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|Van de koele meren des doods
Frederik van Eeden
publisher: Versluys, 1900
The Deeps of Deliverance
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1974
translation: Margaret Robinson
refered to by:
Old People and the Things that Pass
Three Novels: Soft Soap, The Leg, Will-O’-the Wisp (Het dwaallicht)
Madame Bovary: Patterns of Provincial Life
A Heart of Stone
|This is the story of Hedwig, a girl from a well-to-do family who leads a life which is much more adventurous than the traditional one mapped out for respectable Dutch girls in the second half of the nineteenth century. After her strong and capable mother dies, she becomes a problem child in the eyes of her weak father and his housekeeper since she falls in love with the wrong kind of boy — one from a poor family. What is more, she is unable to hide her awakening sexuality and sensual nature and the first of many doctors in Hedwig’s life prescribes treatment: ‘severity and physical punishment’. This only succeeds in making her more anxious and unhappy. Hedwig has begun her descent into the deeps from which she will eventually be delivered by Sister Paula.
Frederik van Eeden, a psychiatrist practising in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (the novel was first published in 1900), portrays Hedwig with great psychological insight which includes an acceptance of female sexuality. His
| text also bears the traces of naturalism, exploring as it does Hedwig’s character and the influences which shape her — whether her ‘nerves’ and later madness are inherited or due to her surroundings.
The sensual but innocent Hedwig marries Gerard who is averse to sex, and their marriage is unconsummated. When she eventually gives in to her nature and takes a lover, she first attempts suicide and then elopes. Ritsaart will never provide the stability Hedwig needs, so that the birth and death of a longed-for baby tips her into madness and a life of prostitution and addiction in Paris. Her ultimate deliverance takes the form of a peaceful celibate existence in the Dutch countryside looking after a peasant family.
For all the novel’s psychological insight which suggests an empathy with Hedwig, the plot tells a different story: the sensual woman who gives in to her nature will become a social outcast whether she lives as a whore or a nun.
Lezen&Cetera, Pieter Steinz
|BOOKS BY FREDERIK VAN EEDEN:|
The Deeps of Deliverance
A woman who gives up a life of affluence to be with an artist is increasingly plagued by psychoses.
An allegorical fairy-tale.
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Design: Maurits de Bruijn
Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author.