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Taboos: New Dutch and Flemish Writing

May 2014

Image: Trees De Mits, BIRD ICELAND, 2009. Photograph on Dibond, 34cm x 45cm, Courtesy of the artist.

Image: Trees De Mits, BIRD ICELAND, 2009. Photograph on Dibond, 34cm x 45cm, Courtesy of the artist.

This month we present Dutch and Flemish writing on taboos. Despite its stereotype as the ultimate permissive society, the Netherlands still considers many activities and behavior off-limits and not to be discussed. In their responses to violations ranging from murder to incivility, the characters depicted here reveal the complexity of this often-misunderstood society. Notions of motherhood go awry when Elke Geurts’s perfectionist finds her expectations upended, and Esther Gerritsen’s dying woman tries to connect with her self-involved daughter. Addictions drive (or derail) many characters, from Thijs de Boer’s doped-up and drunken brothers to Ton Rozeman’s porn fiend. Relationships are skewed, as Sanneke van Hassel’s widower falls for an elusive woman and Yves Petry’s sociopath commits murder and more.  Domestic life proves anything but tranquil, as Mensje van Keulen’s angry husband storms out of the house and into a nightmare, Walter van den Berg’s penitent abuser remembers the stepson he loved, and Manon Uphoff’s writer turns her dysfunctional family into a successful career. Maartje Wortel’s cancer sufferer swears by his illness. The telephone plays a role in Peter Terrin’s story of an unexpected response to a telephone solicitor and Arnon Grunberg’s recording of a cagey long-distance conversation. Anneliese Verbeke’s young woman deals with an unconventional grooming issue. And Anton Valens’s home care aide is driven wild by his elderly charge. Guest editors Victor Schiferli and Sanneke van Hassel contribute an illuminating introduction. We think this issue is definitely something to talk about. We thank the Nederlands Letterenfonds // Dutch Foundation for Literature, the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, Flanders House, and the Flemish Literature Fund for their support.