Two 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)
Tags: biologists, biology, blood, Leo Vroman, poems, poetry
The 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)
Tags: book stores, books, Broese Kemink, Dekker & Van de Vegt, Polare, Scheltema, second hand, Selexyz
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.
Tags: Geldrop, Lord of the Rings, Noord-Brabant, street names, streets
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.
Tags: Amsterdam, books, censorship, Hitler
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)
Tags: Friesland, Frisian, Leeuwarden, tax office
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.
Tags: dicitonary, Facebook, neologisms, selfie, Van Dale
Dutch dictionary Van Dale is considering a bunch of English words as well as translated English words to be included into the Dutch language. The words are often slang that goes mainstream and IT-related words.
Selfie – Same meaning and spelling as in English, taking a picture of yourself with a mobile phone.
Shishapen – In English ‘shisha pen’, an electric cigarette, shisha being of Egyptian origin.
Sukkelseks – Dutch for low-quality sex, although I thought it meant ‘pity sex’.
Gamechanger – ‘Game changer’, used by politicians and business people.
Factchecken – ‘Fact checking’, since the Dutch already use ‘checken’ (‘to check’) because it is more to the point than a Dutch construction.
3D-printer – Again the Dutch use ‘printer’, so this is a logical extension.
In May of this year, words like ‘religiestress’ (‘religion stress’, stress caused by religious beliefs) and ‘chillaxen’ (‘to chillax’, a slang word that combines ‘chill and relax’) were added to the online version of the Van Dale.
And finally words that are actually Dutch: ‘vingerpistool’ (‘finger pistol’, a gesture that indicates you’re shooting at someone) and ‘roeptoeteren’ (roughly pronounced ROOP-too-tee-ren), to give your opinion in a really loud and poorly considered manner.
(Links: www.nieuws.nl, www.rtlnieuws.nl)
Tags: dictionary, Van Dale
Greg Shapiro, an American-Dutch comedian and actor, has just published his new book How To Be Orange, which I had the chance of perusing one morning before we both went on the air on Amsterdam’s English Breakfast radio. I laughed everywhere I opened it as an immigrant with 14 years on my Dutch clock because I could relate to it and it is well written. Some of you locals may recognise the book’s illustrations by Floor de Goede.
Many of the better known guide-like books written about the Dutch are just a collection of superficial observations written by English-speaking expats who don’t speak Dutch and think the entire expat community thinks like they do (colonialism, anyone?). These books were written 10-15 years ago, use Amsterdam as a metonym for the Netherlands, and are quite offensive at times, giving me the impression that the Dutch are an obstacle to living and working here because actually adapting and learning Dutch is unfortunately seen as a downgrade for many expats.
But Greg has come up with something that the Dutch and the rest of us can really laugh about probably because Greg has seen both sides, the immigrant having to take Dutch lessons with illiterate adults (not an insult, but a fact) and goes Dutch, bike, cheese and all like a boss. In my books he lives up to his nickname, the American Netherlander.
Here’s an older video shot downtown Amsterdam with Greg sporting his best British accent:
Tags: Amsterdam, comedy, orange
The famous Little Golden Books, a series of children’s book originally published by Simon and Schuster in the USA, have always been popular in the Netherlands.
The booklets with the golden spine were first published in 1942. It took 11 years for the series to get its launch in the Netherlands with a translation of Little Peewee, or Now Open the Box. This year Dutch publisher Rubinstein celebrates the 60th anniversary of the series in the Netherlands with a large format release of the translated booklet.
According to Holly Moors, the success of the series in the Netherlands is due “largely because Annie M.G. Schmidt improved the American versions irreparably.” Moors has a photo of his 2-metre-tall son (?) Rik reading the book for comparison. The Giga Golden Book, as Rubinstein calls it, has 14 extra pages that were in the American original but not in the Dutch translation of 1953.
The early 1950s must have been a good year for American cultural exports to the Netherlands (so close after the war). In 1952 the Donald Duck weekly was launched in this country and that publication is also still going strong.
Tags: Annie M.G. Schmidt, children's books, Donald Duck, Little Golden Books
The city of Groningen elected 11-year-old Ties Leenstra as its new children’s poet laureate last Saturday, Poëziepaleis reports.
No examples of young master Leenstra’s poetry are given, but apparently his points of view are surprising and his words expressive. Leenstra, who recited his entries from memory, follows in the footsteps of Groningen’s first children’s poet laureate, 12-year-old Sifra Kramer who was also a member of the jury. Asked if he wants to be an important poet when he grows up, Leenstra answered: “No, I’d rather do something else.” Leenstra’s duties involve writing four poems a year.
Kramer’s poems can be read here.
The national young poet laureate Joanne Hoekstra from Augsbuurt in Friesland was elected earlier this year on 2 June.
(Photo by Enric Martinez, some rights reserved)
Tags: Joanne Hoekstra, literature, poet laureate, poetry, Sifra Kramer, Ties Leenstra