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Reve, Gerard (b. 1923)  

The influential novelist Gerard Reve was a pioneer in European gay writing and in the liberalization of attitudes toward homosexuality in The Netherlands.

Gerard Kornelis van het Reve was born on December 14, 1923, in Amsterdam and attended school there at the Vossius-gymnasium. During the war years, Reve studied graphic design, and from 1945 to 1947, was a reporter for the national daily newspaper Het Parool.

His first novel, De avonden (The Evenings, 1947) met with critical acclaim and was awarded the Reina Prinsen Geerligs Prize, granted annually to the best young writer in The Netherlands. Considered now to be a classic of modern Dutch literature, the novel initially met with much controversy, fueled in part by its frank depiction of the aimless life of its main character.

Reve was embroiled in more controversy when references to masturbation in an early novella were considered pornographic by the Minister of State who ruled against providing Reve with a travel stipend. Reve publicly announced his intention to emigrate to England in protest, and he spent a number of years there working as a hospital attendant, reading the Bible, studying drama, and writing plays.

When his first publication in English, The Acrobat and Other Stories (1956), was a financial failure, Reve returned to The Netherlands to work as an editor and writer for the literary periodical Tirade.

Reve received wide acclaim when he single-handedly broke a post-war taboo against openly treating homosexuality in Dutch literature with two publications, each a cross between letter writing and fiction: Op Weg naar het Einde (Approaching the End, 1963) and Nader tot U (Nearer to Thee, 1966).

The controversies surrounding his increasingly explicit treatment of homosexuality culminated in 1967, when, after his much-publicized conversion to Roman Catholicism, he was officially charged with blasphemy for writing an article in the journal Dialoog that characterized Christ as a donkey with whom he wanted to have sexual intercourse. The closely followed case, which was eventually dismissed, ensured for Reve lasting celebrity status in The Netherlands.

In 1968, Reve was awarded the prestigious P.C. Hooft Prize for Literature. Since 1969, he has lived in France.

Although his lasting literary fame rests on the classic post-war novel De avonden, Reve's enduring influence as a writer rests largely on the innovations he brought to Dutch literature in both style and subject matter.

A largely plotless account of the last ten nights of 1946 from the perspective of an aimless young office worker, De avonden is typical of Reve's early work in that it captures the gloomy mood of the post-war years from the perspective of a solitary, often sardonic and funny, male antihero.

Reve's early protagonists, though not explicitly gay, are often described as isolated and in danger; they feel vulnerable without knowing why and remain anxiously observant, experiencing a generalized fear of being found out.

Although much of Reve's early work focuses on very broad themes of life and death, fear and despair, his mature writing is preoccupied with the search for homosexual love and for God. In a wide variety of genres, Reve has made significant inquiries into the nature of pleasure and pain and the relationship between fact and fantasy. In an important group of books, most notably in Lieve Jongens (Dear Boys, 1973), Reve frames stories within stories in order to explore the enjoyment derived from fantasy.

Reve has long been acknowledged for his profound influence on the post-War Dutch novel, but his role in pioneering European gay writing and his contribution to the liberalization of attitudes toward homosexuality in The Netherlands has only recently begun to be fully appreciated.

Robert Wood


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Meijer, Mia. Gerard Reve. Brugge: Orion, 1973.

Snapper, J. P. De Spiegel der verlossing in het wek van Gerard Reve (The Mirror of Redemption in the Work Gerard Reve). Utrecht: Veen, 1990.


    Citation Information
    Author: Wood, Robert  
    Entry Title: Reve, Gerard  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated January 2, 2003  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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