Writers in Amsterdam
In addition to a series of world-renowned painters, Amsterdam has also produced and inspired its fair share of well-known and lesser known writers. These writers still leave their mark on the city, in the form of street names, parks and statues. Today, a select group will be presented in a nightly introduction.
Perhaps the most famous is the poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel. The Vondelpark is one of the most famous and most visited parks of Amsterdam. Vondel was born in Cologne (Germany) in 1587, and after a short period in Utrecht his parents established themselves in the warmoesstraat in 1597 where they traded stockings. Vondel taught himself Latin and Greek so he could study original texts first hand. Vondel wrote his poems and plays however in Dutch, making his work accessible to the general public. Vondel was seen among his colleagues as the best poet of his time, but his critical attitude toward the authority made him unpopular with the elite. One of his most famous works is the play “Gysbreght van Aemstel”, about one of the early rulers of Amsterdam. Joost van den Vondel died in 1679 in Amsterdam at the age of 91 and is buried in the Nieuwe Kerk. We find his statue in the Vondelpark.
Gerbrand Adriaenszoon Bredero was a true Amsterdammer (born 1585, died 1618). In his short life he acquired fame as a playwright and poet. His life motto "'t kan verkeeren" (fortunes can change) plays a role in almost all his works and still represents the quote by which this poet is known by many. He lived with his parents on the Nes and initially studied to become a painter. Later he became a tax official for the city of Amsterdam. In that period he carried on writing plays in the Dutch language and he had success with "De klucht van de koe" and "De klucht van de molenaar" (A klucht is a comedy). Relatively little is known about the life of Bredero, and it is unclear to what extent his poems are autobiographical. His love poem "’s Nachts rusten meest de dieren" takes place in the streets of Amsterdam at night. At Nieuwmarkt stands a statue that was revealed in 1968 on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the death of Bredero. It represents a passage from Bredero's play "De Spaansche Brabander".
Finally, we arrive at the image of Multatuli (a pseudonym of Eduard Douwes Dekker) on the bridge over the Singel at the Oude Leliestraat. Multatuli (Latin for "I have suffered a lot") is best known for his book Max Havelaar, an indictment of the colonial administration in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Eduard Douwes Dekker was born in 1820 at the Korsjespoortsteeg in Amsterdam, where later the Multatuli museum was established. On his 18th birthday he moved to the Dutch Indies, where he became a government official. Eduard Douwes Dekker was appointed assistant-resident of Lebak in West Java in 1856. In this function, he got involved in a conflict with his superior about maintaining the colonial rules, which oppressed the poor local population. He lost the fight and subsequently wrote the book Max Havelaar, a strong indictment of the colonial abuses. The first part of the book takes place in Amsterdam and the opening sentence "I'm dealer in coffee, and live on the Lauriergracht, No 37" refers to a no longer existing building in the Jordaan. He lived in the Netherlands for some time after the publication, but later moved to Germany where he died in 1887.
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