Netherlands Literature – From the end of the 19th Century to the Beginning of the 20th Century

In the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, together with the desire for renewal already validly represented, on the critical and social as well as literary level, by Multatuli and Busken-Huet, the individualistic tendency of Romanticism finally found expression in the young generations of poets who looked to the English example (PB Shelley, J. Keats, W. Wordsworth) and French (C. Baudelaire, G. Flaubert, É. Zola). With the publication of JFH Perk’s sonnets in Mathilde (post., 1882), vibrant glorification of Beauty, the Beweging van Tachtig was born(«Movement of the Eighties»), who drew his manifesto from that work, and from the introduction made of it by its curator WJT Kloos. Fundamental principles of the aesthetics of the Eighties were the importance of the poet’s individuality, both at a perceptual and expressive level, the cult of beauty, art as an end in itself, the unity of form and content and the conception of reality as sensory perception and direct experience. Organ of the movement was the magazine De nieuwe gids (“The new guide”), founded in Amsterdam in 1885 by Kloos together with W. Paap, F. van der Goes, FW van Eeden, A. Verwey ; shortly thereafter, L. van Deyssel also joined the editorial office. The most compact and durable expression in the production of De nieuwe gids, which while also welcoming political and scientific essays gave space above all to literature and literary criticism, was the lyric, represented in its highest moment by the lyric-symbolic poem Mei (“May”, 1889) by H. Gorter, whose astonishing evocative capacity is realized in an expressionistic language that incessantly plays on rhythms and sounds. Alongside Gorter, among the most important poets of the Eighties, in addition to Kloos and Verwey, both also representative for critics, H. Swarth should be mentioned. The movement’s exasperated aestheticism was reduced by the need to give expression to other ethical, religious-philosophical and social values; the unity of the group was shattered and the various components chose different orientations: Kloos and van Deyssel rejected socialism as a negation of their aestheticizing individualism, Gorter arrived at Marxism, van der Goes and van Eeden were both socialist tendencies, but one he took a rationalistic approach and the other religious. Verwey, oriented towards idealism and symbolism, Het tweemaandelijks tijdschrift (“The quarterly magazine”, 1894).

According to directoryaah, the renewal introduced by the Eighties movement mainly involved poetry, but the principle of sensitive perception also applied to prose, which was mainly oriented towards impressionism and naturalism. The impressionist trend is represented above all by the writer-painter J. van Looy, author of the popular autobiographical novel Jaapje (1917), and by A. Prins, who had made his debut as a naturalist. The naturalist tendency, which had a forerunner in M. Emants, counts a greater number of representatives, some of them in the initial phase of their activity. Among the most prestigious authors: van Eeden, with the novel Van de koele meren des doods (“The cold lakes of death”, 1900); van Deyssel, who after Een liefde («A love», 1887), soon turned his back on Zola, evolving towards symbolism and mysticism; the great novelist L. Couperus with Eline Vere (1889). The whole work of H. Heijermans, the author of profound socialist convictions, who with his engraved dramas (Op hoop van zegen “La Buona Speranza”, 1900; Allerzielen ” The day dei morti », 1905) raised the fate of a somewhat neglected genre. Between naturalism and realism, and with different accents, are placed A. Aletrino, J. de Meester, F. Netscher, F. Coenen. A psychological orientation is outlined in H. Robbers, I. Boudier-Bakker, T. Naeff and above all in C. van Bruggen, while J. van Oudshoorn’s pessimism anticipates existentialism. At the beginning of the 1890s, poetry is oriented towards the expression of the idea, a phenomenon that can already be observed in JH Leopold and in PC Boutens, the verses of which, despite the diversity of style, revealed a philosophical deepening. De Beweging (“The Movement”, 1905-19), the authoritative magazine founded by Verwey, had a great influence in fighting the cult of form and in affirming an idealistic orientation. The young authors who made their debut around 1910 worked within it; among the most important PN van Eyck, AR Holst and JC Bloem, whose theme – the pursuit of happiness and the painful inextinguishability of desire – landed respectively in a resigned disappointment, a serene pantheistic conception, a proud retreat in the poetic construction of its own world. No less significant are JA dèr Mouw, JI de Haan and G. Gossaert. M. Nijhof, although belonging to this generation, is a typical transitional figure for the modernity of his existential theme. At the beginning of the 20th century. a neo-romantic tendency emerged, represented by A. van Schendel, one of the greatest modern PB writers, by A. van de Leeuw, PH van Moerkerken, N. van Suchtelen and the two poetesses A. de Wit and N. van der Schaaf. Figures in their own right, as far as prose is concerned, are Nescio, for the dry and ironic style of his stories, and F. Bordewijk, who after a series of expressionistic stories arrived at the concise and unadorned style of the ‘new objectivity’.

Netherlands Literature - From the end of the 19th Century to the Beginning of the 20th Century