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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Dutch and Flemish Literature  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  

De Haan's novels were forgotten for almost seventy years. It was not until the mid-1970s that new editions of his prose became available. For a long time, De Haan was famous only for what his admirers called his "Jewish" poetry, although the homosexual content of his poems is as important as the Jewish.

After becoming an orthodox Jew, De Haan in 1919 emigrated from Holland to Palestine. There he dissociated himself from the Zionist movement and in 1924 was murdered by extreme Zionists who spread the rumor that his death was a homosexual killing by Arabs.

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Twentieth-Century Discrimination against Homosexuality

Until the 1960s, homosexuality in literature was, almost by definition, associated with psychological and moral deficiencies, sin, crime, and feelings of guilt.

With the introduction of clause 248bis in the Dutch criminal code in 1911, a discriminatory provision in Dutch law was enacted: The age of consent for same-sex behavior was set at twenty-one, whereas the age of consent for heterosexual behavior was set at sixteen. (Except for the period of Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, 1940-1945, no law prohibiting homosexuality itself was ever enacted in the modern era.)

Only one year later, in 1912, the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (NWHK), the first Dutch homosexual emancipation organization, was founded. Among its other activities, the committee distributed several tendentious novels that propagated the concept of the "third sex," an idea that presented homosexuality as a congenital, natural condition.

Lesbian Sexuality in Dutch Literature

Until the 1930s, lesbian sexuality in Dutch literature was almost totally restricted to minor characters in novels written by male authors. Therefore, it is not surprising that the translation of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness in 1928 was a very important event for many lesbian readers (the novel was reprinted twice the next year). The Well meant a recognition of their existence and offered possibilities for identification.

Josine Reuling

Nevertheless, not everybody was convinced by the concept of the "manly woman" in Hall's novel. Indeed, Terug naar het eiland (Back to the Island [1937]), a novel by Josine Reuling (1899-1961), can be read as a commentary on Hall's bestseller.

Reuling's hero, a Swedish girl called Brita, has much in common with Hall's Stephen Gordon, but unlike Stephen, Brita does not suffer from an identity and gender crisis. She rejects all theories about homosexuality, including third-sex and Freudian concepts. In one respect, Reuling's novel is very traditional: Brita's life is cut short prematurely when she is killed in a car crash.

Anna Blaman (Johanna Petronella Vrugt)

Anna Blaman, pen name for Johanna Petronella Vrugt (1905-1960), not only was the most important lesbian writer in the 1950s, but also Holland's major woman author of the era. As an intellectual, a public figure, and an independent woman who did not conceal her homosexuality, she was of great importance to Dutch lesbian emancipation.

In her work, however, she expressed a pessimistic view of life, which partially was influenced by French Existentialism. Blaman's protagonists, including the lesbian Berthe in her best-known novel Eenzaam Avontuur (Lonely Adventure [1948]), experience the futility of human existence, an inadequacy in making contact and in knowing and understanding their partners. This existential loneliness is, in Blaman's view, typical of both heterosexual and homosexual individuals.

The recent publication of her correspondence with other women, including Marie-Louise Doudart de la Grée, author of tendentious lesbian novels, modifies Blaman's image as an unhappy, lonely, pessimistic intellectual.

Dola de Jong

Human solitariness is also a leading motif in the works of Dola de Jong (b. 1911). She was born in a conservative, Jewish family. A few days before the Germans occupied Holland, she broke off her career as a dancer and journalist and fled to Morocco and later to the United States. In 1946, she was granted American citizenship. She still lives in New York, where she has worked as novelist, literary agent, editor, and teacher of creative writing.

In the United States, some of her books for young adults, as well as her novel about antisemitism, The Field (trans. of En de akker is de wereld [1946]), were successes.

In 1954, De Jong published De thuiswacht (trans. as The Tree and the Vine in 1961). This novel about the friendship between Bea and the Stephen Gordon-like Erica, recounts a search for (sexual) identity. The confrontation with Erica's lesbian lifestyle awakens the narrator Bea. She becomes conscious of the instability of sexual identity, in her case a heterosexual one.

As in almost all gay and lesbian literature published between 1910 and 1960, homosexuality is presented from the point of view of "the other," who usually only hints at the real nature of relationships.

Although in the 1950s, the image of lesbians became less stereotypical, the mannish lesbian continued to dominate Dutch literature. But in Blaman's later work, like the posthumously published novel De Verliezers (The Losers [1960]), the lesbian no longer "feels like a man."

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