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“Old People and the Things that Pass” in HTML


Last week I promised that I would produce an accessible version of the 1919 Louis Couperus hit novel Old People and the Things that Pass if I were asked to. Somebody requested an HTML version, which you can now find at the Internet Archive:

The Dutch Book Week, which wraps up today, had a motto this year—Of Old People…—that was derived from the title of this psychological drama.

If you’re interested in what the book is about, here’s a snippet from a 1918 New Your Times book review:

That extraordinary gift for portraying the faintest shades of character and temperament, the divergencies, little and big, the varying differences in viewpoint existing in members of the same family, which Louis Couperus revealed to us in the three volumes already in this country, is very evident in this new one, “Old People and the Things That Pass.” It is a book more nearly akin to “Small Souls,” perhaps, than to either of the other two, though it has little of the bitter wit which distinguished that very interesting novel, and contains more than a little of the grayness, the effect as of a murky, sombre day, so noticeable in “The Twilight of the Souls.” For nearly all its characters are old people, while of the very few young ones, Charles Pauws, known to the family as “Lot,” is haunted by a nervous, hysterical dread of growing old. Only Elly, Lot’s young wife, longs for “great, faraway things,” and feels within her the call “to strive as far as she could,” finding unendurable the aimless life which contents the man whose soul is “neutral tinted,” who is incapable of “scarlet things,” yet at the last finds himself hiding “an innocent secret * * * torturing as a hidden, gnawing disease.”

It is, however, with two very old people, the man 93, the woman 97, and with a secret which was very far from innocent, that the novel is principally concerned. It was the secret of that which had happened one night in a lonely bungalow among the mountains of Java—a night of fierce tempest and fiercer passions, sixty years before the time the novel begins. […]

[…] The story is admirably handled throughout, the events following one another quite simply and naturally. But clever and skillfully developed as the plot is, it is in the sureness and subtlety of its psychology, and in the effect which it produces of dark forces lurking behind lives which are nearly all of them failures, that this book makes its strongest claim on the attention of discriminating readers. It is a very sombre, but an unusually interesting novel.

Source: The New York Times Book Review, Sunday March 31, 1918.

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