Outside the Lines

New Dutch and Flemish Writing


There is a group of writers who began writing in the late seventies and early eighties who have each published several books of poetry or fiction and have established reputations at home, and yet whose work has not been or is only beginning to be translated. However, this group of writers presents the translator and critic with something of a problem: for all intents and purposes they resist being defined as a group….

Yet though their tactics often differ, these writers share many of the same concerns. They are all deeply concerned with the role of the author in the literary work, … they are all concerned with the role literature can play in people’s lives at this late stage in the twentieth century when we are bombarded by media images and material goods, and… most of these authors are keenly aware of their place in the world at the center of a troubled but vital Europe in two countries that are well off economically but whose language places them at the periphery of world culture.

It is a cliche that a novel from your own country begins a new life in translation, but it rouses the curiousity how that new life will appear. That there’s a difference has to do with the fact that our own complex literary landscape for a foreigner–an outsider–doesn’t exist; he or she only meets up with fragments of it. How excitingly well informed, then, does the American literary critic and translator Kendall Dunkelberg seem. The Literary Review (40.3, Spring 1997) contains a careful selection of Dutch-language prose and poetry from the last fifteen years, chosen (and to a great extent translated) by him. Included are: Benno Barnard, Arjen Duinker, K. Michel, Wanda Reisel, Maria Stahlie, Dirk van Weelden, Dirk van Bastelaere, Luuk Gruwez, Stefan Hertmans, Kristien Hemmerechts, Tom Lanoye, Kamiel Vanhole, and many others. You couldn’t wish for a better advocate for the Dutch-speakers….

         Review by A.N. in Vrij Nederland, June 27, 1997

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