Hieronymus

Hieronymus

Marcel Ruijters is an award winning Dutch comic artist with a fascination for medieval art, which is obvious in his own artwork. As part of the 2016 programme of festivities commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Hieronymus Bosch, Ruijters was commissioned by the Bosch 500 Foundation and Mondriaan Art Fund to produce a graphic book about the artist’s life. The result of this commission is the graphic novel Hieronymus (English) or Jheronimus (Dutch version), a hard-covered comic arranged in five chapters and filled with phantasmagorical images recognisable from Bosch’s own art. A history trip Rather than a comprehensive biography, the five chapters cover various significant periods in the author’s life. The drawings add the historical context to the narrative: the role of the Church; the public hatred of the Dominican Order for their participation in the Inquisition; the 1463 fire that destroyed a considerable section of Den Bosch’s inner city buildings; and a culture that incorporated both debauchery and chronic hardships. The story of Hieronymus is weaved through the illustrations, depicting him as the third son in a family of artists – who made a living producing artworks commissioned by the Church. As a young man he questioned his work and domestic situation, almost moving to Belgium before heeding the foreboding of a palm reader he encountered in a tavern. On his return to Den Bosch, he is confronted by serious family conflict that eventually results in his taking control of the business. Bizarre and amazing art Ruijters’ illustrations are difficult to describe. Often simultaneously gruesome and hilarious, especially the images of convicted criminals having their limbs chopped off and genitals mutilated in front of a jeering crowd, and under the supervision of a religious dignitary. Individual characters have unique features and expressions, an impressive feat considering the numerous crowd scenes. Background sketches of a Dutch city and surrounding countryside in the 1500s seem authentic, often including unsavory details like freak show employees and leper colonies hassling for coins. Who was Hieronymus? I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic ride but was left with some unanswered questions about the artist and his work. What is the actual story behind the surreal creatures in his famous triptych ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’? Was Hieronymus having fun or mentally ill as he painted these images? Hopefully, the flurry of activities being organised to commemorate 500 years since his death will answer them. Ana McGinley books@dutchnews.nl  More >



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Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide

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I am Amsterdam

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Holland Handbook

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The Anatomy Lesson

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Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds

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Little Kingdom by the Sea

Since the late 1950s, Dutch flag carrier KLM has been giving little Delft blue and white pottery houses to its first class (now business class) passengers. The houses, actually little bottles containing jenever, or Dutch gin, are all based on real buildings and Little Kingdom by the Sea tells their stories. The little houses are beloved by collectors and offered for sale on auction sites and specialist websites all over the internet. Among the collectors, the book says, is celebrated author Gabriel Garcia Marques who asked for a number of minatures in return for writing an article for the airline's magazine. King Willem-Alexander is said to be a collector as well, and when princess Christina put her collection up for sale at Sotheby's, it was bought by the Hungarian honorary consul. Every year gin maker Lucas Bols and KLM get together to decide which building to use next - a decision ultimately taken by KLM's chief executive. The buildings which have been turned into miniatures range from royal palaces to bars, from merchants homes and museums and all have their own stories to tell. If you are a collector, the book is a great source of information about the houses, from number one to number 95. If you like Dutch history, it is a treasure trove of stories. There are also suggestions for several heritage trails, including a historical pub crawl in Amsterdam which takes you past many of the bars which feature in the collection. One note of caution - it is a weighty little book and too thick to read comfortably with one hand. The English is also slightly clunky at times. Nevertheless, Little Kingdom by the Sea offers readers an exclusive peek into the lives of the people who lived in the houses and includes portraits of pioneers, adventurers and other glamorous figures who made their mark on Dutch history. Buy this book  More >


The Netherlands in 26 iconic objects

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The Darkness that Divides Us

Born in Amsterdam in 1954, Renate Dorrestein began her working life as a journalist for the Dutch magazine Panorama. Her first novel Buitenstaanders (1983) became a bestseller and marked the beginning of an industrious career in literature. Dorrestein has published more than 30 fictional and autobiographical books, some of which have been translated or made into films - gaining her international recognition as a writer of merit. Dorrestein’s collection of work was awarded the Annie Romein Prize in 1993. She won the Vondel Prize for Translation for her novel Heart of Stone and was nominated for numerous literary prizes including the Libris Literature Prize for Een Sterke Man (A Strong Man) and the AKO prize for Zonder Genade (Without Mercy).  Dorrestein has twice written the national Dutch Book Week complimentary book, in 1997 and 2008. The Darkness that Divides Us Initially published in 2003 as Het Duister dat Ons Scheidt, this recently released version was translated by Hester Velmans and is available to English readers as The Darkness that Divides Us. The novel is a family drama infused with mystery. The book is divided into three parts, with each part covering a six-year period. The 26 chapters are titled with a letter of the alphabet, beginning with ‘A is for Abacus’ and ending with ‘Z is for Zeal’. The storyline revolves around a Lucy, a Dutch girl who spends her early childhood living in a rectory with her artist mother and their two male boarders, Ludo and Duco. A tragic crime is committed, resulting in Lucy’s mother being sent to prison and six-year-old Lucy experiencing a drastic drop in popularity with her peers. Her childhood in this idyllic Dutch village becomes an ordeal when the children commence a constant regime of bullying. In Part Two Lucy’s mother is released from jail and returns home. The local community is unwilling to allow her re-entry into the life she had prior to her incarceration. Lucy too is unable to reconnect her relationship with her mother, preferring the company and guidance of Duco and Ludo. Seeking a panacea to their domestic unrest, the four escape to a life of anonymity on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Here Lucy is given the chance to reshape her childhood with the island children. The final part of the book focuses on Lucy departing Lewis and the care of her guardians for Amsterdam where she plans to live independently and attend college. Her resolution disappears upon seeing someone from her past. She quickly slips into a funk, unable to leave her room. A meeting with her mother in the final pages resolves the mystery that has been weaved throughout the narrative, shaping the lives of the main characters. Beautiful, happy people? No. Dorrestein doesn’t write about beautiful people. She refrains from sentimentality in her character descriptions, choosing instead to expose their flaws. These negative attributes are easily identifiable in the general populace. The children in the book may be adventurous in their antics, yet in general, are written as nasty, dirty, destructive bullies. Adult characters are devoid of empathy and driven by their own insecurities. The plot holds tightly together, tempting the reader further to uncover the secrets hidden in later pages. The translation of this narrative of complicated interpersonal relationships is the work of an extremely skilled translator in Hester Velmans. The Darkness that Divides Us succeeds as an English language novel and is highly recommended. Ana McGinley Buy this book  More >