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

Henchman on the Sofa ‒ Vyacheslav Menzhinsky: Poet and Hangman

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Bolsheviks and poetry are not the most likely combination. Lenin even quit playing the piano because he felt it distracted him too much from the revolutionary cause. When exiled in Siberia in 1897, it seems a poetic mood befell him nevertheless. He started with “In the village of Shushensk, beneath … 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

Borys Humeniuk: ‘The Tank of Ukrainian Literature’ in the Netherlands

Borys Humeniuk: 'The Tank of Ukrainian Literature' in the Netherlands

The Ukrainian poet Borys Humeniuk is angry. Angry at the Dutch media. Not because his poetry was badly received, but because he was portrayed as a member of a militia and an art-robber. “I am predominantly a writer and not a fighter,” Humeniuk stated in an interview with the Dutch … 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

Why I Put it Down: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

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  So… As you might have noticed, this site has been suspiciously quiet for the past couple of months. The reason: writer’s block. And for those of you who think that’s some lame excuse for being lazy: believe me, not the case. As I found out first hand lately, writer’s … 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