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"Literature" Netherlands Favorite Tip by nighthawk

Netherlands General: 435 reviews and 419 photos

  Start reading when young ...
by nighthawk

Favorite thing: Over the centuries, Holland has produced its share of scholars, philosophers, and authors. Literature in the language of the people became more common after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht (1579), which set the Dutch-speaking northern provinces of the Netherlands (Belgium still was part of it) on the political path toward becoming a separate country. The use of Dutch by writers becaem more and more common after Holland became completely independent from Spain in 1648 under the Treaty of Munster.

Poetry became a popular form of artistic expression during Holland's 17th-century golden age. The early humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) was born in Rotterdam and became the most influential and admired writer and scholar of his time.

He is best remembered for the satirical masterpiece The Praise of Folly (1511), which demonstrated a faith in reason remarkable for this period in history. The famed Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was born in Amsterdam into a family of Jews who had fled religious persecution in their native Portugal.

Regarded as the pre-eminent expounder of the doctrine of pantheism, Spinoza constructed one of the most complete metaphysical systems ever conceived in his Ethics (1677).

Fondest memory: At the base of his complex system is the concept that God exists only in his creations, that Nature is God, and that man's highest good is to seek knowledge of Nature, rather than to rely on faith. In 1656, Spinoza was excommunicated from Amsterdam's Portuguese synagogue for "proclaiming dreadful heresy" by asserting that God had to be personified to be understood. His rationalist ideas struck contemporaries as heretical, but Spinoza anticipated much of the significant work of 20th-century existentialists. Spinoza believed that whatever causes people to live in harmony with one another is good. In order to keep free of academic obligations, Spinoza earned his living by grinding optical lenses; glass dust in his lungs killed him at the age of 45.

The outstanding writer of the Dutch Realism School of Fiction was Louis Couperus (1863-1923), who probed the psychological impact of colonialism on Dutch life and wrote of the decadence of The Hague upper class. Of his more than 30 novels, Old People and the Things That Pass are probably the best.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 15, 2004
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