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Dutch and Flemish Literature  
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Carla Walschap and Andreas Burnier

Carla Walschap and Andreas Burnier are responsible for a further radicalization of the lesbian image in Dutch literature. Walschap, one of the few Flemish writers to deal with lesbianism, presents in De Eskimo en de roos (The Eskimo and the Rose [1964]) a love-affair between two women who are both thoroughly feminine. In Burnier's case, however, the representation of female homosexuality is more complex.

Andreas Burnier is the pen name that criminologist Catharina Dessaur (b. 1931) uses for her literary works. Analyzing the social position of lesbian women, she links lesbianism with feminism.

In her first novels Een tevreden lach (A Satisfied Smile [1965]) and Het jongensuur (The Boy's Hour [1969]), lesbians experience the female body as a limitation, an obstacle to social progress and success. In both novels, we already find traces of Burnier's ideal of the androgynous existence, which transcends dichotomies like male-female, heterosexual-homosexual, rational-emotional, and physical-spiritual.

Het jongensuur reveals a second determining factor in Burnier's works, namely, her experiences as a Jewish girl who went into hiding during World War II, stayed with many different families, and finally is uncertain of her Jewish identity.

Since the 1960s

Since the 1960s, homosexuality has been a subject in the works of major heterosexual Dutch and Flemish writers like Simon Vestdijk (1898-1971), Hugo Claus (b. 1929), and Harry Mulisch (b. 1927).

At the same time, the most famous recent Dutch gay and lesbian writers have been accepted into mainstream literary circles. Indeed, several of them have received the P.C. Hooft-prize, the Dutch state prize for literature (Anna Blaman in 1957, Gerard Reve in 1968, Gerrit Komrij in 1993).

In other words, homosexuality has become in many respects a literary subject like all other subjects. This development, supported by a liberal moral climate, has led to a great diversity in the literary expression of gay and lesbian lifestyles.

In Flanders, this development has been slower in coming. In fact, in 1965, Belgian law, still based on the French Code Pénal, for the first time discriminated between the ages of consent for heterosexual and homosexual contacts. In the same period in Holland, the first attempts were made to reverse this legal discrimination, which finally succeeded in 1971.

Gerard Reve

Gerard Reve, born in 1923 as Gerard Kornelis van het Reve, is Holland's best known, most popular, and most controversial gay writer. Coming from a communist and atheistic family, Reve later converted to the Roman Catholic church and expressed ideas that were perceived as conservative and controversial.

His debut novel De Avonden (The Evenings [1947]) portrayed a disillusioned post-war generation. It contains some of Reve's dominant topics--(homo)sexuality, death and religion--and the main characteristics of his literary style, which often is ironic and archaic and mixes the lofty with the trivial. De Avonden is now considered one of the milestones of twentieth-century Dutch literature.

In Reve's epistolary autobiographical books Op weg naar het einde (On the Way to the End [1963]) and Nader tot U (Nearer to Thee [1966]), homosexuality is an explicit theme, combined with Catholicism and sadomasochism.

In the period of Reve's coming out--the mid-1960s--something like a "sexual revolution" took place in Holland. Reve, who also worked on the editorial staff of Dialoog (Dialogue), a liberationist gay and lesbian magazine (1965-1967), became the first Dutch gay celebrity.

As he demonstrated in his work, it was no longer necessary to legitimate and explain homosexuality. Instead, Reve revealed himself as a great narrator of homosexual fantasies, which some critics thought to be rather pornographic. Reve's most recent novel, Bezorgde Ouders (Parent's Worry [1988]), incorporates all the major themes of his works, including "Revism," which refers to the act of seducing a beautiful boy with the intention to offer and sacrifice him in a sadistic way to one's own lover.

Reve's novels and collections of letters command a large and diverse audience. Several of his novels have been adapted for the screen. Paul Verhoeven's The Fourth Man (1983), based on Reve's short novel De Vierde Man (1981), was internationally successful and became a gay cult movie in the United States.

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