for freedom and justice against the British Empire. How does the new South Africa of today rem...

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Belgium as a Symbol in First World War Propaganda

No act of war was more portentous, in the early days of World War I, than Germany's invasion of neutral Belgium. The country found itself suddenly elevated into a symbol of the conflict's higher meaning: Belgium as a martyr for the higher c...

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A Secret Language. Traces of Dutch in the United States

Dutch is by no means dead in the United States, but its existence is somewhat akin to freemasonry. One has to know where to find its practitioners and approach them in the right way. In the meantime, the majority of Americans carry on using...

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The English Reynard

In the Middle Ages, in the borderland where Romance and Germanic languages meet – Picardy, Flanders and Alsace – a new literary genre emerged: beast epic. This piece is about the place of the Dutch-language Reynaert tradition in English fox...

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Folk-Songs: Long before the EU

In voluminous The Flemish Folk-Song in Europe (Het Vlaamse volkslied in Europa) the Flemish Jesuit Albert Boone covers the most important themes from the European folk-song tradition and examines the extent to which Flemish / Dutch folk-son...

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Beyond the Cluttered Years. The Dutch Jazz Archives

These days, the cluttered years of the Dutch National Jazz Archives are in the past. Now they are the Dutch Jazz Archives (Nederlands Jazz Archief; NJA) and it has space, new furniture, a group of industrious volunteers and paid staff. Ever...

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Aspiring to Universality. The Music of Dirk Brossé

Dirk Brossé (1960-) is a Flemish all-round musician who over the last ten years has acquired international renown as a conductor and composer. As a composer, too, he is very versatile: he writes film music and concert music for various type...

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'Leuven Valley'. IMEC and the Latest Technology in Flanders

A high-tech valley is growing up more and more round the Catholic University of Leuven, on the analogy of the famous Silicon Valley to the south of San Francisco, the Mecca of the computer industry. The showpiece of the ‘Leuven valley' is I...

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Two Spinoza Biographies

It is arguable that Spinoza, second only to Rembrandt, is today the most famous of all Dutchmen. It is therefore a thoroughly welcome event, as well as a remarkable coincidence, that after many years in which the reading public has lacked a...

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From Saint Arnold to Burp Castle. Beer in Flanders

Beer drinking in Flanders goes back a long way. The rich heritage of Flemish beer used to be a well-kept secret, but the efforts of café owners and writers have helped to promote the image of Flemish ales. As word gets around, the names of ...

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A Good Rembrandt Year

Each year numerous new publications about Rembrandt come onto the market and 1999 was no exception. It was a good Rembrandt year, particularly since two Rembrandt exhibitions were mounted in the Netherlands: one at the Mauritshuis in The Ha...

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Short Takes

A regular feature comprising short reviews of a selection of socio-cultural events and works recently published in the Low Countries.

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Foreword

About the theme of this yearbook: ‘Low Countries, Host Countries?' or: hospitality and immigration

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And Then in that Low Country

Kader Abdolah, an Iranian physcist and writer living in the Netherlands since 1988, contributes a couple of texts on his experiences with the Dutch: about a sad Dutch woman, about a big long wooden ladder and about the feeling of having no...

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Half a Century of Belgium

Having been born and brought up in Berlin, then living successively in Leipzig, Rostock, Cologne and the Flemish city of Leuven, the philosopher Rudolf Boehm has now dwelt for over thirty years in Ghent, in the heart of Flanders. A personal...

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The Enigma of Arrival

A story by Anil Ramdas, born in Surinam and living in the Netherlands, about one's ‘assimilation trajectory'. One remains burdened by the restlessness of the traveller, never becoming a full resident. And thus the enigma of arrival is like ...

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Jackfruit and Dry Mushrooms

Born in Uganda, Moses Isegawa has been living in Beverwijk (The Netherlands) since 1990. He writes in English, but his books are published in Dutch first. Isegawa thinks that home is everywhere and nowhere: it's where he can work and achiev...

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Space, Light, Order. The Paintings of Pieter de Hooch

Pieter de Hooch's paintings offer a remarkable vision of domestic life in seventeenth-century Holland. He had a notable fondness for intricate interior spaces, meticulously ordered and furter enriched by the effects of sunlight penetrating ...

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Discourses on Dutchness

This essay focuses on the Dutch identity debate and on the attempts of intellectuals to promote national cohesion.Van Ginkel concludes his survey with the observation that discussion about Dutch individuality is always fed by fear on the on...

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Africa Is Very Far Away. Belgium and its Colonial Past in Congo

The fact that Belgium embarked on an ambitious colonial adventure in the last quarter of the nineteenth century can be attributed to the initiative of King Leopold II. Congo literally became ‘his' colony. For the production of rubber, Leopo...

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I Faced Love. The Work of Toon Tellegen

A very close reading of Toon Tellegen's work. In his stories and poems this Dutch author never wants to start with the things that we take for granted. His writings do not present a view of the worl, they present a view of language. (with f...

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Portrait of the Child as Sitter. Children of a Golden Age

Until fairly recently it was thought that in early modern Europe children were not very highly valued. This is a misconception, as the author illustrates by looking at some children's portraits from the Low Countries (which were part of an ...

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The Wry Aesthetics of Co Westerik

Co Westerik is a loner in the post-war art of the Netherlands. He combines a craftsmanslike technique with an utterly unique style and approach to his subjects. With very oddly chosen images, in a distorted perspective and a different scale...

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In the Belly of the Boa. The Work of Peter Verhelst

An impression of the ‘difficult' poems and novels of Flemish writer Peter Verhelst. In the space of thirteen years he has constructed a totally individual oeuvre, with a style and themes - self-annihilation, the body, death - which are imme...

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Many Waters to Bridge. Bridges in the Netherlands

The importance of bridges to the life of a country such as the Netherlands is almost impossible to overestimate. The country has the highest bridge density in the world. The author gives an abbreviated account of the history of Dutch bridge...

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The Long and the Short of It . Short Film in Flanders

A survey of recent short films in Flanders. The author believes that the Flemish short film would benefit more in the medium term from forceful acting projects that from the familiar Flemish ‘serieux'. He also thinks that the new digital me...

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Riposte to Death. Esther Jansma's Poetry

Mourning. Cherishing the dead. Examining, delaying, outwitting, toying with, and renaming death, in order to finally let go of it again. This is the essence of Esther Jansma's work. She is a past master in bringing home to the reader the co...

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Architecture and National Identity

In recent years it has been almost impossible to keep up with the attempts made to describe the distinct character of Belgian – and in particular Flemish – contemporary architecture, and to identify and promote it as such. A review of three...

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De Brakke Grond, a Flemish House in the Netherlands

In its twenty years of existence the Flemish cultural centre De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam has evolved into the first port of call for anyone in the Netherlands who is interested in Flemish culture. It is no Flemish cultural reservation but ...

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A Painter Film-Maker. Homage to Raoul Servais

The internationally renowned Flemish maker of animated films, Raoul Servais, can look back on a glittering career. With a relatively small number of animated films, only twelve over forty years, he has won prizes at all the world's major fi...

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Multicultural Theatre: Diversity Unites

One can rejoice in the fact that immigrant participation in both Dutch-speaking and foreign-language theatre has been going on for years, long before the government decided to attach importance to it. About the Onafhankelijk Toneel, Het Wat...

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Split Screen. The Flemish Search for a Cinematographic Identity

Belgian cinema has often been thought of as one of the most undervalued in Europe. Researchers will have great difficulties in finding relevant literature on it. However, in recent years there have after all been some extremely useful publi...

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Centre of Rotterdam Taken Out

When the German Luftwaffe bombed Rotterdam on 14 May 1940 some nine thousand people lost their lives, 25,000 dwellings were destroyed, 11,000 buildings, 2,350 shops, thirteen hospitals, two thousand factories and workshops, two theatres, tw...

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The Death of the Village. Geert Mak's ‘Jorwerd'

A review of Geert Mak's Jorwerd, the Death of the Village in Late Twentieth-Century Europe, an account of the slow death of the small village in the northern province of Friesland where the author spent his youth (Geert Mak, Jorwerd. The De...

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‘Going into the world'. Dutch Immigrants in Canada

A review of two books about Dutch immigrants in Canada (Herman Ganzevoort, The Last Illusion. Letters from Dutch Immigrants in the ‘Land of Opportunity', 1924-1930. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1999 / Frans J. Schryer, The Netherla...

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Women in the Dutch colonies

The central theme of Elsbeth Locher-Scholten's new book on Women and the Colonial State is how, especially and increasingly during the first half of the twentieth century, Dutch and Indonesian women, despite their shared aspirations, were k...

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A Lost World. The Work of Erwin Mortier

In 2001 the Flemish writer Erwin Mortier had two books to his name – together hardly more than three hundred pages, but more than enough to warrant the assessment that Dutch literature has been enriched with a new sound. And what is so rema...

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A Strange Host Named Poetry. The Watou Summers

The Watou poetry-summers, which take place every year in the West-Flemish village of that name close to the French border, knock the usual tedium of a summer in the country clear out of sight. Each year the organiser and poet Gwij Mandelinc...

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The Essential Guide to Dutch Music

The Netherlands has acquired a reputation for producing well-edited publications in the field of music and maintaining good working relationships with the country's composers. This article is a review of a detailed guide to a hundred Dutch ...

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D.J. Struik's Marxist Mathematics

In October 2000 the Dutch-American mathematician Dirk Jan Struik peacefully passed away at his home in Belmont, MA, at the age of 106. Struik made his name as the author of A Concise History of Mathematics, published in 1948, one of the fir...

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Put the Blame on Baruch

In the past scholars have underrated the significance of Spinoza (1632-1677) as a key figure in the radical thought of the Enlightenment: that is the view of the British historian Jonathan I. Israel. In his new book he attempts to rectify t...

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Living inside Belgium

A personal account by an Englishman living in Belgium: Belgium is remarkable in the unremarkable. If pressed to find a single word to describe life in Belgium, one might well settle for ‘easy' .

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Brussels: From Cross-Roads to Parking Place

The exhibition Brussels, Cross-Roads of Cultures resolutely followed the course taken by the arts, with the emphasis on painting. Starting at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it continued right through to the present day, as if ther...

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André Volten, Sculptor in Public Space

If one considers all the well-known Dutch sculptors who have built up a considerable body of work, there is none with such a relatively large proportion of sculptures for public spaces as André Volten. The square, the cube, the circle, the ...

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Short Takes

A regular feature comprising short reviews of a selection of socio-cultural events and works recently published in the Low Countries.

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Tabula Rasa. The Iconoclastic Fury in the Low Countries

This article is an overview of the historic iconoclasm that swept through the Low Countries in 1566. By destroying images and desecrating the host, the Reformed Protestants drew a sharp dividing line between themselves and the rest of soci...

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The Silent Iconoclasm in Flanders

‘A strange calm after the storm' is how the author describes post-Catholic Flanders at the beginning of the 21st century. In fact, there never was a storm: even before the Second Vatican Council, a noiseless dechristianising had begun. It h...

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The Road from Enlightenment to Indifference. Unbelief in Flanders

The article begins with a discussion of the ‘Flemish Enlightenment' in the 18th century and militant freethinking in the 19th century. As old ideological oppositions – belief v. unbelief – dissolve in today's secularised society, most non-b...

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How God Survived His Death in Books

Did Dutch and Flemish literature turn its back on God after the Second World War? The author points to His presence or conspicuous absence in the work of authors such as Walschap, Claus, Reve, Hermans, Biesheuvel, Wolkers, and Reve. In the ...

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‘I'll Call You God, You Powers'. Fifteen Poems

A collection of poems about belief, unbelief and the difficulty of faith: ?Hadewijch, Jacobus Revius, Joost van den Vondel, Nikolaas Beets, Guido Gezelle, J.A. dér Mouw, Pierre Kemp, Martinus Nijhoff, Maurice Gilliams, Gerrit Achterberg, Id...

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Christianity in Indonesia, Past and Present

A short history of Dutch Protestant missionary work in the Indonesian Archipelago. At the beginning of the 16th century, Portugal's Catholic missionaries were expelled by the Dutch and replaced with Protestant clergy. Surprisingly, Islam an...

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A Seething Cauldron. Dance in Brussels

The large number of contemporary dance groups and institutions in Brussels has had two main consequences. The 1990s saw the beginning of a large-scale migration of young dancers to companies in Brussels and elsewhere in Belgium. In this rap...

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Room for Everything. The Photographs of Jacob Olie

The Amsterdam photographer Jacob Olie Jacobszoon (1834-1905) was not a professional photographer, but, despite an industrious and eventful life, he found time to take some 5000 photographs. All his photographs have been preserved and meticu...

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Flemish Furniture Design

Furniture design in Flanders is blossoming as never before. Some of its creations would be more at home in the world of art and some take their inspiration from architectural principles, while others draw on traditions of craftsmanship. In ...

Article

His Own Protagonist. The Work of Teun Hocks

Dutch artist Teun Hocks (1947-) is sometimes described as a photo-painter. He makes carefully arranged black-and-white photographs, which he then uses as an artist's canvas. Apart from the self-timer, there is only one protagonist in his wo...

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No Victorian Disneyland. Bruges, the Past in the Present

In 1998 Bruges was named European City of Culture 2002. The city had of course been chosen for its image as a model mediaeval city of monuments and museums. However, the selectors had also looked for evidence of a dynamic society, and that ...

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Opting for What Does not Yet Exist. The Art of Carel Visser

Carel Visser (1928-) is probably the most influential and innovative of the post-war generation of Dutch sculptors. To many people Visser is best known as the sculptor of stacked bars, cubes, double forms, and for Holes, which appeared in t...

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Innocence Can Be Hell. The Art of Berlinde de Bruyckere

From the beginning, the three-dimensional work of the Flemish artist Berlinde de Bruyckere (1964-) has had a fundamental duality. Her sculptures and installations can be quickly interpreted, in that a substantial part of each one can be ‘un...

Article

Simon Stevin, Flemish Tutor to a Dutch Prince

Simon Stevin (1548-1620) was a renowned scholar from the Low Countries. He not only introduced decimal fractions, but was also the brains behind many technical inventions. He played an important role in civic and military architecture, and ...

Article

Johan Goudsblom: More than a Sociologist

Johan Goudsblom (1932-) is a sociologist by profession but he is also a poet, a historian of ideas, a cultural historian, and more. In other words: a man whose exceptional erudition and style skills have taken him beyond the boundaries of s...

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The Bookshop of the World

Review of published papers from this conference. Contributions deal with the historical role and international nature of the book trade in the Low Countries (Lotte Hellinga et al.,The Bookshop of the World: The Role of the Low Countries in ...

Article

Selective Affinities. Anglo-Dutch Relations, 1780-1980

Review of Unspoken Allies, a book focussing on Anglo-Dutch relations between 1780 and 1980 (Nigel Ashton et al., Unspoken Allies. Anglo-Dutch Relations since 1780. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2001).

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Languages in Competition

Review of Words of the World, a book on language rivalry in the global language system (Abram de Swaan, Words of the World. The Global Language System. Cambridge: Polity Press/ Blackwell, 2001)

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands' Big Apple

Review of a literary guide to Amsterdam (Manfred Wolf (ed.), Amsterdam, A Traveler's Literary Companion. San Francisco: Whereabouts Press, 2001

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Wim Kok, the Prime Minister from the Polders

Wim Kok was Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1994 to 2002. Leader of the ‘Purple Cabinet', he had a down-to-earth, common-sense approach and was level-headed, but his tendency to wait until all the cards are shuffled often drew critic...

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Variations on the Ordinary. The Photographs of Rineke Dijkstra

The Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra isolates the people she photographs, flashing them out of the tumult of existence into an image never to be forgotten. This article marks the publication of a book of Dijkstra's photographs: Rineke Dij...

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Short Takes

A regular feature comprising short reviews of a selection of socio-cultural events and works recently published in the Low Countries

Article

Foreword

Mainly about the theme of this book: water, which keeps turning up where you don't expect it.

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God's Subcontractors. The Dutch and Water

Whoever wants to know what Dutch society finds important and what the Dutch might think of a future in Europe and the world, would be well advised to consider the history and the ambitions of national water management in the Netherlands. Th...

Article

Excerpts from a Log Book on the Scheldt and Maas

As the title says, these are supposed to be excerpts from the log the author kept on board of a number of boats during two river trips: one down the Scheldt, and one down the Maas, each time from source to estuary. But the author himself ad...

Article

Dordrecht, City of Living Water

A short history of Dordrecht, once ‘the key to Holland and Zeeland', the demographic and economic centre of Holland. Already in the seventeenth century the city had lost its significance as a seaport, but it did continue as a centre for inl...

Article

Opposites Attract. Living on the Water

For centuries the Dutch have done their best to keep their feet dry. The simplest solution has always been to live above the NAP: the ‘Normaal Amsterdams Peil', or the zero Amsterdam ordnance datum. Yet as early as 600 BC people were making...

Article

How to Paint Water. The Leie as a Stream of Inspiration

Since time immemorial locals and visitors have been impressed by the beauty of the river valley between the various villages along the banks of the river Leie, to the south of Ghent. Near the end of the 19th century painters and sculptors, ...

Article

Valour on Ice. The Elfstedentocht in Friesland

A history of the Elfstedentocht, the skating route that takes in eleven Frisian towns. The saying in Friesland is ‘When it freezes hard, the Frisians thaw'. When the frost is so hard that it is possible to skate on the waterways and lakes, ...

Article

Solid and Volatile. Twelve Poems

An anthology of poems which show water in its regular or ephemeral form: snow, ice, mist and clouds. By J.A. dèr Mouw, Willem de Mérode, Richard Minne, Martinus Nijhoff, Paul van Ostaijen, H. Marsman, Adriaan Morriën, Lucebert, Roland Joori...

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Footballs, Bikes and Heroes. Johan Cruijff and Eddy Merckx

Heroics of yore with a Belgian on wheels and a Dutchman on the pitch: Eddy Merckx, the finest cyclist in the country, of all generations, all countries, and Johan Cruijff, the football player without parallel, unsurpassed in all his feats o...

Article

English = Dutch. A Dossier of Compelling Evidence

History has left many a Dutch mark on the English language. There is a sizeable English vocabulary of Dutch origin and borrowing from Dutch is an ongoing process, as witness recent additions like apartheid, coffeeshop, lekker and gabber mus...

Article

Joke van Leeuwen's Light-Hearted Anarchy

Whatever genre Joke van Leeuwen turns her hand to – from little books for ‘fresh' readers to poetry for adults –, she constantly surprises her readers with her uninhibited way of looking at people and things. She continues to hold the inter...

Article

Enough of Laughter? The Unbridled Expansion of Dutch Cabaret

Freek de Jonge and Youp van 't Hek are perhaps the only two who could compete with each other for the prize of the top cabaret artist in the Netherlands, but both are now in the autumn of their careers. ‘Le grand cabaret', the art of such d...

Article

Paint as Mercurochrome. On Vincent Geyskens

Vincent Geyskens is a young Flemish painter who handles an apparently tired medium in a dapper and varied way – so much so that the author cannot help wondering if the medium really is so tired. Can a painter achieve anything more beautiful...

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Escapist Survivalism. From AVL to AVL-Ville and Back Again

Few artists make the news as often as Joep van Lieshout. The products of his company, Atelier van Lieshout (AVL), sometimes elicit violent reactions. It is not that he sets out to shock, in fact he most likes to give pleasure, but his unadu...

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Tom Lanoye, Literary Multinational

Flemish story-writer, novelist, playwright, translator, columnist, pamphleteer and performer, Tom Lanoye is a versatile and much talked-about author. During the course of his twenty-year career, he has become an authority in various literar...

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Gain versus Godliness. The Dutch Slave Trade

A short history of the Dutch slave trade. The initial Dutch objections to the slave trade did not last long. After capturing part of Brazil from the Portuguese in 1630, it quickly became apparent that the demand for sugar by Dutch dealers c...

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A Perpetual Masquerade. The Work of Gerrit Komrij

On 26 January 2000 Gerrit Komrij was chosen Poet Laureate of the Netherlands for a period of five years by a poll taken among Dutch poetry readers. Appropriate indeed for a man who knew ever since he was a child that he would become a poet....

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Richard Minne, Poetry's Freedom Fighter

A lot of poets and critics rate Richard Minne among the greatest Flemish poets of the twentieth century. But his work is no longer in print, and today he has become something of a cult poet. Sometimes his lines surface as protective incanta...

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Philippe Herrewege, a Versatile Musical Shrink

With his activities as a conductor and his extensive discography the Fleming Philippe Herreweghe (1947-) has become one of the stars of the international music industry. His road to fame started with early music. With his choir, Collegium V...

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The Irish College in Leuven

About the history of the Irish College in Leuven, now in fact the Irish Institute for European Affairs.

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What's on an Old Man's Mind? Luc Perceval's ‘King Lear'

A thorough analysis of L. King of Pain by the Antwerp Toneelhuis company, a radical rewriting of Shakespeare's King Lear. Director Luc Perceval's adaptation starts from a specific view of the character of Lear. Shakespeare's most comprehens...

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Tyndale's Testament

About the bible translator whose life ended at the stake in Vilvoorde. An exhibition in Antwerp (with an interesting catalogue) paid a fitting tribute to a relatively little-known man who made an important contribution to the formation of t...

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Dutch Jewry

Review of two books about Jews in the Netherlands: Jonathan Israel and Reinier Salverda (eds.), Dutch Jewry, Its History and Secular Culture (1500-2000). Leiden / Boston / Cologne: Brill, 2002 and J.C.H. Blom, R.G. Fuks-Mansfeld and I. Schö...

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The Future of Dutch as a Language of Science

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, KNAW, devoted a memorandum to the question of whether Dutch is under threat as a language of science and scholarship. The author analyses this matter.

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A Wider Perception of 'Science'

About the new Edita-series, which intends to cover a very broad spectrum of scholarship in the arts and sciences (Rienk Vermij, The Calvinist Copernicans. The Reception of the New Astronomy in the Dutch Republic, 1575-1750 / Gerhard Wiesenf...

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The Netherlands and the Tragedy of Srebrenica

On 11 July 1995 the Bosnian Serb army overran the ‘safe haven' of Srebrenica, a Muslim enclave in Bosnia that was under the protection of the United Nations. In the days that followed, 7,500 Muslim men and boys were brutally murdered. Dutch...

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The Vlaams Blok

An analysis of the electoral succes of the Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc). The author thinks Flanders will have to sweat it out with this extreme right-wing and polically isolated party for a while yet.

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An Annus Horribilis for Dutch Politics

A survey of 2002, an eventful year in Dutch politics: right from the emergence of Pim Fortuyn (who was murdered in May 2002) up to the elections in January 2003.

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Fashion for the People. MoMu: Antwerp's New Fashion Museum

About MoMU, the new Fashion Museum in Antwerp: a beautiful and interesting museum, which should however refrain from verbal pomposity in its communication if it really wants to be an accessible exhibition and information centre for a wide r...

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Honoré d'O: Playing Marbles with Art

About the Flemish artist Honoré d'O and his fresh view on art: it should not be worshipped, it can be used. Nevertheless his intriguing work often comes across as completely hermetic and literally incomprehensible.

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Short Takes

A regular feature comprising short reviews of a selection of socio-cultural events and works recently published in the Low Countries.

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Foreword

An introduction to the 12th yearbook and its theme

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Mobility: Absurdity and Poetry, Economics and Stubbornness

Mobility is much more than the technical phenomenon of people moving from one place to another and using infrastructure, taking up space and getting in the way of others in the process. Understanding mobility, to say nothing of regulating i...

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The Scrub Pine Syndrome. Walking in the Netherlands

What possesses a modern human being to make him shoulder his rucksack and set off on foot through the Netherlands, which as we all know is the world's most built-up delta area? This country may not be primeval, but a walk through the Nether...

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Of Stations Passed

At the beginning of his essay the author descends the majestic stairs of Antwerp Central Station, ‘the Cathedral of the Tracks'. Then he tells us he collects stations and shares some Flemish stations from that collection with the reader. He...

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The Netherlands Gets on its Bike

If you had to take one photo that summed up the Netherlands as the average foreigner sees it, what would it show? Queen Beatrix in clogs, cycling past a row of windmills, with the glassy eyes of dozens of cows staring at her in astonishment...

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In God we Trust…In Cars we Rust

Cars. There are too many of them. An account of how the automobile conquered the landscape and how the motorist became king. The king of the road has become a prisoner: the illusion of the freedom of driving hardly exists any more. Nor does...

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Dutch Identity in Europe

The term ‘national identity' sends many Dutch people into a spin of denial. Nevertheless, there are very few countries in Europe that have such a pronounced ‘national identity'. The author takes a look at it in a historical and European con...

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How an American Became a Dutch Author

When transsexuals claim they were born in the wrong body, Portnoy can understand how they feel. Growing up in the USA, she felt that she had been born in the wrong place. She had known since childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and sin...

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Urban Wildlife. Zoos in the Low Countries

Travellers usually enjoy discovering the distinctive characteristics of the towns or regions they visit. But rarely does a trip to the zoo figure on their itinerary. And yet those who actually take the trouble to visit every zoo they come a...

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‘Why?' Is Not the Right Question.On the Work of Carl Friedman

About the work of Carl Friedman, an authentic author in the sense in which Mario Vargas Llosa uses the term: someone who ‘can accept her own demons' and goes with them as far as she can, in other words someone who writes about the subjects ...

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A Chocolate Oscar for Paula van der Oest

Even the consolation prizes got crushed in her handbag when Paula van der Oest went to Hollywood in 2003 hoping to collect an Oscar for her film ‘Zus & zo' (aka Hotel Paraiso). She had to make do with a Academy Award made of chocolate. ...

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Speak to Live. On the Work of Ivo Michiels

Ivo Michiels is the grand old man of experimental literature in Flanders. Particularly remarkable is the naturalness and consistency with which the author has stuck to his chosen path of experimental literature. With an unmatched confidence...

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Mosaics of Tones. Willem Pijper and his Music

More than anyone else, it was Willem Pijper whose compositions and crusading spirit placed Dutch music on the European cultural map. One of his mottoes, ‘a composer only composes what he cannot express or communicate in other ways,' fits hi...

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Anna Enquist: Form and Vision; Analysis and Feeling.

During the last twelve years Anna Enquist has published a substantial body of literary work. She is a writer whose qualities and talents offer not only readability, but also lasting artistic integrity. Her art is about feelings both tragic ...

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A Museological Dilemma. The New Van Abbemuseum

The normally rather reserved world of Dutch art critics was frankly enthusiastic and full of praise on the occasion of the opening of the new Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven in January 2003. It even received the accolade of being called ‘the f...

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The End of Melancholy. Mechelen Revisited

It's early morning in Mechelen and the streets are empty. Derek Blyth is looking forward to wandering down the cobbled lanes, looking inside gothic churches, passing some time in the municipal museum, and ending up, as everyone does, in one...

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The Song of the Inner Voice. Karel Appel's Serial Versatility

Karel Appel who in the 1950s himself said ‘I just mess around', is now generally acclaimed as one of the genuine innovators of modern painting. His controversial breakthrough came in 1949 when he was seen as one of the leading lights of the...

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A Total Eclipse of the Heart. About Dirk van Bastelaere

It is one of the pillars of Dirk van Bastelaere's poetry that a poem is never self-evident. The problem this poet is struggling with is poetry itself. He is trying to keep contemporary poetry alive by thinking it through thoroughly to the e...

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How the Dutch Lost their Innocence

After 2002 the Dutch have had to drastically modify their view of themselves. Theirs is not an idyllic island surrounded by an evil outside world. They are not immune to developments that have taken place in countless other countries. But p...

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Islands of Difference. Beguinages in the Medieval Low Countries

On December 2, 1998, Unesco inscribed thirteen Flemish beguinages on its World Heritage list, recognising them as sites ‘of worldwide significance'. With only three elderly beguines alive at the time of writing, of whom only one still resid...

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The Hague, International Centre of Peace and Justice

For the Dutch, The Hague is, as it has been for centuries, the country's administrative, judicial and diplomatic centre. Not many are aware of that other rich Hague tradition which also boasts a history stretching back a hundred years: The ...

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Icons without Religion. The Work of Dan van Severen

The work of Flemish painter Dan van Severen exudes naked contemplation, detached timelessness and a complex simplicity. It shuns all forms of ostentation, all embellishment, all pictorial effect. Van Severen could be regarded as a secular m...

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Oases that Speak for Themselves. Gardens by Jacques Wirtz

The combination of the Flemish landscape architect Jacques Wirtz' thorough knowledge of horticulture and his personal philosophy, more recently supported on two fronts by the commercial contribution of his sons, has seen his firm grow into ...

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Surinam and the Dutch Language Union

On 12 December 2003 the Dutch Language Union and the Republic of Surinam signed an ‘association agreement'. Surinam will officially become a member of the Dutch Language Union. The hope is that this will strengthen the ties between users of...

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Tenderness… on the Rocks. Herman van Veen, Harlequin

Herman van Veen, cabaret artiste and singer, remains primarily a gentle, tender idealist and a clown, who with just a silly hat or a red nose radiates a childlike mirth that transforms him, without a single touch of makeup, into a harlequin...

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Ostend Revisited

Anna Simoni's Ostend Story offers a fascinating illustration of contemporaneous reactions in print to the astonishingly prolonged siege of Ostend (1601-1604), halfway through the Eighty Years War of Dutch Independence from Spanish rule. (An...

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A European Isle. Raoul van Caenegem's ‘History of England'

Raoul van Caenegem's ‘Geschiedenis van Engeland' is a learned, instructive, entertaining tour de force whose continental perspective is in refreshing contrast to the insularity and introspection of so many English histories. (Raoul van Caen...

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The Other Ninety-Six Languages of the Netherlands

For many years now the languages spoken by immigrant minorities in the countries of Europe have been the main concern of Professor Guus Extra of the University of Brabant in Tilburg, who has now published a substantial academic monograph on...

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The Other Languages of Brussels

After French and Dutch, the most widely-known languages in Brussels are English, German and Spanish, but after the two official languages the languages most frequently spoken in the home are Arabic, Turkish and Berber. This brief overview l...

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Life during God's Break. Pop Music in Flanders

After dEUS every pop and rock musician in Flanders knows that you can devote yourself one hundred percent to your art, but international fame and fortune will probably never come your way. That doesn't stop young, and rather less young, boy...

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Peter Schat, Acting and Blundering in Freedom

Dutch composer Peter Schat (1935-2003) was a radical underminer of every accepted authority, but that didn't stop him from composing increasingly in the romantic style. Freedom was to him the answer to all questions.

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Landscapes of Leisure

‘Fun' is a very serious attempt to get an intellectual grasp of a rapid, explosive and confusing development that has taken place over the last few years. Tracy Metz reports on the relationship between leisure and landscape. The question Me...

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A Statue of Woman. Emmy Andriesse, Photographer

Emmy Andriesse died at the age of thirty-nine. She left behind 14,000 negatives. To this day no photographer in the Netherlands has had so much feel for the medium as she had. She was looking for something, for the exemplary that is so typi...

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Now (or Never)… Rubens

In 2004 the Rubens-lover is to be pampered by a plethora of exhibitions in both Europe and America. In short: anyone who fails to visit a Rubens exhibition in 2004 is either living on another planet or is a real Rubens-hater; and for the la...

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Short Takes

A regular feature comprising short reviews of a selection of socio-cultural events and works recently published in the Low Countries.

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Tear Down This House. The Poetry of Tonnus Oosterhoff

Where does modern poetry end? You can discuss this for a long time too, but Gerbrandy suspects that if we look back in 2050, we shall find that modern poetry in the Netherlands ends with Tonnus Oosterhoff (1953-). Ever since his debut in 1...

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An Enticing Taste of the Past Art in Food and Food in Art

The author chose a small sampling of Dutch and Flemish 17th-century paintings from collections in the Netherlands and America that demonstrate how these artworks give an insight into seventeenth-century Dutch food practices and bring a new ...

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The Added Flavour of Art

When David Stroband was asked to write an article about ‘art and food', he was a little confused at first. What was he supposed to take into consideration? The art of eating? On the other hand, images also loomed up of self-service restaura...

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It's a Matter of Awareness

An extract from Herman Brusselmans' Diary of a Weary Egoist': smoking, drinking and puking… in retrospect it's all just literature.

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I didn't know about the holocaust then. Growing up in Holland

Buruma cannot remember the first time he became aware of the Holocaust, but it was certainly before he ever heard, let alone used that word. There must have been hints, snippets of overheard adult conversation that could have alerted him a...

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America: from Example to Exasperation?

Before 1945, America, the land of endless opportunities, far beyond the horizon, had always had a magical ring to it, the stuff of dreams. Perceptions of America suddenly became more concrete at the end of the Second World War, when America...

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Hazy Memories. Notes on the Work of Bert de Beul

Bert de Beul's intimate paintings are a nostalgic evocation of memories and associations from his past. The viewer should not look for an underlying message or contentious cultural symbols. In his paintings De Beul goes in search of intangi...

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Any Way Tom Barman Goes

Musician and director Tom Barman isn't the sort of person who enjoys appearing on television. He doesn't like talking about his private life. Yet he is still widely perceived as an important artist and he is one of the few Flemish people to...

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A Plantation Turned Hotel. The Built Heritage of Suriname

The addition of the historic city centre of Paramaribo to the UNESCO World Heritage List was due to the exceptional value of this piece of cultural heritage. At the same time virtually nothing remains of Suriname's traditional plantation cu...

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Cocooning with a View. Glocal Literature by Pol Hoste

When Pol Hoste is in Montreal, to him forever Montréal, his thoughts often drift back to when he was a young boy sitting with his family staring in silence at a sooty black cauldron full of pig swill. But when he's at home in his own little...

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Utrecht: A Jigsaw of Intimacy

Where does the author start? With a building that no longer exists. ‘The Utrecht', the only genuine Art Nouveau building ever to grace the city, had to make room for a large-scale development of offices and shops known as the Hoog Catharijn...

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STAN: Repertory Theatre with a Breath of Fresh Air

In this theatre company's repertoire, what is most conspicuous is the attention paid to bourgeois society. STAN's favourite authors, Chekhov and Bernhard but also Ibsen, Wilde and Shaw, show up the fat on the bourgeois mentality. There is a...

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A Great Language. Why do Foreigners Learn Dutch?

If you want to study Dutch, you no longer need to travel to the Netherlands or Flanders. All over the world, interest in the Dutch language is growing. By 2005, Dutch will be taught at approximately 220 universities in more than 40 countrie...

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Nice Boys in a Cold World. The Literary Work of Nescio

A portrait of the Dutch Master of the unfinished and his highly original literary work. To Frerichs Nescio, who kept as quiet as possible about his writing, is essential a lyricist, a poet who writes prose. He's a romantic, too, and a cynic...

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Rudy Kousbroek and the Art of Memory

Kousbroek is the author of an oeuvre of mesmerising richness and diversity, ranging from poetry and language, photography, the archaeology of motorcars, travel, literature, children, cats and other animals, through memory, emotions and the ...

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Unmodern Architecture in the Netherlands

Almost unnoticed among the controversial projects and ideas from firms such as Rem Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture, MVRDV and UN Studio, a completely new style of architecture has evolved in the Netherlands in recent years: ...

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Tales of the Invisible City

As the capital of the then Belgian Congo, Kinshasa occupies an important place in the history of Belgian architecture and urban planning. The development of the capital was an outstanding project of Belgian Modernity; but nowadays that mode...

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How European is Dutch Culture?

On 28 October 2004 a series of books entitled ‘Dutch Culture in a European Perspective'was launched at DeBuren, the Flemish-Netherlands House in Brussels. The books in this series are not only highly informative, they also make for thorough...

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Death of a Polemicist. On Theo van Gogh (1957-2004)

On 2 November 2004 in Amsterdam-Oost, three Theo van Goghs were murdered: a talented, productive and independent-minded filmmaker, a gifted television interviewer and the provocateur who in his columns fiercely lashed out at everything he o...

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Infection Welcome! Het muziek Lod

Het muziek Lod in Ghent presents itself as a platform for all-round musicians who take a very broad view of their own domain and are open to music theatre and other art forms. During a fifteen-year voyage of discovery, Het muziek Lod has es...

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Leine and Roebana: Explorers of Music and Dance

In 1993 ‘Suites (Dances for the Queen)' marked the international breakthrough of the Dutch choreographer couple Andrea Leine and Harijono Roebana. In their search for an ideal language for dance, music is both their basis and their guide. A...

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‘Nuts', Hunger and Cold. The Last Winter of War

Cold and hunger played a major role at the end of the the Second World War. The Battle of the Bulge still fires the imagination. Heroic combat encounters, in exceptionally bad climatic conditions, have given rise to many stories and myths, ...

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Speaking Dutch – Past, Present and Future

All around the world today, English, as the language of globalisation, is rapidly spreading everywhere. In a number of EU member states this development has triggered debate about the future of their own national language. The language issu...

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An Intractable Cathedral of Language. The Poetry of Kees Ouwens

The world of his youth underlies the whole of Kees Ouwens' writing. This is certainly true of his poetry, but applies equally to a number of his novels. The recently deceased Ouwens has the reputation of being mainly a poets' poet. His work...

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Comfort without Hope. The Topicality and Relevance of Spinoza

There can be little doubt about the relevance of Spinoza's thinking. It is reflected in the fact that societies like the Dutch-International Spinoza House are flourishing, and by the continuing world-wide interest in Spinoza's philosophy in...

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Marcel Minnaert and the Lacework of Nature

Marcel Minnaert (1893-1970) was a Flemish activist, an astrophysicist, a professor, an educational reformer, a social and scientific pioneer, and an advocate of Esperanto. Leo Molenaar wrote the account of a packed, rich and multifaceted li...

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Digital Clusius

In the botanical world of the sixteenth century Carolus Clusius played a key role. Some fifteen hundred letters testify to the scale of his international contacts. This slightly anarchic network is now being opened up with the aid of digita...

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‘Europe, your Time has Come'

The Dutch government had asked the Nexus Institute to organise a series of international conferences during the Dutch presidency of the EU in the second half of 2004, focusing on the values that Europe embraces, the values that it should em...

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The Importance of Being Dutch

The cultural review ‘De Gids' commissioned eminent Dutch intellectuals and writers to contribute to a one-off English-language issue entitled Misunderstanding the Netherlands, and subtitled ‘Misunderstandings about the Netherlands'. The aut...

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FotoMuseum: Photography Rehabilitated in Antwerp

The Antwerp musem of photography has recently taken on a new lease of life after many decades of dormancy. The FotoMuseum, as it is now called, is owned by the province of Antwerp and has a very extensive international collection of photogr...

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Riddles regarding Carel Fabritius

The 17th-century Dutch painter Fabritius was highly regarded in his own time. That comes as no surprise when you see what he was capable of in his self-portraits, ‘The Goldfinch', or ‘The Raising of Lazarus'. However, many of Fabritius' wor...

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Monuments to Modernism

Is Jan de Cock, of whose installations little of a tangible nature remains, an innovative artist? Or, as some would say derisively, a furniture-maker with pretensions? In September 2005 Jan de Cock has an exhibition at Tate Modern in London...

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Short Takes

A regular feature comprising short reviews of a selection of socio-cultural events and works recently published in the Low Countries.

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Explore your Prison

A foreword: Why does someone take the trouble to get up and go somewhere, to travel?

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Arrival & Departure. Travelling to and from the Low Countries

Over the last 50 years tourist activity has increased considerably all over the world. More people are travelling, more people are travelling more frequently, more people are earning their living from tourism, whole regions have been able t...

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Out and about with Bruegel

Pieter Bruegel the Elder may be seen as one of the few artists who for centuries have played a role in determining the perception and image of Flanders. Whether historically accurate or not, many people – and certainly not only foreigners –...

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Even at Home I am not a Tourist

The author doesn't need a reason for not travelling. Just as the reader doesn't need one when he decides he will go and pack his suitcases. This article is not a diatribe against tourism – and most certainly not against travelling. Ad Vinge...

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The Dutch Raise their Voices

If the International Quality Press is to be believed, the entire Netherlands has recently undergone a complete metamorphosis. Until recently it was supposedly inhabited by a collection of decent, tolerant, liberal, open-minded burghers who ...

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Perfectly Happy in Vinex-Land

The Supplement to the Fourth Policy Document on Spatial Planning (in Dutch: ‘Vierde Ruimtelijke Nota Extra, hence VINEX) set out a plan for 635,000 new houses to be built between 1995 and 2005 at inner city locations and on the outskirts of...

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Blood or Soil. A Stroll through Belgian Absurdistan

Belgium, a favourite haunt for lovers of the absurd, is hidden away on the edge of a political twilight zone. Belgium is a state that should not really exist. It is an experiment in wish-fulfilment; an artificial synthesis. Belgium is a no-...

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Borremans' Circus

Michaël Borremans has a deft touch with the handling of paint. At a time when painting itself is at issue, Borremans makes mysterious and compelling paintings that combine both skill and intelligence. He has succeeded in creating, within a ...

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Hit the Road. Bands in Search of an Audience Abroad

The idea that a rock group from the Low Countries might attract large crowds elsewhere has become less and less bizarre in recent years. The world's become smaller because of the spread of music via the internet, which means that fame is no...

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Joost Swarte, Knight of the Clear Line

In April 2004 Joost Swarte was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Admittedly, he had to share the honour with, among others, the enormously popular singers Marco Borsato and Frans Bauer, but even so.... It is still an honour that...

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Mystery on the March. On Dirk Braeckman's Photos

There's a vagrant living in Dirk Braeckman's photos. No-one has ever seen him, but he does live there. He is the one operating the camera. He often hangs around in buildings where the gas and electricity have been cut off. Where it is pitch...

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Loud Chords and Calm Moments. Louis Andriessen, Composer

Louis Andriessen's oeuvre now stands at around one hundred published works. Their unique and headstrong idiom, their instrumentation and their role in the history of music make some of the compositions that have been discussed key works of ...

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Leeuwarden: Triumph and Tragedy

When it came to higher education, Leeuwarden was the place to be. At the end of the sixties, after having spent a few years in Amsterdam, the author returned to Friesland badly infected with the artistic bug. He thought he might do somethin...

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Yes, But. Rembrandt as an Unstable Medium

Rembrandt studies are a nerve-racking field. It is nearly impossible to write a proper paragraph about the artist or his work without stepping on the toes – or kicking the shins, depending on your mood – of a colleague. Part of this is due ...

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The Unexpected Popularity of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

When the election for the greatest Dutch person of all time was held in 2004, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek came fourth after Pim Fortuyn, William of Orange and Willem Drees, but before Erasmus, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh. Van Leeuwenhoek's tr...

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Forever Curious. The Mondriaan Foundation

Is there an art-lover anywhere who has never heard of Rembrandt or Mondrian? Probably not. Many people think of the Netherlands primarily as a land of visual artists, far more than of writers. But are today's Dutch artists also known abroad...

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