Monday, March 12, 2007

The Discovery of Heaven

Tonight the novel "The Discovery of Heaven" of—ever-still-waiting-for-the-Nobel-prize-for-literature—writer Harry Mulish was elected by 'the Dutch' to be the best Dutch novel ever.... Ha ha... what a laugh!

A couple of years ago, in a national television show, Pim Fortuyn was elected by 'the Dutch' to be the 'Greatest Dutch person' ever; just ahead of William of Orange (say, the founding father of the Netherlands) who became second, and way ahead of people like Huygens, Erasmus, Spinoza, Rembrandt, van Gogh, and Anne Frank—the latter was incidentally discovered not to have ever been legally Dutch. An intense and fierce debate in the media as well as in pubs and bars over this disgrace followed. The 'intellectual elite' ridiculed the working class that was supposedly responsible for the disgrace. Outcries like "the general public is too ignorant" and "incapable of making a sound judgement in such an election" were reverberating through the media and pubs alike. Not only did this TV-show instigate a parliamentary debate over whether Anne Frank should be conferred Dutch citizenship posthumously, it even caused the Dutch government to erect a special committee to formulate a list of historic events that every Dutchman and -woman of tomorrow (read: high school children of today) should now about: the Canon of Dutch history. Now possibly, the same 'ignorant working class' may again be responsible for the result of the current election, but such seems unlikely. Even only knowing about existence of 'The discovery of heaved' (eh... and knowing it's a novel..) seems to imply a certain level of education—let alone actually reading novels, or watching an entire night of television about novels while Tyra Banks and her expert jury are bitching at America's next top model candidates on the other channel. I'm not exactly what you'd call a novel junky, nor have I ever caught myself in the act of relishing over the phrases of the latest García Márquez, but in my view, this election of the Discovery of Heaven debunks the self patting 'intellectual elite' as being just as incapable of good judgment as they deem 'the uneducated working class' to be.

Should you wish to decide for yourself—and I don't see why you would, but just in case—my advice would be to first get hold of the movie to see if you think the metaphysical plot is really worth the 900 or so pages long wrestle. To be fair, I must admit that I even made it half way through—I stopped precisely because of the totally incredible and dissatisfying plot in the movie. (Not to mention the debilitatingly blatant and completely unconvincing display of prowess and (rather shallow) knowledgeability about the currently prevailing scientific world-view, which the writer managed to keep devoid of even the slightest suggestion of awareness on his part of the limited expiry date of scientific knowledge.)

Personally I'd recommend "De Komedianten" ('The Comedians') by Louis Couperus (bit of a personal preference perhaps), and "De Tweeling" by Tessa de Loo (and the fabulous Oscar nominated film version Twin Sisters), although I wouldn't be confident to nominate them 'best Dutch novels ever'. I would however like to nominate this 'the best ... ever election' TV-show format for the title of 'The worst election TV-show format ever'.

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