Sunday, July 5, 2009
Before and after midnight
The Dutch fantastic literature tradition is virtually nonexistent. Instead of an influx of Edwardian and Victorian ghost story influences, the Dutch opted for a no less dark subject; that of the 19th century grave poetry, earmarked by an all pervading melancholy, ennui and sorrow.
Although never establishing itself firmly, the Dutch supernatural tradition took off in the 1920's with F. Bordewijk's three collections of his short stories (published in 1919, 1923 and 1924), entitled Fantastische Vertellingen, with in one particular gruesome short story, 'Talamon of Ye Old Bowe' a nightmarish description of an abandoned house where a woman sits with her bare legs in a tub, filled with maggots.
As to collections of supernatural stories translated in the Dutch language, two can be considered pioneers: 13 Spookverhalen, published in 1941, and Voor En Na Middernacht, published in 1949.
While we will return to 13 Spookverhalen some other time, Voor En Na Middernacht was a particularly beautiful production for such a relatively unknown genre in the Netherlands. A Large sized hardcover volume with gold on the back and blind stamped motif on the front, it was printed on quality paper with haunting interior illustrations by Dutch artist Eppo Doeve who also drew the dustwrapper with its design spanning the frontside, the back and the backside of the wrapper. The collection features tales by August Derleth, H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Henry Russell Wakefield, W.W. Jacobs, Saki, John Collier, Francis Marion Crawford, Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe and the like.
The collection was assembled by Amsterdam bookseller Jessurun Lobo, and even today, dustwrappered copies are scarce. This collection saw a number of reprints, but never again such opulent production standards.