The Frisian History and Literature Centre Tresoar in Leeuwarden, Friesland have made public a gift of 48 letters and 14 photos never been seen before they received from the family of the ex-husband of famous Frisian exotic dancer, Mata Hari. The only thing Tresoar had to do in return was turn it all into a book, so that everyone could enjoy the discoveries. The book ‘Don’t think that I’m that bad’ (‘Denk niet dat ik slecht ben’) by Marita Mathijsen-Verkooijen should be out at least in Dutch any day now.
One of the letters written during Mata Hari’s life in Paris in 1904-1905 talked about her one day become a mother and how difficult her life was in general, while in another she talks about living in Nijmegen and having to sell her bike to be able to survive. Mata Hari’s life story is a great read in itself, and these letters will certainly help historians and fans find out even more about her turbulent life. Next year in 2017, the legal documents of 1917 about her execution by a firing squad just outside Paris for being a German spy on 15 October 1917 will be made public, so stay tuned for more.
British advertising agency D&AD have recently announced this year’s winners of their D&AD Pencil Awards for creative excellence in design and advertising, and the Netherlands nabbed seven awards this year, three less than last year. Studio Joost Grootens picked up a coveted Pencil award for the design of the new Dikke Van Dale, the “oldest and most extensive dictionary of the Dutch language”.
The pearly white cover presents a major break with the familiar dark hues [dark blue, maroon, etc.] traditionally used by the publisher. This signals the current association between the pursuit of knowledge and our use of white and silver digital devices as the portals to information.
With Almost 5000 pages of knowledge and in its fifteenth edition, this year the Van Dale was also fitted with navigational elements such as colours, symbols and illustrations.
This charming little street library was spotted today by us in the Lindenholt neighbourhood of Nijmegen. It’s made of tree trunks with added plastic curtains shielding books from the elements. Patrons are supposed to swap books, which means take one out, put one of your their own back in. The tree was placed there in 2014. Two other book trees have been added to the neighbourhood since.
The idea of using real dead trees to house the proverbial ones is not new. A German project that aims to promote women in construction, Baufachfrau, has been adding similar kiosks to the streets of Berlin since 2006 as part of the international Bookcrossing project.
In our neck of the woods, Amsterdam, it’s actually a bit trendy for houses to feature ‘outdoor bookcases’ (‘buiten boekenkasten’), but then Google shows us it’s cool throughout the country.
Dutch spelling is often a headache for many people from foreigners to children because it officially changes a lot. A series aimed at children called ‘Snap je?’ (‘Get it?’) deals with the dreaded conjugation of verbs where after the root of the verb there’s a ‘d’ or ‘t’ added to it, something that is tough to get right.
Dutch verbs with a stem ending in ‘d’ add a ‘t’ for the second and third person singular, but it does not change the pronunciation because ‘d’ at the end of a word is pronounced like a ‘t’, while ‘dt’ is pronounced as ‘t’, according to a quick explanation from Hear Dutch Here. In other words we often can’t hear the difference between the ‘d’ and ‘t’ at the end of any word because ‘d’ is voiced and ‘t’ is voiceless and it gets worse when you have ‘dt’ together. Getting any of this wrong is commonly referred to as a ‘d-t mistake’ in Dutch. It also makes a difference in tense in some words, so it is a big deal to get it right.
For anyone who knows French, when we get stuck with how to write the ending of a verb in the right tense we use the verb ‘vendre’ (‘to sell’) as a default and then conjugate our chosen verb accordingly. The Dutch in this video suggest the exact same with the verb ‘lopen’ (‘to walk’). And then there’s the fact that the band from Nijmegen De Staat wrote the music behind these fun grammar lessons, so give it a whirl.
Two-thirds of the employees at Frisian TV station ‘Omrop Fryslân’, who claim to be the ‘guardians of the Frisian language’, have failed their own written Frisian test. Not only are most employees incapable of writing proper Frisian, but the station also receives millions of euro annually to be able to promote the Frisian language.
The many haters who think Frisian is a relic – and there are a lot of them – now have more ammunition to continue to shoot down Frisian culture. On the other hand, spoken Frisian has many differences depending where someone is from, which could account for a small percentage of failures: people who can speak it, but not write it. Then again, maybe they shouldn’t be working in the Frisian media.
Cafe Averechts in Utrecht has been around since the 1980s and continues to flourish amidst dwindling profits in the hospitality sector. The cafe’s ‘reverse’ approach to profit-making is the key to their brand of success: it is entirely run by volunteers.
Before anyone thinks ‘why would anyone work for free’, it is important to know that all pop venues in the country rely on volunteers. If you were to remove all pop venues that make a loss in the Netherlands, not a single one would be left standing and the country would be a cultural desert. Even the Paradiso in Amsterdam is subsidised by the city and in order to enjoy a favourable tax rebate as such, patrons pay a membership fee with their tickets. That’s right, the most famous Dutch club in the world needs government money.
During the week Averechts features a small stage with music, poetry and the likes as well as vegetarian food (vegan on demand) at a low cost. It also has lots of beers and more than 20 kinds of whiskey. All profits made go straight to charities and any tips are doubled (you put in one euro, the house matches it, we imagine) to send even more money their way.
Averechts is also a great place to celebrate King’s Day if you’re in Utrecht.
The local Anti-Facist League is demanding the book be confiscated and that the gallery be closed down, but the police told them they cannot legally do either of those things. ‘Mein Kampf’ (‘My Struggle’) can easily be found on the Internet since about 1998, but the book version is still banned. As well, the copyright on the book will run out in 2016, making it even more difficult to control any distribution of the work.
Gallery owner Michiel van Eyck is currently displaying the book in his shop, not selling it, and there’s nothing illegal about that. There’s an appeal currently ongoing on the original verdict against Van Eyck. However, banning a physical book that can be found easily and for free is ‘mopping the floor with the faucet running’, as the Dutch would say.
Dutch-American Saskia Sassen, 67, is a professor of sociology at Columbia University in New York City whose Nazi collaborator father is part of a recently translated book from German into English entitled ‘Eichmann Before Jerusalem’ written by German philosopher Bettina Stangneth in 2011. Sassen’s father, Willem Sassen was a Nazi journalist and close to Adolf Eichmann when they both lived in Argentina in the 1950s. Sassen would extensively interview Adolf Eichmann, a major Holocaust figure, at their home in Argentina on Sundays, which upset Saskia’s mother a great deal and had her parents arguing after he left.
For a long time Saskia Sassen refused to talk about that chapter of her life, leading a very successful career as a professor author and authority on many subjects in her own right. However, in recent years Sassen has, “found herself repeatedly confronting this missing chapter of her biography, as archival records emerge and scholars, journalists, and filmmakers seek her participation in projects connected to her father’s history.”
In 1948 Willem Sassen escaped with his family to Argentina, where he met a group of local and refugee Nazis who were obsessed with discrediting what they saw as enemy propaganda about the Holocaust. Sassen was horrified by the bloody details he learned about the concentration camps, but was sure Eichmann had been manipulated into organizing such crimes. Sassen wanted to write a book about it all, but it never materialised. In 1960, Israeli agents abducted Eichmann and rumors spread in Argentina that Sassen had betrayed him.
The rest reads like a thriller and could make an excellent holiday gift for some of you.
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.
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.