Posts Tagged ‘Dutch culture’

What do you know about Ostend?
 – Did you know that James Ensor, the painter, grew up there?
 – Or that Marvin Gaye, soul legend, once lived there?

 – We have just passed Bloomsday, but did you know that James Joyce and family spent a very happy vacation there, in 1926?
It made its way into Finnegan’s Wake, he was writing at the time.

Then, there is Aldous Huxley spending many formative periods in Brabant.

Albert Einstein in De Haan , on the West Flanders coast.

These are just the bare bones. The cultural richness is there to be awakened for you, explored.

Access to the Dutch cultural impact is here made available to the English-speaking world.
And it is very rich and rewarding.

The High Road to Culture in Flanders and The Netherlandsis your passport:

The site is the online presence of the Flemish-Dutch cultural institution Ons Erfdeel vzw.
They state:
It is our mission to provide an English-language audience with the necessary background information to be able to appreciate the arts, history, language, literature and societal developments in the Low Countries. We pay special attention to connections between Dutch and English-speaking communities.

The site has a highly polished, interactive, and reactive, screen presence. 
Stylistic, smart, and always up-to-date on a surprising range of events, publications, activities.

The site’s banner head gives us access to a wide swathe of Dutch and Flemish culture : Arts History Language Literature Society Podcast and also Publication.

The present updated site gives us articles on Why Brussels Needs to Rethink Its Governance, a lively in-depth look at how Brussels negotiates its multi-lingual needs of governance.

We also see in Art In The Chapel, how an abandoned 16thchapel in Ghent has been revivified by artist Berlinde de Bruyckere.

New Book On Netherlandish Drawings 1500 – 1800which takes from Breughel, through Peter Paul Rubens (what skill at age 20!) onwards.

What do you know about Polydore de Keyser? He was a Flemish hotelier who moved to London, eventually becoming Lord Mayor.

There is an on-going Series side-banner, where history articles are made available from the Republic of Amsterdam Radio group.
These in themselves are invaluable. But they are just one part of what is available on this site.
There is, of course, the Young Voices on Slavery series, where young people respond to actual artefacts and records of slavery.
The latest venture in this field is Young Writers On Invisible Labour, where responses are to the neglected workers behind great works.

Or video poetry:

And there is the regular Friday Verses slot, that I keep recommending. Some excellent work here, available in English translation for the first time.

Here are 41 Dutch Books You Need To Read This Summer, available in translation, summer 2022: Fiction, Poetry, Comics and Graphic Novels, Children’s and Youth Literature, and Nonfiction. 

Or, you may prefer Stefan Zweig on The Land Between The Languages, an jewel of a book, illustrated, of his reportages of times in The Netherlands, reflections on The Great War, and the arts of the period.

Try this one: When Did New York Stop Speaking Dutch?

You can sign-up to their email newsletter. Better still is to open a subscription, and choose an option. 
Subscription opens up the archive of articles, podcasts and themed series.

Highly recommended.

Let me once again refer you to The Low Countries online site:

The site hosts pages on Arts, History, Language, Literature, Society, as well as podcasts.

All these are in English.

They regularly check with readers on how best to improve the site. And so, acknowledge that many have difficulty reading tracts, extended essays etc online. They time-note each piece they publish.
This reading online issue, along with energy use, I am also very aware of, and so am very grateful for this move.

For instance, under the Arts section there is currently The Impact of COVID-19 on Dutch Artists Worldwide. This is noted as a 5 minute reading time piece.

The visuals are all very high quality, articles, reviews, news all up-to-date, high quality, and very pertinent to all readers.
There is material here in translation that is not available elsewhere.

One of the Series articles the site runs is Young Voices On Slavery, which I heartily recommend:

If you read no other on this site, you must read this one.

Here, we read,  Eighteen young Flemish and Dutch authors from deBuren’s Paris writing residency give a voice to an artefact from the Slavery exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Because this is a joint online enterprise with The Low Countries, the works are copyrighted, and cannot be published elsewhere.

This is an excellent enterprise, and not one I have come across elsewhere.
The exhibition opens plantation cash books, contracts of slavers and other artefacts, for young writers’ responses.
There is really good work here.
As well as bringing the reality of the practices into contemporary concerns, linking the Black Lives Matter campaign, and recognising all nations contributions to the promotion and development of slavery.
The residency maintains the relevance of history into present day awareness.

Of the many works here, one that particularly appealed to myself, was the work by Elsbet De Pauw: a line, a house, a skin.
I had originally intended to reproduce this work, along with links, but copyright issues prevented it.

It is the intelligence of this response that struck something in me.
And this is the only work by this writer available in English translation.

I do really hope to read more of this writer. She has nothing, as yet, available on the Poetry International site, either.

Other Series pages are : On the Shoulders of Old Masters; Old Works Young Writers; Our Colonial Legacy; Migration, the Other way Round

This site is full of glorious wonders. I urge you to explore.


I’d been email-chatting with an historian, one of a new group, with their own angle, agenda, their own name. I signed off saying I was just going to re-read some Huizinga.
And that was it. I did not hear from him again.
I had gone beyond the Pale.

That is the problem with Academies, they become so culty, hemmed-in with codes and etiquettes. I had obviously mentioned an historian who was not ‘in’ with their group.
I was going to re-read him because I found so much of value there. But it wasn’t what they valued. He did it differently. Heaven forbid.

Johan Huizinga is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his magisterial The Waning of the Middle Ages. The more correct title, apparently, is The Autumn of the Middle Ages, published 1924. It is this book made the man’s name. He was a leading Dutch historian.

His dates are 1872 to 1945.
That last date in particular I want you to note: died February, 1945. He had been interned in 1942 after criticism of the invasion forces. Eventually, after much clamour and agitation by the international history community, he was released. He was released in that terrible winter of 1944/5.
It is now estimated that 10,000 Dutch people died that winter, after the Nazi’s cut off food and energy supply lines, in retaliation. As the Allied forces moved through France, the Belgian and Dutch citizens could see liberation so near, so inevitable. They cheered them on. When the advance was stalled in the Ardennes, the Nazi’s took their revenge.

He began his academic career as a student of Indo-Germanic languages; he then studied comparative linguistics. He taught Oriental Studies for many years. It was not until his 30s he turned to medieval studies. Here he excelled.

His book on the later middle ages gives us the clamour and spectacle of the period, the life-lived-in-public aspect.
He also fills in with some of the gaps in current information on, for instance, such figures as Georges Chastellain, and others grouped as the grands rhetoriqueurs:
This gives us, in turn, the real nature of the much acclaimed period. In this book he sets the increasing brutality and violence of the time against its constructed images of courtois and chivalry.
The book investigates the Burgundian Court in its positioning as potential alternate power-base to the royal court.
Professor Ralph Strom-Olsen of Madrid University, put up a very interesting paper on this: Georges Chastellain and the Language of Burgundian Historiography, that is available on from

He has other books, influential in modern fields. Take Gaming – for this the ‘go to’ book is his Homo Ludens, published 1938.
Homo Ludens puts forward, and illustrates, the theory that our main and enduring activities as civilized people, is a form of play, serious play, that is play with rules. He traces word games as the origins of rhetoric, to Cicero’s monumental legal disputes; he sees here also the dress-up aspect in legal and royal court costume.
Playing and Knowing is an intriguing chapter, challenging us to consider acquisition of knowledge, experimentation, indeed logic, as forms of play-activity. How can we know anything until we put aside certainty, the known, and step out into maybe-land? But this play is deadly serious: riddle-solving, the penalty of death, are part and parcel of the game.
The point is, he stimulates thought, he makes us look at our institutions differently.
The range of this subject can be seen to refer us back to to the subject of Professor Huizinga’s first PhD: The Role of the Jester in Indian Drama.

You can go to the crazy end and cite the late 1960’s Playpower ideals here. Oz Magazine founder, Richard Neville’s book, Playpower, was the bible for attempts at neutralizing governments and their powers through play, through the skewing of seriousness and power politics, by returning to origins, and seeing what all its accumulated kudos really was.

Another book of his well worth searching out is Men and Ideas, first published in translation in 1959.
This collection of essays is concerned with ‘the task of cultural history.’
The books have dated, that is, their range of subject matter and methods of treatment, have been left behind by modern tastes.
But the general reader will not find a more stimulating essay on Peter Abelard, than this. His essay on John of Salisbury is also outstanding.
Who was he? He was a 12th Century English cleric, who became apologist for Thomas a Beckett. From modest beginnings he worked his way up, studying under Peter Abelard, was secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Theobald; he even met who was to become known as St Bernard of Clairvaux.
John’s main legacy to us, however, is his Policraticus; the study is a slice of his time.
Chaucer valued it highly for its political relevance, its clear thinking, its civil conscience.
His essay on Erasmus, which was the heart of the collection… is it the translation? No; I think Johan Huizinga became exasperated with his subject. The reader comes away with the impression he blamed him for wasting his opportunities, for not being as good as he should have been.

I would dearly love to give as much information on his wife, Mary Schorer.

Her story must be as fascinating, and as eventful.

Their son, Leonard Huizinga, became a prolific and popular Dutch novelist, with his comedic Adriaan and Olivier series.
There is also another son, of whom I can find nothing.

See also: