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Literature and De Stijl

  • Egbert Krispyn

Abstract

The northern Netherlands escaped direct involvement in World War I, but although they were spared the ravages of battle and the trauma of occupation, the first decades of the twentieth century were for them as for the rest of Western Europe, an era of upheaval and turmoil. In the field of literature this ferment manifested itself in the emergence of new styles and new attitudes that superseded the realistic traditions as well as the aestheticism of the Movement of ‘Eighty. Foremost among the innovators was Herman van den Bergh, not least because of his influence on Marsman. Their poetry is widely regarded as the major modernistic impulse in Dutch writing at the time; their significance is generally acknowledged and their achievements have repeatedly been subjected to scholarly study and analysis. Parallels have been drawn between them and the formally often much more radical German expressionists, and there are indeed points of similarity, of which in the present context the tendency toward cosmic visions is particularly relevant. Such lines as “Hemels staan op mijn hand gebogen” (“Heavens stand arched on my hand”) from Herman van den Bergh’s poem “Tegen Avond” (“Toward Evening”), or “en ruimte brak aan zijn metalen tred” (“and space broke under his metallic tread”) from Marsman’s “Heerscher” (“Ruler”) are closely related to the evocations of infinity typical of German expressionism. Kurt Heynicke wrote in his “Gesang”: “In mir ist blauer Himmel; / ich trage die Erde, / … Sonne kniet vor mir.”

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Vanderlinde, Frans, “I.K. Bonset, the Forgotten Van Doesburg,” in versunivers: Magazine for (evolutionary) Poetry, March/April, 1967, pp. 6–11, deals with Van Doesburg’s literary theories. Hannah L. Hedrick’s dissertation for the University of Arkansas (1972) “Theo Van Doesburg, Propagandist and Practitioner of the Avant-Garde: Belletristic activity in Holland, Germany and France, 1909–1923” is primarily concerned with those writings that were not published in De Stijl, and contains references to some retrospective personal reminiscences and tributes, and commentaries in exhibition catalogs. Cornelia Niekus Moore of the University of Hawaii reports that she is engaged on a study of the writings of Theo van Doesburg. While this article was in print, Maatstaf (November 1975) published an article on Bonset’s writing by Erik Slagter, “Een nieuwe dimensie in de dichtkunst” (pp. 34–41).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kok’s name occurs in various spellings in different sources: Antony; Anthony; Antonie.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    De Stijl 1917–1931, p. 32.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Letter of Theo van Doesburg to Antony Kok of 24 February, 1921, in De Stijl. Cat. 81, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 6.7.′51–25.9.′51, pp. 44ff. The adjective used by Van Doesburg is “geestig,” which Jaffé mistranslates as “spiritual” (De Stijl 1917–1931, p. 21).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hans L. C. Jaffé, De Stijl, p. 20.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    De Stijl, Nos. 79–84, Jubileum Serie XIV, (1927).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Vol. VII, (1927), Issue 79/84. All subsequent direct quotations from De Stijl will be identified in this manner in the footnotes.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    “De drie namen [Theo van Doesburg, I. K. Bonset, Aldo Camini] werden strikt gescheiden gehouden en hun identiteit was een geheim, dat zelfs door zijn meest intieme vrienden niet ontdekt werd.” Leering, J., “Inleiding,” Theo Van Doesburg 1883–1931, p. 4.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    VI, (1923), 3/4.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    “Manifest II van ‘De Stijl’ 1920. De Literatuur,” III (1920), 6.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    III, (1920), 8.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    IV, (1921), 1.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Aesthetica in Nuce. Eine Rhapsodie in kabbalistischer Prose, (1762). Cf. De Stijl, IV, (1921), 1; IV (1921), 7.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Georg Heym, Diary note d. 21 July, 1910, in Georg Heym, Dichtungen und Schriften, p. 140.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    IV, (1921), 2; Vn, (1927), 79/84.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    VII, (1927), 79/84; VIII, (1928), 85/86.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    VI, (1923), 3/4.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Peter Röhl, whose name is misspelled as Rohl, in the 1927 Jubilee Number of De Stijl, p. 103. The source prints “weiternen,” which has been emended in the quotation by the present author.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    IV, (1921), 1.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    V, (1922), 6.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    IV, (1921), 2.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Neue Schweizer Rundschau, Heft 5, Mai, 1929, p. 376. Quoted in De Stijl Catalog, p. 117.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    IV, (1921), 6.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    IV, (1921), 12.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    VII, (1927), 79/84.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Mécano. Internationaal tijdschrift voor geestelijke Hygiène, mechanische Esthetiek en Neo-Dadaïsme.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    IV, (1921), 1; VII, (1927), 79/84.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    VII, (1926), 73/74.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Manifesto II; VI, (1923), 3/4; IV, (1921), 2; VII, (1927), 79/84.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Neue Schweizer Rundschau, Heft 5, Mai, 1929, p. 374ff, in De Stijl Catalog, pp. 116.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    These are mistakes that have obviously nothing to do with the theoretical rejection of traditional grammatical structures, for instance: “hechte” instead of “hechtte” (V, (1922), 6); “asch” instead of “as” (VI, (1923), 3/4); “gawaarwording” instead of “gewaarwording” and “u” instead of “uw” (VII, (1926/27), 77); “buld” instead of “bult” (VIII, (1928), 85/86).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    VII, (1927), 79/84; IV, (1921), 7.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    VII, (1927), 79/84.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    IV, (1921), 11.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    De Schilder De Winter en zijn Werk. Psycho-analytische Studie.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    IV, (1921), 11.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    IV, (1921), 11. No good purpose would be served by translating texts like this.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    IV, (1921), 11.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    III, (1920), 9. The relativity of time and space had also been the subject of his fable “Het Verhaal van den Hond,” published as early as May, 1914, in De Eenheid. See Hedrick, Hannah, “De Droom van Does,” Catalog Theo van Doesburg 1883–1931, p. 33.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    IV, (1921), 7.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    IV, (1921), 7. “Men moet deze gedichten [“Letterklankbeelden”] horen om ze te kunnen appreciëren.” Hedrick, “De Droom van Does,” p. 35.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    III, (1920), 7.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Leering, “Inleiding,” p. 4.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    IV, (1921), 4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Egbert Krispyn

There are no affiliations available

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