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September 9, 2014

British novel ‘The Miniaturist’ set in old Amsterdam

Filed under: History,Literature by Orangemaster @ 12:27 pm

Amsterdam in the Golden Age: the 17th century was a time when the city rapidly became an economic and cultural force to be reckoned with, and now apparently also the setting of British author Jessie Burton’s first novel entitled ‘The Miniaturist’. I haven’t read it and if anyone has, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Set in 1686 Petronella ‘Nella’ Oortman, a Dutchwoman from the countryside marries rich Amsterdam merchant Johannes Brandt. Nella lives with her stern sister-in-law Marin and an intriguing dark-skinned manservant Otto. Nella almost never sees her busy husband who is either away or locked in his office at home and passes the time with a doll house gift from her husband that looks just like the house they live in. The doll house is slowly being filled with miniatures sent to Nella by an anonymous person who seems to know a lot about the people living in her house.

The doll house in question is on display at the Rijksmuseum, a small, nine-room house of porcelain, oak, marble and glass, which was the inspiration for Burton’s novel.

There’s more to tell, but then I think we’ll just have to read the novel to find out. I’m wondering how plausible the setting of 17th century Amsterdam is, I wonder about the female name ‘Marin’ and I know that if a Dutch person were to write a novel set in, oh, 18th century London, that it would also be culturally scrutinised by the media with good reason.

(Links: blog.chron.com, www.theguardian.com, Photo of the VOC HQ (East India Company) by Josh, distributed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

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May 30, 2014

Gas extraction reports should be available in Dutch

Filed under: Literature,Science by Orangemaster @ 8:15 am

A group of residents from Groningen are demanding that Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs translate all English-language reports about gas extraction, something that concerns many home owners, into Dutch. Besides the reports being in English — and who knows what the quality of those reports are — the scientific language in them is probably difficult to understand. Should the minister ignore their request, the group plans to take their complaint to court.

First of all, I wouldn’t trust the original report linguistically or otherwise, knowing that the goal is to make it look like it’s safe to extract gas when houses have been known to show cracks in their foundations up in Groningen. Second, the average Dutch person probably can’t truly and fully understand these reports in English and it is safe to assume they would not understand the Dutch version either, at least not 100%. Third, if the original were to be quickly translated into Dutch, the quality of the text will only deteriorate.

Out of principle the Dutch should have the right to read public documents in their own language, and the argument of ‘pfff, everybody understands English’ is not true at all, especially if they are older. It’s that kind of overconfident attitude, which often remains unchallenged, that keeps me and other natives in business in the first place.

(Link: www.rtvnoord.nl)

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May 22, 2014

The Dutch connection in Game of Thrones

Filed under: Literature,Online by Orangemaster @ 11:29 am

In a cast dominated by actors from the United Kingdom, the main cast of Game of Thrones does feature well-spoken actors from other parts of the world:

Denmark: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister), Germany: Sibel Kekilli (Shae), Spain: Oona Chaplin (Talisa Stark). Yes, she’s related to Charlie Chaplin, United States: Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo), and Norway: Kristofer Hivju (Tormund Giantsbane).

Interestingly, only one non-UK country now has two actors in the main cast, and that’s the Netherlands. The Dutch supplied Carice van Houten (Melisandre) and Michiel Huisman (Daario Naharis), the latter having taken over from British actor Ed Skrein who got another gig all of a sudden.

Portrayed by Carice Van Houten, priestess Melisandre wins first prize for the most explicit female nudity as a main character. As far as the entire female cast is concerned, the whores in Littlefinger’s whorehouse get my vote for the rest. Melisandre dominates powerful men and mesmerises women with her pseudo-religious schtick, but as far as her accent is concerned, Van Houten says she was asked to keep her Dutch accent, as it is exotic.”We also didn’t want it to sound too Dutch or too specific so it’s a mixture of Dutch, British, American and hint of Irish.” I applaud her for that, because Dutch actors tend to devoice final consonants (‘days’, which is pronounced ‘daze’ comes out as ‘dayss’), which sounds like snakes talking.

As for Michiel Huisman he plays Daario Naharis, a mercenary and cocky tag-along of Queen Daenerys Targaryen who has taken an interest in him. Queen Daenerys is surrounded by three advisors, one of which is too old for her (Ser Barristan Selmy), one has a lifetime membership to the ‘friend zone’ (Ser Jorah Mormont), and the other, Daario, is the guy to watch. Daario recently got his kit off for Daenerys and is officially the love interest. Huisman claims to have had a tougher time winning over the fans since he showed up on screen out of nowhere, but I think getting your bare bum on screen in a sober Dutch way must count for something.

Both Van Houten and Huisman have worked together before on the film Black Book (Zwartboek), a WWII film that received many Dutch and foreign prizes and accolades.

On a name dropping side note, I heard second hand from an Irish friend that contrary to the bratty nutter that is King Joffrey, actor Jack Gleeson does lots of charity work together with his theatre activities and is a really, really nice guy.

(Link: www.people.com, Photo by Anthony Kelly, some rights reserved)

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May 6, 2014

Dutch cartoon illustrates creative writing book

Filed under: Comics,Literature by Orangemaster @ 9:48 pm

1-Swarte-Blind-Mice-580

Dutch cartoonist Joost Swarte provided drawings for “Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice,” by Catherine Lewis, a creative writing professor, publish in August 2013 and aimed at young readers. Lewis set out to explain literary elements through variations on the classic nursery rhyme, “Three blind mice ran after the farmer’s wife. She cut off their tails with a carving knife.” Yes, good nursery rhymes have always been pretty rough.

What’s the farmer’s wife doing with heals on? Here’s what Swarte had to say:

“How do I make her a farmer’s wife? Well, I drew a farm, so the man holding a pitchfork is a farmer and the woman his wife. I gave her farmer’s overalls, but I had to put her in high heels to make her a lady—otherwise you’d have seen a long-haired guy.”

Look closely: one of the mice is female.

We’ve also told you about Joost Swarte designing a pair of glasses.

(Link and image: www.newyorker.com)

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March 3, 2014

Leo Vroman, artist, poet, scientist, dies at age 98

Filed under: Art,Literature,Science by Branko Collin @ 2:58 pm

leo-vroman-self-portraitTwo weeks ago Dutch-American poet, artist and scientist Leo Vroman died at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, nu.nl reports.

Although Vroman emigrated to the US after WWII, he wrote poetry in Dutch until the very end. Somebody posted the following poem called Einde (‘The End’) to his blog after his death, a poem he wrote on 10 February (translation by me):

It probably looks less,
this lovingly gathered
pile of chips from my thoughts,
like me than like a mountain.

What then will this raging* figure
of me consist of
and where did this already late
first spark come from?

Holly Moors reviews Vroman’s book Leo Vroman Tekenaar which explores the many forms his art took. As a biologist Vroman studied the way blood works (the Vroman Effect was named after him, as Elsevier points out in its eulogy).

Nu.nl writes that in 2010 Vroman wrote his own ‘in memoriam’ for the magazine Tirade: “Will we miss him? Not easily. His books will still be lurking everywhere and his Effect is lasting.” The news site points out that in the Netherlands Vroman was best known for his poem ‘Vrede’ (‘Peace’). He won numerous literary awards (and one science award), and was named honorary citizen of Gouda in 1990.

*) Or furious, burning, blazing: the Dutch word ‘laaiende’ is often used to denote anger, but when talking about a fire it means ‘blazing’.

(Illustration: Leo Vroman, self-portrait)

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February 1, 2014

Stormy weather for world’s “most beautiful book store”

Filed under: Architecture,Literature by Branko Collin @ 1:10 pm

bookstore-maastricht-teemu-maentynenThe twenty Dutch book stores of the Polare chain have closed their doors—temporarily, they say.

Initial reports said that the closure came about because Centraal Boekhuis, the shared depot of most book stores in the Netherlands, refused to deliver any more books until Polare paid its bills. According to nu.nl however Central Boekhuis has resumed delivery of books to Polare. The closure came as a surprise to the distributor.

Whatever the real reason behind Polare’s action is, it seems clear that the chain is in trouble.

Punters have started producing explanations for the bad weather Polare has found itself in. The Internet is a big bogeyman according to Z24′s Thijs Peters. Regular customers are buying books on the Internet and students who were automatically referred to Polare’s predecessors at the start of the academic year, now buy their text books on-line.

In NRC competing book store Athenaeum gets plenty of space to explain Polare’s alleged downfall. Manager Maarten Asscher calls Polare “too big to succeed”. “If you want ‘the complete book store’, you go online. When customers go to a brick and mortar store, they go there for the inspiration and for professional and thoughtful advice. You don’t need 3,000 square metres of floor space for that.”

Polare was born last year out of the merger between Selexyz and De Slegte, the latter being a chain of second hand book stores. If you ask me, what got Selexyz into a spot where they had to merge with another floundering chain was its late entry to the Internet, not helped by having a name that is difficult to spell and therefore to google.

One of Polare’s constituent stores is situated in a former Dominican church in Maastricht and was called the most beautiful book store in the world by a British newspaper in 2008. If you are having trouble recognising the irony: the word is more popular than ever, but the pulpit? Meh.

(Photo by Teemu Mäntynen, some rights reserved; more pics of the church turned book store can be found here)

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January 28, 2014

Dutch village boasts Lord of The Rings neighbourhood

Filed under: General,Literature by Orangemaster @ 10:58 am

Google-Geldrop

The village of Geldrop in Noord-Brabant apparently has a neighbourhood with streets named after characters from the works of JRR Tolkien. The neighbourhood has been around since 2008 back when 24oranges was just getting started because had we known we would have been all over this one like Orcs.

For anyone who likes a long read, there’s this Master’s thesis on Street names in Noord-Brabant and Holland, which mentions the LOTR streets using an exclamation point.

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve told you about Fart Street in Capelle aan den IJssel near Rotterdam and a few more odd ones.

(Link: www.huffingtonpost.com)

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January 15, 2014

Bookshop owner to go to court for selling Hitler’s memoirs

Filed under: History,Literature by Orangemaster @ 8:42 pm

book_stack

Michiel van Eyck, owner of the Totalitarian Art Gallery in Amsterdam was questioned by police for an hour recently on the sale of Adolf Hitler’s memoirs Mein Kampf.

You see, the sale of Mein Kampf is banned in the Netherlands under anti-discrimination laws. Sure, you can just score it online instead, which is legal and makes the ban absurd and not very useful.

Van Eyck feels that selling the famous memoirs is not inciting hatred, as he also sells books written by Stalin, Mao and the likes. He hopes to go to court to have what he feels is an outdated ban overturned.

(Link: www.amsterdamherald.com)

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January 9, 2014

Tax office in Friesland refuses Frisian letter

Filed under: General,Literature by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am

The National Frisian Party claims to have received an unfair fine of 50 euro and decided to complain about it to the local tax office in Leeuwarden, Friesland in the Frisian language.

The law says that if the letter of objection is submitted in a foreign language and a translation is needed to be able to process the objection, the person submitting the letter must provide a translation. The thing is, Frisian isn’t a ‘foreign’ language (as in from another country), it is one of the Netherlands’ recognised minority languages.

According to AD.nl, The NFP is waiting for an answer from the tax office about what their policy actually is with regard to what constitutes a ‘foreign’ language for them. As well, it’s quite surprising that nobody at the tax office in Leeuwarden is apparently capable or willing to read Frisian, considering that Friesland has some 350,000-400,000 native speakers. I have a feeling that if the tax office were to receive a letter in English or German that they wouldn’t have any problems with it, considering their site is partially in English and German.

(Link: www.ad.nl, Photo by Rupert Ganzer, some rights reserved)

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December 17, 2013

‘Selfie’ is the Dutch word of 2013

Filed under: IT,Literature,Online by Orangemaster @ 10:37 am

Another English word has become a Dutch word, as ‘selfie’ has been chosen by the Van Dale dictionary as the Word of the Year 2013. A selfie is a self-portrait taken with a digital camera, smartphone or webcam. A feature of the selfie when taken with a smartphone is that you can see the phone in the picture. The international media is currently swooning over a picture of Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taking a picture of herself with Barack Obama.

Social media and IT have definitely changed Dutch vocabulary for good. In 2012 we had ‘Project X-feest’ (‘Project X party’), a local word from the name of a birthday party event on Facebook turned into a riot and in 2009 ‘ontvrienden’ (‘unfriend’) on Facebook, Twitter and other apps was the winner.

The Van Dale only started inventorying words of the year in 2007 and before that it was done by companies and blogs only going back to 2003. ‘Selfie’, ‘Project-X-feest’ and ‘ontvrienden’ are social media and IT related, while other words stem from traditional media such as ‘gedoogregering’ (a type of minority government that keeps things quiet) (2010). The crowd favourite at parties is ‘swaffelen’ (2008). If you don’t know it, click to read about it.

(Link: www.volkskrant.nl)

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