Someone recently asked me what defines Dutch literature. For a moment I found myself in a tight spot: I had to come clean.

I thought about a few sentences from Herman Koch’s novel Finally War (Eindelijk oorlog) that conjure up this feeling very well: For me, it begins on arrival at the station: the feeling of being in a boiling hot room where none of the windows open.

A few observations in no particular order:
The Dutch trade right around the globe, but this isn’t necessarily reflected in Dutch literature.
Dutch literature often follows fashion and is defined by movements or groups.
Breaking free from religion is another important theme in Dutch literature.
There is also a lot of sex in Dutch novels.
I’m reluctant to say it, but the Second World War was a gift to Dutch literature.  
The best Dutch writers wrote or were inspired to write their works during a stay abroad.

Intrigued? Read what else Arnold has to say.

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