Landscape with Rowers: Poetry from the Netherlands

Overview

Though the Netherlands has been the site of vigorous literary activity since at least the Beweging van Vijftig (Movement of the Fifties) poets, the status of Dutch as a "minor" language spoken by only fifteen million people has kept its rich poetry more or less a secret. This volume -- featuring J. M. Coetzee's finely wrought English translations side-by-side with the originals -- brings the work of six of the most important modern and contemporary Dutch poets to light. Ranging in style from the rhetorical to the...
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Overview

Though the Netherlands has been the site of vigorous literary activity since at least the Beweging van Vijftig (Movement of the Fifties) poets, the status of Dutch as a "minor" language spoken by only fifteen million people has kept its rich poetry more or less a secret. This volume -- featuring J. M. Coetzee's finely wrought English translations side-by-side with the originals -- brings the work of six of the most important modern and contemporary Dutch poets to light. Ranging in style from the rhetorical to the intensely lyrical, the work here includes examples of myth-influenced modernist verse, nature poetry, experimental poetry, poerns conscious of themselves within a pan-European avant-garde, and Cees Nooteboom's uncompromising reflections on the powers and limitations of art. In addition to Nooteboom, the poets represented are Gerrit Achterberg, Hugo Claus, Sybren Polet, Hans Faverey, and Rutger Kopland -- a who's who of contemporary Dutch poetry. In Youth, Coetzee's main character claims that "of all nations the Dutch are the dullest, the most antipoetic." With these marvelous translations, the author proves his protagonist wrong.
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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
[Coetzee's] choices all have the capacity to pique poetry readers' interest in more by these striking, thoroughly European modernists. . . . [An] enjoyably challenging little sampler.
Daily Telegraph
To lay bare something of the individuality of one poet's voice can be difficult enough. For this book, J.M. Coetzee has translated six 20th-century poets from the Netherlands, rendering all of them with delicate virtuosity. Each poet comes across as having an arresting and distinctive voice, which is then allowed to resonate all the more effectively thanks to the translator's choice of poems of a sequential nature.
— Alan Marsahll
San Francisco Chronicle
Coetzee's own varied life—as a computer programmer with a doctorate in computer-generated language, as a polyglot 'post-structuralist linguist,' as a world-renowned novelist—rivals that of the most eclectic of the poets he's translated. Way back before the novels that earned him an unprecedented two Booker Prizes, however, he cherished his own hopes of becoming a poet. Clearly, with his faithful translation from the Dutch and his shrewd assessment of this little-known body of literature, Coetzee's earliest ambition is now yielding a surprising late harvest.
— Cynthia Haven
New York Sun
The book has been lovingly and beautifully produced. . . . I was struck by how much more starkly and conspicuously the effort to grapple with the horrific century just past comes through in the writings of smaller nations. . . . Mr. Coetzee's translations of these cool and astringent poems read well. . . . By relying on slant or partial rhymes, he often succeeds in conveying the music of the originals—no mean feat.
— Eric Ormsby
Poetry
These poems are whispered in the back pew of some massive cathedral where Stevens and Stein are saying benedictions. But sitting in the back row isn't just an act of humility: back here you can have a little fun at the priest's expense. It is that combination of devout parishioner and irreverent jester that makes these poems breathe.
— Dan Chiasson
Washington Post Book World
In Coetzee's artful translations, these poems suggest the power of the half-known.
— Robert Pinsky
Daily Telegraph - Alan Marsahll
To lay bare something of the individuality of one poet's voice can be difficult enough. For this book, J.M. Coetzee has translated six 20th-century poets from the Netherlands, rendering all of them with delicate virtuosity. Each poet comes across as having an arresting and distinctive voice, which is then allowed to resonate all the more effectively thanks to the translator's choice of poems of a sequential nature.
San Francisco Chronicle - Cynthia Haven
Coetzee's own varied life—as a computer programmer with a doctorate in computer-generated language, as a polyglot 'post-structuralist linguist,' as a world-renowned novelist—rivals that of the most eclectic of the poets he's translated. Way back before the novels that earned him an unprecedented two Booker Prizes, however, he cherished his own hopes of becoming a poet. Clearly, with his faithful translation from the Dutch and his shrewd assessment of this little-known body of literature, Coetzee's earliest ambition is now yielding a surprising late harvest.
New York Sun - Eric Ormsby
The book has been lovingly and beautifully produced. . . . I was struck by how much more starkly and conspicuously the effort to grapple with the horrific century just past comes through in the writings of smaller nations. . . . Mr. Coetzee's translations of these cool and astringent poems read well. . . . By relying on slant or partial rhymes, he often succeeds in conveying the music of the originals—no mean feat.
Poetry - Dan Chiasson
These poems are whispered in the back pew of some massive cathedral where Stevens and Stein are saying benedictions. But sitting in the back row isn't just an act of humility: back here you can have a little fun at the priest's expense. It is that combination of devout parishioner and irreverent jester that makes these poems breathe.
Washington Post Book World - Robert Pinsky
In Coetzee's artful translations, these poems suggest the power of the half-known.
Library Journal
The Dutch language may be considered "minor," spoken, as it is, by only 15 million people, but it boasts a rich poetry. Here, Coetzee has collected and translated the work of six of the more important modern and contemporary poets of the Netherlands: Gerrit Achterberg, Sybren Polet, Hugo Claus, Cees Nooteboom, Hans Faverey, and Rutger Kopland. Best known for his fiction (he has twice won the Booker Prize), Coetzee here demonstrates a sharp ear and deft hand with poems in a variety of voices. The works included range widely, from casual lyrics to rhetorical oratories to pensive meditations, but each poem and each poet is consistent and individual. Thus, in a poem about Basho, Nooteboom considers the broader picture of art: "He is on his way to the North he is making a book with his eyes./ He is writing himself upon the water he has lost his master." With all the recent talk of "lost languages," it is a gift to come upon these translations from six poets definitely worth out attention. One can't help but wonder, though, what the women are writing. Recommended for world literature collections, for a rare and rewarding view of the Netherlands.-Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"[Coetzee's] choices all have the capacity to pique poetry readers' interest in more by these striking, thoroughly European modernists. . . . [An] enjoyably challenging little sampler."--Booklist

"To lay bare something of the individuality of one poet's voice can be difficult enough. For this book, J.M. Coetzee has translated six 20th-century poets from the Netherlands, rendering all of them with delicate virtuosity. Each poet comes across as having an arresting and distinctive voice, which is then allowed to resonate all the more effectively thanks to the translator's choice of poems of a sequential nature."--Alan Marsahll, Daily Telegraph

"Coetzee's own varied life--as a computer programmer with a doctorate in computer-generated language, as a polyglot 'post-structuralist linguist,' as a world-renowned novelist--rivals that of the most eclectic of the poets he's translated. Way back before the novels that earned him an unprecedented two Booker Prizes, however, he cherished his own hopes of becoming a poet. Clearly, with his faithful translation from the Dutch and his shrewd assessment of this little-known body of literature, Coetzee's earliest ambition is now yielding a surprising late harvest."--Cynthia Haven, San Francisco Chronicle

"Coetzee here demonstrates a sharp ear and deft hand with poems in a variety of voices. . . . [It] is a gift to come upon these translations from six poets definitely worth our attention."--Library Journal

"The book has been lovingly and beautifully produced. . . . I was struck by how much more starkly and conspicuously the effort to grapple with the horrific century just past comes through in the writings of smaller nations. . . . Mr. Coetzee's translations of these cool and astringent poems read well. . . . By relying on slant or partial rhymes, he often succeeds in conveying the music of the originals--no mean feat."--Eric Ormsby, New York Sun

"These poems are whispered in the back pew of some massive cathedral where Stevens and Stein are saying benedictions. But sitting in the back row isn't just an act of humility: back here you can have a little fun at the priest's expense. It is that combination of devout parishioner and irreverent jester that makes these poems breathe."--Dan Chiasson, Poetry

"In Coetzee's artful translations, these poems suggest the power of the half-known."--Robert Pinsky, Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691123851
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Series: Facing Pages Series
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

J.M. Coetzee
J. M. Coetzee received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. His books include "The Lives of Animals "(Princeton), "In the Heart of the Country", "Waiting for the Barbarians", and the Booker Prize-winning novels "Life and Times of Michael K" and "Disgrace". His most recent book is the novel "Elizabeth Costello" (2003).

Biography

John Maxwell Coetzee was born in 1940 in Cape Town, South Africa. He is of both Boer and English descent. His parents sent him to an English school, and he grew up using English as his first language.

At the beginning of the 1960s he moved to England, where he worked initially as a computer programmer. He studied literature in the United States and has gone on to teach at several American universities, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Adelaide.

Coetzee made his debut as a writer of fiction in 1974. His first book, Dusklands was published in South Africa. His international breakthrough came in 1980 with the novel Waiting for the Barbarian. In 1983 he won the Booker Prize in the United Kingdom for Life and Times of Michael K. In 1999, he became the first author to be twice awarded the Booker Prize, this time for his novel, Disgrace. In 2003, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The Academy cited the astonishing wealth of variety in Coetzee's stories, many of which are set against the backdrop of apartheid.

In addition to his novels, Coetzee has written numerous essays and interviews. His literary criticism has been published in journals and collected into anthologies.

Good To Know

Described by friends as a reclusive and private man, Coetzee did not make the trip to London in 1984 to receive the Booker Prize for Life and Times of Michael K, nor when he again won the prize for Disgrace in 1999.

His 1977 novel, In the Heart of the Country, was filmed as the motion picture Dust in 1985.

Coetzee has also been active as a translator of Dutch and Afrikaans literature.

In 2002, Coetzee emigrated to Australia.

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Maxwell Coetzee
    2. Hometown:
      Adelaide, Australia
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 9, 1940
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cape Town, South Africa
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Cape Town, 1960; M.A., 1963; Ph.D. in Literature, University of Texas, Austin, 1969

Read an Excerpt

Landscape with Rowers

Poetry from the Netherlands
By J. M. Coetzee

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2005 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-12385-1


Chapter One

Gerrit Achterberg Ballade van de gasfitter 1 Gij hebt de huizen achterom bereikt. Aan de voorgevels, tussen de gordijnen, blijft ge doorlopend uit het niet verschijnen wanneer ik langs kom en naar binnen kijk. Al moet ge in 't voorbijgaan weer verdwijnen, het volgend raam geeft me opnieuw gelijk. Daar wonen ene Jansen en de zijnen, alsof ge mij in deze naam ontwijkt. Maar dat zegt niets. De deuren zijn geduldig; hebben een bel, een brievenbus, een stoep. De appelkoopman lokt u met zijn roep. En valse sleutels zijn er menigvuldig. Ook kan ik binnen komen, doodonschuldig en tot uw dienst, gasfitter van beroep. Ballad of the Gasfitter 1 You must have made your entry from the rear. To each house in the row I turn my glance and in each curtained window catch a glimpse of You, as out of nothing You appear. As I move past You seem to slip away. Yet I am not mistaken, vide the next frame. One Jansen lives there with his family- as if You could escape under that name. The ruse won't work. A door remains a door, each with its steps, its mailbox, and its bell. The apple hawker lures you with his call. A master key is easy to procure. Indeed I can quite freely step inside as (at your service) gasfitter by trade. 2 Dan-op klaarlichte dag bij u aan 't werk, vermomd als man van de gemeente-gaan mijn ogen in het rond en zien u staan. Maar langzaam wordt de zoldering een zerk. De muren zijn van aarde. Wij beslaan. De kamer is verzadigd, naar ik merk. Het kan ook niet. Ik draai de schroeven aan. Zolang ik mij tot deze taak beperk blijven we voor elkaar incognito, terwijl ik bezig ben, gebukt, geknield, of op mijn buik naga wat er aan scheelt. En al maar denken: het is beter zo. Doodzwijgen, door een hamerslag vernield. Doodstilte, die de hamerslagen heelt. 2 At your address, by daylight, on the job disguised in workman's clothing, I wheel round and behold You standing there. Walls turn to ground, ceiling slowly becomes a marble slab. We fade to each other in murky light. The room is saturated, won't hold more. This can't go on. I turn the screws down tight. As long as I devote myself to this chore we can proceed as we are, incognito- as long as I stay busy, bend or kneel or lie flat on my belly trying to feel what's wrong; thinking to myself, It's better so. Dead silence by a hammer blow dispelled. Death hush by which the hammer blows are healed.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Landscape with Rowers by J. M. Coetzee Copyright © 2005 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Ballad of the Gasfitter 2
Self-Repeating Poem 32
Ten Ways of Looking at P. B. Shelley 48
Basho 60
Chrysanthemums, rowers 70
"The earth; consisting of earthenware" 80
"From the vase" 82
Descent in Broad Daylight 88
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