Forgotten writers rediscovered

For three months researcher Elli Bleeker of the KNAW Humanities Cluster wandered through the extensive archives of the Literatuurmuseum in search of forgotten writers. This resulted in the online exhibition Spoorzoeken in het archief, which can now be viewed at Literatuurmuseum.nl.

Eternal writers’ fame and a permanent place in the literary canon, it is by no means bestowed on everyone. Why do we still know J. Slauerhoff or Louis Couperus, but not Til Brugman or Margot Scharten-Antink? Elli Bleeker focused on four writers who are not part of the collective memory, but whose life and work are no less interesting: the couple Carel Scharten and Margo Scharten-Antink, Til Brugman and Fré Dommisse. All four have been active in the literary world until the end of their lives, but with varying degrees of success.

“You sometimes feel like a paparazzo going through the garbage bins of celebrities.”

With her story, Elli Bleeker tries to bring these forgotten writers back to life. At a time when we are listening to marginalized voices, it is important to review, question and enhance the literary canon. By opting for the less travelled or almost forgotten side-paths of Dutch-language literature, it becomes once again clear how broad, diverse and rich our literary history is.

“What I liked finding out is that people don’t change that much. They love, make mistakes, have financial worries, feel misunderstood.”

Spoorzoeken in het archief can be found on Literatuurmuseum.nl, a platform on Dutch literature and literary heritage, set up in collaboration with the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens ING-KNAW). Big and small stories from literature are brought to life based on the treasures from the Literature Museum.