Literary Arts by Isa Schoonewil and Paola Grobenski

5th to 12th Century

Hebban olla vogala

Poetry was written by a monk in a convent, in Rochester, England around 1100.The text could equally well be Old English, more specifically Old Kentish - at that time Old (West) Dutch and Old English were very similar.

The Rhinelandic Rhyming Bible

Another important source for Old Dutch this is a verse translation of biblical histories, attested only in a series of fragments, which was composed in a mixed dialect containing Low German , Old Dutch and High German (Rhine-Franconian) elements.

12th to The Beginning of 15th Century

  • Beatrice of Nazareth (1200–1268) was the first known prose writer in the Dutch language, the author of the Seven Ways of Holy Love.
  • John of Ruysbroeck (1294 –1381) followed Beatrice in taking prose out of the economic means and using it for literary purposes.

The End of the 15th to 17th Century

  • Philips van Marnix (1538–1598) wrote the lyrics to Wilhemus van Nassouwe. Marnix occupied the last years of his life in preparing a Dutch version of the Bible.
  • Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert (1522–1590) was Holland’s first humanist writer. In 1586 he produced his original masterpiece, the Zedekunst ("Art of Ethics").
  • Also important is Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679). In 1625 he published his tragedy of Palamedes, Murdered Innocence.
Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert

17th to 18th Century

  • A writer who revived a special interest in literature was Justus van Effen (1684–1735). Van Effen wrote in French for a great part of his literary career but he soon started to write in English for a Dutch magazine “Hollandische spectator”
  • Elizabeth Wolff (1738–1804) and Agatha Deken (1741–1804) are also of great importance in this period. Sara Burgerhart, their first novel, was published in 1782.
Hollandische spectator

The 19th Century

  • Willem Bilderdijk (1756–1831) was the most prominent writer.
  • Hiëronymus van Alphen (1746–1803) is best remembered for the verses he wrote for children.
  • Nicolaas Beets (1814–1903) wrote large quantities of sermons and poetry, but is mainly remembered today for the prose sketches of Dutch life in Camera Obscura.
Willem Bilderdijk
Nicolaas Beets

20th Century

  • One of the most important writers of that time is Johan Huizinga, who was known abroad and who was translated in different languages.
  • Some other big names of that time are Hendrik Marsman, Adriaan Roland Holst, J. van Oudshoorn, Arthur van Schendel, Hendrik de Vries.
  • After WWII writing subjects/topics became more open - there have been published books about sexuality, physicality and especially the war (Anne Frank Diary).
Johan Huizinga
Anne Frank Diary


Important Dutch romans these days are:

  • Tirza from Arnon Grunberg, 2006
  • Het schervengericht from A.F.Th. van der Heijden, 2007
  • Agaat from Marlene van Niekerk, 2004
  • Casino from Marja Brouwers, 2004
  • De asielzoeker from Arnon Grunberg, 2003
  • Siegfried from Harry Mulisch, 2001
Arnon Grunberg
Harry Mulisch