Emilie and the Freudian Slipper

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It is a well-known image used to illustrate the conservative atmosphere and traditional gender roles of the 1950’s: the husband of the house arrives home after a day at work, seats himself in his comfortable chair, and waits for his obedient wife to bring him his slippers. A matter of … Continue reading

Willard Libby, Hessel de Vries, and the Poles of Saint Walburga

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The revelations of an ex-libris I think all buyers of used books know about this: finding an ex-libris or other relics in them, left there by the previous owner. I have found old receipts, notes apologizing for the late return of the book, photographs, and even devotional pictures in old … Continue reading

A Bit of Peace, a Bit of Love – Ralph Siegel: Eurovision Maniac

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As the 2016 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest is approaching, I sometimes feel like a last Mohican: still naïvely impressed by the brotherhood of European cultures presenting themselves, smiling and waving flags. But in this era of closing borders and nationalist populism, I am not the only one still … Continue reading

About the Dutch National Book Week and the Horrors of an Oral Examination

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Yesterday marked the start of the traditional Dutch Book Week, an event to promote buying books. To start things off, all writers of a certain name and fame met for drinks and dances at “The Book Ball”, leaving the ones that were not invited grudging about why they had to … Continue reading

Felix Von Luckner: The Life and Times of a Sea-Devil

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One of my visits to a second hand book store rewarded me with a 1923 volume of a book with the imaginative title The Sea-Devil Conquers America. A book written by the German sea-captain Count Felix Von Luckner. A quick peruse of the Wikipedia-entry about Count Von Luckner, aka “The … Continue reading

Georg Herwegh: The Poet Who Loved to Hate

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A while ago I talked about the countess and poet Annette Droste Hülshoff, who became an unlikely feminist role-model more than a century after her passing away. I bumped into her again when doing my research for this article about the German poet Georg Herwegh. Droste Hülshoff’s dry comment on … Continue reading

The Rhine: An 1840’s Poetry Slam

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In 1841, the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine felt induced to send a poem to his German colleague Nikolaus Becker. The poem, consisting of twenty-four strophes, was called the “Marseillaise of Peace”. Its phrasing was idealistic to say the least: Nations, pompous words, barbarity I say. Does love stop at … Continue reading

Best Beers and Infected German Women

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Recently a little gem appeared on the German list of non-fiction bestsellers. The book was small and decently priced. But still it was a bit striking to me that it had gained the status of a bestseller. Why? Well, the book is a German translation of the Instruction for British … Continue reading