Dutch Literature Project

Continuing my exercises in failed literary projects, here’s one on Dutch literature. I was intending to do this anyway, thinking I had a few books lying about and it was a country I hadn’t read much in over the last few years (or perhaps ever): – you can see, I’d even started reading a book by Harry Mulisch already; – before I discovered a challenge-type project here, with a useful resumé of possible books; – and then there’s another list here of famous Dutch writers.

Anyhow, here’s my choices:

  • Last Call, by Harry Mulisch (I’ve got a few other Mulisch books, but one should be enough for now)
  • The Hidden Force, by Louis Couperus (as per Mulisch)
  • A Posthumous Confession, by Marcellus Emants (not mentioned much on the websites I’ve looked at, but looks interesting)
  • The Garden Where the Brass Band Played, by Simon Vestdijk (I remember reading once that he was the Dutch James Joyce)
  • Parents Worry, by Gerald Reve (not apparently his best book, but his only one in English?)
  • The Darkroom of Damocles, by W F Hermans (which I’m really looking forward to: – Nabokov, as I may have mentioned before at some point, was a great fan of Hermans, and tried (in vain, naturally) to interest some American publishers in translating him: – I hadn’t realised anyone had actually done so)
  • oh, and maybe I’ll give Erasmus’ Praise of Folly another go

I’m not reading them all next month, however – I’ll stretch it out a bit as always.

Oh yes, and I’m also reading a non-fiction book called The Waning of the Middle Ages, by Johan Huizinga, who is also Dutch.


4 thoughts on “Dutch Literature Project

  1. By chance I just bought Mulisch’s The Assault on Friday, it should be somewhere in the postal system about now. Looking forward to it.

    I got quite excited when I read about the Emants book on NYRB’s site, but apparently it doesn’t live up to expectations – depends what those expectations are, I suppose, but the blurb placing it in a continuum with Dostoyevsky and Simenon seems a little wide of the mark.

  2. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of Mulisch so far, which is Siegfried and half of Last Call. I have a copy of The Assault somewhere.

    I did begin the Emants before and was really enjoying it, but as so often I stopped for no apparent reason. There’s an introduction by J M Coetzee, in which he’s not entirely enthusiastic about it: – which is usually a good sign for some reason, I find.

  3. Yes, it was indeed translated by Coetzee. – My recollection of his disparaging him in the introduction was perhaps a bit awry too: – he says he was not as good as Dostoevsky. Re the big D: it seems there’s a lot of similarity between A Posthumous Confession and Notes from Underground, which is good because I was thinking of re-reading NfU and now will before I read this, and see what parallels there are. Coetzee, for his part, thinks he’s more like Flaubert and Turgenev.

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