Category Archives: Elsschot

The Marriage

“Maar doodslaan deed hij niet, want tusschen droom en daad
staan wetten in de weg en praktische bezwaren,
en ook weemoedigheid, die niemand kan verklaren,
en die des avonds komt, wanneer men slapen gaat.”

Willem Elsschot, ‘Het Huwelijk’, Verzameld Werk, Van Kampen en Zoon NV, 1957, p. 737.

[Amateuristic English translation: “But slaying her he did not do, for between dream and deed laws stand in the way and practical concerns, and melancholy, which no-one can explain, and which comes at night, when one goes to sleep.”]

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original DD 29/02/09. What can I say, Read The Bloody Poem!]

Something in the above will forever bug me, so let me respond in kind (alas, not
– at all – in quality). Continue reading

Will-o’-the-Wisp

“Zo ben ik dan eindelijk de baan eens op met mensen die volkomen verschillen van  de volksgenoten met wie ik gedoemd ben al mijn dagen te slijten, (..) die in ieder geval van onze beroemdste medeburgers nooit hebben gehoord en voor wie onze vorsten en heiligen absoluut niet in tel zijn, dus zeer waarschijnlijk mensen naar mijn hart.”Willem Elsschot, Verzameld Werk, Het Dwaallicht, p. 695, P.N. Van Kampen en Zoon N.V., Amsterdam, 1957.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dated 16-01-2008. If you retain anything from this it is that you really need to read Elsschot, if possible in Dutch so you can see for yourself how inadequate the below translation is. I have had to be editing the below heavily; when I wrote it I had a worse day than even my usual bad average, I fear.]

(Amateuristic English translation: “So I find myself finally on the road with people that are entirely different from my people (with which I am doomed to spend the rest of my days), (..) people who in any case have never heard of our celebrities and for whom our kings and saints do not count at all; most probably then people to my liking.”)

Group identity is making a come-back; one that would make many retired athletes very jealous indeed. Undoubtedly, getting to a personal identity (an own self and an own personality) requires a substrate of group identity. It requires at least a sufficiently sophisticated language in use by a group of people but probably a common language doesn’t suffice. This provides the foundation for the aggressive resistance of ‘The New Right’ towards diversity and multiculturalism and certainly towards multiculturalism as, itself, being somehow foundational to human society.

‘The New Right’ has a point at least as to group identity deserving more respect than people like me would normally be prepared to give. But does this mean that group identity deserves our absolute respect? Does it mean we have to endorse ethnicities or religions as essentially good, or – at least – as unavoidable evils? Continue reading