The new era at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century was disastrous for the literary heritage of the preceding Old and New Limburgish eras. As the language and handwriting were often archaic and people were unable to read the books, much of the literature from the Middle and perhaps also Old Limburgish eras was discarded as waste for several centuries. Such works were viewed as remnants of an uncivilised time and consequently cut or torn in half, used as stuffing for book bindings or folded as covers for books.
When the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia died in 1781 and her son Joseph II came to power, many reforms were implemented in quick succession. One of Joseph II's reforms was to close the majority of monasteries and convents in those parts of East Limburg under Austrian occupation. As a result, numerous monastery and convent libraries, which had preserved part of the Limburgish literary heritage for centuries, lost many of their books.
However, the biggest catastrophe occurred when the French revolutionary government closed the monasteries and convents in Limburg. All the books that had escaped destruction up until that point, were now confiscated from monasteries, convents, chapters and abbeys in one large operation. Some monasteries and convents managed to safeguard some books by giving them to private individuals, but all the books confiscated by the French underwent a selection. Books that were approved found their way to the library of the École Centrale in Maastricht. Mainly theological books and books written in Limburgish, which usually also had some religious content, were declared to be unsuitable and were then passed on for sale at public auction. These books were sold throughout the Department of the Lower Meuse. The most important public auction occurred in Maastricht from October 23rd-31st and on November 2, 1801. At these sales, 30,000 books were sold as old paper for the pitiful price of 1923 French francs. One can only guess what works must have been sold in this manner. No catalogue was made and inventories of convent and monastery libraries that had been plundered were often lacking. Considering the Middle Limburgish books that managed to escape destruction, a much larger group of works written in Limburgish must have been destroyed. Nevertheless, various collectors managed to get hold of a small selection of books, which were eventually spread throughout the whole of Europe. This still complicates current research into Limburgish literary history.
Ironically, during this period when a large part of the Limburgish literary and cultural history was lost forever, the first stirrings of a new Limburgish literary age could be sensed. The reasons for such a revival in the 18th century remain somewhat unclear. The question of whether Limburgish literature ever vanished completely is difficult to answer, given the destruction of books that took place at the end of the 18th century. However, to date no texts have been found from the 17th century up until halfway through the 18th century. It appears as if for no apparent reason, people suddenly began to write in Limburgish again, around the same time that the organised destruction of books written in Limburgish occurred.
According to Mr Lou Spronck, a possible explanation may be found in Limburg’s surrounding areas, which have formed a single cultural area with the province for centuries. French was quickly introduced in Liège, a region where Walloon had been the written language until the 16th century, when the area lost its independence. In response, the Liègean variety of Walloons was increasingly used within the local literature. In Limburg, and in particular in Maastricht, ‘Frenchification’ was similarly seen as a threat to Limburg’s own identity. As a reaction against the widespread disintegration of Limburg’s own particular character by a foreign language, an increased focus on Limburgish identity took place.
The Sermoen euver de wäörd Inter omnes Linguas nulla Mosa Trajestensi prastantior gehauwe in Mestreech 1729 (‘Ceremony on the Words Inter omnes Linguas nulla Mosa Trajestensi prastantior held in Maastricht in 1792’) is one of the first texts belonging to the New Limburgish era. The text was rediscovered in 1937 and was written by an unknown author, who took issue with foreign influences on the Limburgish language. The author occasionally attacked Latin and English, more frequently Dutch, and French the most. It is tempting to conclude from the text that the disintegration of what was uniquely Limburgish about the Limburgish language was the reason why Limburgers focused on their own culture once again. On the basis of several descriptions made in this text, some people believe the date of 1729 to be incorrect and suggest that the text must have been written around 1775. The work is probably based on a text that was produced in Aachen, also in the second half of the 18th century.
From the end of the 18th century onwards, several poems, anonymous or of uncertain authorship, written for festive occasions, have been passed down. Mr Lambertus (‘Lemke’) Gilissen (‘Primus Gilissen’) won the primus award at the University of Leuven in 1784 and Mr Dominicus (‘Muneke’) Bexs (‘Primus Bexs’) did so in 1790; each was presented with a poem written in his honour. Bexs’ primus poem is assumed to have been written by Father Delruelle, because a shorter 1972 version, the Leetsche euver de Primus Theodorus Domunicus Becks (‘Small Song about Primus Theodorus Domunicus Becks’) was almost certainly the priest's work. Another primus poem, entitled Primus Gijsbertus Joannes Alexander van der Vrencken from 1787, is known to have existed, but the text has been lost.
Another text from the final quarter of the 18th century is the Vesperesatie Pertouns, an ode to the 50th anniversary of ordination of Friar Augustijn, also known as Antoon Partouns, who was born in Maastricht in 1709. The poem is incomplete, with 12 stanzas and four verses.
Another poem, Op den professie dag van Nellis en Antoon (bij de Begaorde) (‘On the Profession Day of Nellis and Antoon (by the Begards)’), probably dates from the end of the 18th century, and consists of 10 stanzas of six lines each. Who exactly Nellis and Antoon were remains unknown, but they are believed to be friars from the Begard Monastery in Maastricht. The author of the poem is assumed to be Mr P.G. Schols or Mr J.H. Schols, although this is not certain.
The first author from the New Limburgish period whose name is known is Father Delruelle, also known locally as Delderwel. Ludovic Pascal Delruelle (Maastricht, 1735 – Maastricht 04-30-1807) was a priest of Walloon descent, who worked as a parish priest in the parish of Saint Martinus in Wyck from 1783 onwards. Because of his anti-Jacobin views, Father Delruelle was forced by the French authorities to resign as a parish priest and go into exile between 1795-1802. He died in Wyck on April 30, 1807.
Father Delruelle’s Verwietgediechte (‘Reproach Poems’) form part of a genre which recounts the daily life of the local Maastricht population at the end of the 18th century. From the window in his presbytery, he would often overhear conversations or arguments between people on the street below. Father Delruelle recorded the harsh language used in poems such as Verwiet tösse Naoberse en Maog (‘Reproach between Neighbour and Maid’), Verwiet tösse Jaan en Mei (‘Reproach between Jaan and Mei’), Verwiet tösse Naober en Vrouw (‘Reproach between Neighbour and Wife’), and three different poems, all entitled Verwiet tösse maan en vrouw (‘Reproach between Husband and Wife’) and Verwiet teusse Greet en Mei (‘Reproach between Greet and Mei’).
Poems containing an account of women talking about marriage appear in two of Delruelle’s dialogues, entitled Samespraok tösse Trees en Trui (‘Dialogue between Trees and Trui’) and Samespraok tösse Kaat en Mei (‘Dialogue between Kaat and Mei’). An account of the eternal marital strife between husband and wife can be found in the priest’s poem Lied van den Eerwaarden Heer L.P. Delruelle pastoor (‘Song of the Honourable Reverend Father L.P. Delruelle’).
Delruelle is also believed to be the composer of a song with 13 stanzas of eight lines each, entitled Jennemij en Trijn (‘Jennemij and Trijn’), which was written for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Helena Jorissen from Wijlre entering the convent. Another homage poem containing 18 stanzas of eight lines each, and which is very similar to Jennemij en Trijn, was written for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Francisca Neven, prioress of the Beyart Convent, on entering the convent. Due to the poem’s close resemblance to Jennemij en Trijn, as well as the fact that it is sung in the same way, Delruelle is also assumed to be its author. A poem consisting of 24 stanzas of eight lines each was also written for lay sister Anna Houben’s 50th anniversary at the Beyart. The first eleven stanzas of another poem, entitled the Broelof vaan zuster An (‘The Wedding of Sister An’), are the same as those of the homage poem for Anna Houben, to which another 19 stanzas were added. The Broelof van Marij Nasse 20 7ber 1790 (‘The Wedding of Marij Nasse 20 7ber 1790’) contains 26 stanzas of eight lines each. Two poems entitled Aofsjeid (‘Farewell’), of which one has 12 stanzas of six lines each and the other 23 stanzas of six lines each, is also mentioned. The poems were composed to mark the departure of sisters from the Nieuwenhof Convent and the Beyart Convent. Another longer known poem, with 26 stanzas of eight lines each, was partly made up of other poems, and was offered on the occasion of the hospice entry of Jennemij, dochter van Pi Keunings tösse de brögke (‘Jennemij, Daughter of Pi Keunings Between The Bridges’).
A song entitled the Kleppermansleed (‘Song of the Night Watchman’), which was initially attributed to Delruelle, is now believed almost certainly not to have been written by him, since it probably dates back to the middle of the 19th century.
None of Delruelle's original Limburgish manuscripts have survived to date. Moreover, other writers subsequently published various poems under Delruelle’s name. Therefore, the type of and how many poems he wrote remains uncertain. None of the above-mentioned poems can be claimed with full certainty to have been written by Delruelle himself. The original manuscripts are missing and there are no contemporaneous testimonies recording that Delruelle wrote anything in Limburgish. Nevertheless, such poems are assumed to have been written by Delruelle on the basis of oral tradition.
In 1806, impelled by an initiative from the French Ministry of the Interior, and under the supervision of Mr Coquebert de Montbret, Director of the Bureau de Statistique, a request was sent to the prefects of the various border departments of France to translate the text of the Prodigal Son from Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke into the local vernacular. This request was also sent to the Department of the Lower Meuse and the Department of the Roer, which were both located in Limburg. The objective was not so much to gain insight into the spoken language, as it was to find out in which regions French was the main language of communication. Translations into various East Limburgish dialects of Limburgish, as well as of Rhenish, were returned to Paris. These texts are among the earliest works written in Limburgish from the New Limburgish period.
Following the first flourishing of Limburgish literature at the beginning of the New Limburgish era, a masterpiece appeared from the pen of Mr Theodoor Weustenraad (Maastricht, 11-15-1805 – Jambes, 06-25-1849). Only the first two stanzas of his humorous satirical poem, entitled De Percessie vaan Sjerpenheuvel or De Beiweeg nao Sjerpenheuvel (‘The Procession of/to Scherpenheuvel’) and written between 1830 and 1840, were published in the Momusklanken in 1883. Mr Weustenraad’s epic poem caused quite a controversy, because of his portrayal of the sanctimoniousness of the Catholic Church and much of the upper and middle class families in Maastricht, in addition to his candid descriptions of sexual behaviour. For almost a century, the work was circulated in secret as a handwritten manuscript amongst a small group of people. It was only in 1931 that the whole text was published anonymously by a small group of young intellectuals and artists, with Mr Charles Nypels as the principal force behind publication, and with illustrations provided by Mr Charles Eyck. In 1964, Mr Harie Derks republished the book in order to challenge the bourgeois mentality in Limburg. In 1994, Mr Lou Spronck published a new and more scientific edition, illustrated by Mr Toussaint Essers.
De Percessie recounts the story of believers from Maastricht, who are on pilgrimage to do penance, and their arrival in Scherpenheuvel. Weustenraad (the first-person narrator) is among them and is also searching for a guesthouse. In a bar, he meets a girl that he likes. They have a meal together and immediately thereafter end up in bed for a night of passion. The following morning Weustenraad goes to the church to attend mass and to behold the miracles. However, everything goes wrong during mass. The cripple, who supposedly needs healing, has drunk all the money he received from the priests in return for pitifully hopping into the church. Instead of looking like a cripple, he staggers into the church, blatantly drunk. After mass, Weustenraad is invited to have lunch with the parish priest and finds himself in the company of numerous unkempt and dirty clergymen. When the kitchen maid is called upon to clean the soutane of one of the priests, the priest gets an enormous erection and she barely escapes from being raped. On his return, Weustenraad sleeps once more with the kitchen maid and everyone arrives in Maastricht contented.
A simple story on the face of it, but Weustenraad’s mastery shows itself in the natural flow of his rhyming skills and the great sense of humour he weaves into the text. Weustenraad’s liberal spirit also uses the story as an opportunity to reflect on the more philosophical questions of life. For example, he portrays truth as a whore, shows the theft committed by the Church and wonders whether God is to be found in a dark church or in the nature that surrounds us.
Weustenraad’s poem has lost little of its appeal and continues to portray a world that can be easily understood today. The descriptions of sexual exploits are no longer shocking simply because they are sexual. People are quite used to such depictions nowadays. What is slightly disturbing, however, is that Weustenraad regards women only in terms of his own sexual needs, and they seem to figure in the story to only to satisfy male desires. Nevertheless, the text does show is that, through the ages, Weustenraad has been able to shock and satisfy the minds of his readers in equal measure.
Momusklanken (‘Momus Sounds’) is an anthology of poetry that was published in 1883 by members of the Sociëteit Momus, a charitable and literary society in Maastricht. The occasion was the society’s fourth eleven-year anniversary and the need to raise funds for the new temple situated on the Vrijthof in Maastricht.
Various Momus members contributed poems to the anthology. All in all, two old Momus (drinking) songs were published, as well as fourteen other poems written in the Limburgish of Maastricht. In addition, eight contributions written in Dutch were supplied, as well as twelve in French. The poems written in the Limburgish language were composed by G.D.L. Franquinet, L. Polis and Th. Weustenraad
The two old Momus drinking songs are entitled Momusvräög (‘Momus Joy’), written by F.S. in 1841, and De Momusmöts (‘The Momus Hat’), written by G.A.S in the same year. Other Momus poems written in a similar style include Momus 4 x XI-jäöreg zjubilei (‘Momus 4 x XI Anniversary’) from the Momus almanac of 1883, Laot klinke de glazer (‘Let’s Hear Those Clinking Glasses’) by G.D.L. Franquinet and Op ’t Mestreechter beer (‘To the Maastricht Beer’) by L. Polis. These are typical drinking songs that contain a comic angle, often dealing with the Momus society and revealing the society’s spirit or the joy experienced at parties and social gatherings, along with all the things that are part of such events. Although not a drinking song, Adieu aon d’n awwe Momustempel (‘Goodbye to The Old Momus Temple’) by L. Polis, focused on a particular period of the society’s history, from which the spirit of the Momus had emerged.
Mestreechter Klanke (‘Maastricht Sounds’) by G.D.L. Franquinet is an homage to the sweetness of the mother tongue, spoken straight from the heart. It reveals how rich and joyful the language is. Franquinet’s poem V’r zien us weer (‘We’ll Meet Again’) deals with the sorrow of saying goodbye and the sweet hope of meeting again. De Lindeboum vaan Kan (‘The Linden Tree of Kanne’) is a poem that recalls the aldermen's bench and how justice was delivered under a linden tree, resulting in a trial by ordeal. In Oppen Heugemer Weeg (‘On The Heugem Road’), Franquinet encounters a woman who describes the misery of her life. Unable to offer the woman any solace, he can only bow to this martyr. In In de hei (‘On The Heath’), Franquinet revisits the suffering the lower classes experience in winter, which is always forgotten during the summer.
L. Polis’ poem Chariteit (‘Charity’) is slightly more serious. The poem is a call to the rich for charity and depicts the misery of the poor during winter, contrasting their suffering with the very comfortable circumstances of the rich. De braven ambachsmaan (‘The Good Craftsman’) by L. Polis recounts the virtues of hard labour and craftsmanship. Allemansvrund (‘Everyman’s Friend’), by the same writer, is an ode to an easy-going and accommodating attitude in life, dedicated to avoiding conflict.
As mentioned before, the initial publication of part of Th. Weustenraad’s Percessie vaan Sjerpenheuvel was a signal contribution to Limburgish literature. In a piece entitled ’t Geld (‘The Money’), 19 stanzas appear as a separate poem in which Weustenraad describes the joys and dangers of possessing money. Six other stanzas from De Percessie vaan Sjerpenheuvel were published as ’t Vreugjaor (‘Springtime’), which is an ode to the renewed awakening and flourishing of nature. These were the least controversial pieces of Weustenraad’s work, which did not offend anyone at the time of their publication.
For centuries it was believed that local vernaculars were suitable only for performing farces, which mainly featured fun being made of characters from the lower classes - peasants and servants. It was long assumed that such characters and local vernaculars could not be used to portray the harsher realities.
In the second part of the 19th century, the Sociëteit Momus in Maastricht and d’n Dramatiek in Roermond began to use Limburgish for performances other than local lyrical dramas, musical parodies and operas. For example, M. Krans adapted the medieval play l’avocat Pathelin as <Avvecaot Plökvink (‘Barrister Plökvink’) in Maastricht in 1843; De ambitieuze burger by the Dane Ludvig Holberg was presented as De rangzöchtege börger (‘The High-Flying Citizen’) in 1844; and Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme as D’n ierzöchtege börger (‘The Ambitious Citizen’) in 1862. Other adaptations were also performed, such as plays by Eugène Scribe, Eugène Labiche and August von Kotzebue.
In addition to translations of these plays into Limburgish, a dozen original works can be traced back to Maastricht and Roermond. In 1856, G.D.L. Franquinet wrote a play in three acts, entitled Klaos Pompernikkel of d'n dokter tege wèl en dank (‘Klaas Pompernikkel or The Unwilling Doctor’), which was followed by Bloodzukers (‘Leeches’) and ’t Kindermäögske (‘The Nanny’) in 1857. Laurent Polis penned around twenty works, including Jeang, a tragedy in one short act entirely composed in verse, which was first performed at the Momus Theatre on November 28, 1875. In 1877, Polis wrote Venus, de bis 'n krök! (‘Venus, You’re Useless’), which was a pastoral play in one act, and an opera entitled De twie Brems of woe twie leefstes z’ch veur ei meitske kloppe.......?! (‘The Two Brems or Where Two Lovers Fight Over One Girl…….?!’) in 1888. C. Breuls wrote an operetta entitled Rooske Kleve and Fr. Lousberg composed the opera De Mestreechter straotjong (‘The Maastricht Street Urchin’). In Roermond, Emile Seipgens composed De Schinderhannes (‘The Brigand’) in 1846, followed by Eine Franse kreegsgevangene (‘A French Prisoner of War’) in 1871, and De leste Schlaag (‘The Last Strike’) in 1872.
De leste Schlaag was first performed by d’n Dramatiek in Roermond on January 21, 1872. The play is a lighthearted political critique in three acts; it is primarily in Limburgish, but also contains several dialogues in Dutch and French, thereby highlighting the linguistic situation in Limburg at the time. During this period, people were apparently aware that something was amiss with the elections in Limburg, but probably only a few knew the extent to which elections were being influenced by The Hague. Seipgens recounts how two politicians manage to convince a retired merchant, who has no political background, to stand as a candidate, through influencing the merchant’s wife. Eventually, the reason for doing so becomes clear, which is to prevent another candidate – very capable, but unwanted – from entering politics.
Maastricht and Roermond were not the only places where plays in Limburgish were written and performed. In Heerlen, M.J.H. Kessels wrote several plays, such as Doctoors-kandidaat (‘The Doctor’s Candidate’) and Wie der Tinus seldaot wilt weëde (‘How Tinus Wants To Become A Soldier’), as well as two operettas: De Bokkenrijders (‘The Goat Riders’) and De meikoningin van Geleen (‘The May Queen of Geleen’).
At the beginning of the 20th century, Fons Olterdissen (Maastricht, 12-12-1865 – Maastricht, 02-24-1923) – one of the most famous popular authors writing in Limburgish – composed several operas following the Limburgish literary tradition of the 19th century. The two best-known operas are De Kaptein van Köpenick (‘The Captain from Köpenick’) from 1907 and Trijn de Begijn (‘Trijn the Beguine’) from 1910. These classics proved to be favourites and were often performed throughout the 20th century, continuing into the 21st.
Fons Olterdissen was a very talented man. He was educated at the Rijksschool voor de Kunstnijverheid (‘National School for the Arts’) in Amsterdam in the 1880s, together with his best friend, Henri Goovaerts, who became a well-known portrait painter. After receiving his diploma, Olterdissen returned to Maastricht, and, together with Goovaerts, opened a small private art school, with the goal of reviving the arts in an impoverished Maastricht. In 1899, Olterdissen was one of the principal founders of Maastricht Attractions, which would later become the Tourist Information Office, responsible for organising numerous events in Maastricht. Moreover, Olterdissen was also the organiser, designer and director of a historical parade in 1905, and several processions that took place in the city. In addition, he was an accomplished singer.
Fons Olterdissen wrote his operas in order to pay off the debts he had incurred as a result of organising the numerous processions. The operas would form the beginning of Olterdissen’s work in the Limburgish language. The author’s short vignettes, entitled Vaan stad en lui veur 50 jaor (‘Of City and People 50 Years Ago’) were originally published in the Limburger Koerier (‘Limburgish Courier’), before being published as a collection. Through these folk tales, Olterdissen provides a short history of Maastricht from 1860 to 1870. He describes the daily life of the period, as it was lived through communion celebrations, weddings, funerals, fairs, market days, parades and executions. These stories are almost mythologised portraits, depicting the essence of folk life in lively images and colourful expressions, held together with a comical narrative.
The publication of several texts between 1750 and 1830 was just the beginning of a revival of the Limburgish written tradition; the long-lasting cultural period of the 19th century marked New Limburgish literary history. The reasons for this revival are largely unknown. However, it is assumed that the widespread disintegration of Limburgishness which was already underway in the 18th century was heightened in East Limburg by its traumatic forced annexation by Holland in 1839. As a consequence, in some East Limburgish cities, such as Maastricht, Roermond, and Heerlen, citizens were moved to establish and join cultural and literary societies that took a renewed interest in the Limburgish language. During this period, everything was relatively quiet in West Limburg, most likely because it was difficult to focus on Limburgishness in the turbulent times which saw the rise of the Vlaamse Beweging.
The only exception to the silence in West Limburg was the sad voice of Jules Frère (Tongeren, 06-19-1881 – 08-06-1937) with his Druvig Bukske (‘Sad Booklet’). Frère came from an eminent banking family from Tongeren and lost his father at the age of nine. Towards the end of the 19th century, he was an actor with the theatre company De Vlaamsche Kring (‘The Flemish Circle’) and worked tirelessly for a ‘civilised’ pronunciation of Flemish. Frère studied law in Liège from 1903 onwards and was also a socialist; during his student days, he was a supporter of the Vlaamse Beweging. This made him something of a nonconformist in the small town of Tongeren at that time. Frère pleaded the first court case held in the Dutch language in Tongeren. From 1919 until his death, Jules Frère was a judge at the juvenile court in Tongeren. The poet published his first Dutch poems during his years as a student. When Germany occupied Belgium during World War I, Frère was deported to Germany. On his return from this traumatic experience during the war years of 1915-1917, the poet wrote his first and only collection of poetry in Limburgish, entitled Druvig Bukske. Frère probably used the Limburgish dialect of his hometown, since this would sound better and more natural in the poems. By choosing the Limburgish of his hometown, in which Frère expressed his complaints, sarcasm and disillusionment, some of the poet’s nonconformism still shines through, reinforced by his painful war experiences.
Frère’s Druvig Bukske guides us through the old Roman city of Tongeren, with its Gothic church, prominent courthouse and lively fair. The author introduces us to several of the city’s inhabitants - beggars, children, friars and Beguines, his friends and his beloved. Frère speaks of death in the grave, of Our Lord on the Cross, and of Saint Nicolas who is making his rounds. Above all, Frère manages to do so in a language and poetic form that compel both amazement and emotion.
The Limburgish literary harvest from the long-lasting cultural period of the 19th century was certainly plentiful. Poetry, plays and shorter prose pieces were the main genres, and a continuous flow of new plays was produced within the Momus and d’n Dramatiek for the amusement of the citizenry. Moreover, not all of these plays were comedies. Translations of certain foreign plays, as well as the creation of more serious Limburgish plays, indicate a desire for Limburgish works which would present more than merely the comic, lighthearted side of life.
The next period in Limburgish literary history runs from the aftermath of World War I until 1945. In the early part of this period, only stories and poems appeared in various periodicals. The Vereniging Veldeke, which was established in East Limburg in 1926, released a bi-monthly periodical, in which most Limburgish authors published their poems, stories and articles. The writing of books remained an exception. The topics in these short stories include Limburgish identity, chauvinism and religion. Many of the authors were members of the clergy, which may explain why most of these texts appear to be rather virtuous and moralistic.
Following World War I, the political atmosphere in Limburg, troubled by Belgium’s intention to re-annex parts of Limburg, as well as by the Limburgers’ disaffection towards the Belgians and Dutch, surprisingly enough, resulted in little literature being produced. However, in 1925, a novel was published in Dutch that dealt specifically with a Limburgish topic. Under the pseudonym of Arnaud de Trega, Ramp en Misdaad (‘Disaster and Crime’) recounted in a strongly anti-Dutch tone a story about life in Maastricht between 1632 and 1638. Mr Paul Chambille de Beaumont published short verses written in Limburgish, which offered stinging anti-Dutch criticism. Dr Edmond Jaspar, who would later become the Chair of the yet to be established Vereniging Veldeke, released a politically motivated work. In this text, Dr. Jaspar denied that Belgium had ever been entitled to Limburg and asked all citizens of Maastricht to resist Belgian annexation plans. However, these works are largely the sum total of published political work. Most of the Limburgish literature of this era focused on other topics, primarily from the past. After all, written political statements in Limburgish had already been prohibited by the Sociëteit Momus in the 19th century, and this restriction continued into the 20th century. This would also be the case from 1926 onwards for the Vereniging Veldeke, which had yet to be established.
Mr E. Franquinet is one of the most important writers during the interbellum period. Under the title Maskeraad (‘Masquerade’), he published a book with stories inspired by Dadaism. The book contains the following short stories: Maskeraad (‘Masquerade’), Louis Savré, Dadaïs (‘Louis Savré, Dadaist’), De Moord in de Hèlstraot (‘Murder on Hell Street’), Beer (‘Beer’) and De Bedeleer (‘The Beggar’).
Dadaism was an informal international movement with followers in Europe and the United States. The beginnings of Dadaism coincided with the start of World War I. For many of its followers, the Dadaist movement was a protest against bourgeois-nationalistic and colonial interests, which the Dadaists believed to be the predominant cause of the war. The movement also protested against the cultural and intellectual conformity in art, as well as in society in general, which the Dadaists felt had led to the war. Many Dadaists believed that the ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ of the bourgeois-capitalistic society had misled people to war. The Dadaists expressed their rejection of such ideology by rejecting logic and instead embraced chaos and irrationality. Dadaism was a protest against a world where people were destroying one another.
In a typical Dadaistic fashion, the title story Maskeraad does not follow a logical narrative. A friend provides details about an afternoon in his life and why he went walking in the hills. He elaborates extensively on the landscape, with all its smells and colours, before finally recounting the misfortune involving a woman which had led to the start of the conversation in the first place. None of the topics are in any way related to one another and do not matter within the context of the conversation, but are nevertheless described in minute detail.
For the world of theatre, the beginning of the 20th century in Limburg was the end of the long-lasting 19th century cultural period that ended with World War I. With the exception of the two operas composed by Fons Olterdissen, not many theatre works were written in Limburgish in the early part of the 20th century. The Sociëteit Momus and d’n Dramatiek both ceased to exist. And after World War I, Limburg was flooded by Dutch theatre.
The further development of plays written in Limburgish came from the far southeastern tip of East Limburg, where Frans Schleiden (Setterich-Siersdorf (Germany), 03-07-1896 – Kerkrade, 07-12-1955) worked as a chaplain in Vijlen and other Limburgish towns. From 1929 to 1955, Schleiden was an Executive Member of the Vereniging Veldeke and editor-in-chief of the society’s periodical.
The chaplain’s first play, entitled D'r brand va Bellent, e drama i 3 bedrieve i Ville geschit (‘The Fire of Bellent, a tragedy in 3 acts which occurred in Vijlen’) was performed to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Vereniging Veldeke in 1931. Between the three acts of the play the audience was able to listen to the music of the Heerlen string orchestra. This folk play dramatised events that had taken place two hundred years ago, i.e. the arson that took place at the farmstead of Bellent, which almost cost the life of an innocent person. Until the mid-seventies, this play was still being performed in Vijlen.
On August 5, 1934, De Koel i Lutterendal (‘The Pit in Lutterendal’) – a play which had been written in 1930 – had its premiere with the Zuid-Limburgsch-Tooneel (ZLT – ‘The South Limburg Theatre’). The protagonist was an 85-year old parish priest, who was confronted with the opening of a coal mine in his parish. The play is centred around the priest’s letter to the bishop, in which he recounts the disaster that may result from this event, while simultaneously asking to be relieved from office. Although admiration for the local people, landscape and culture, as well as the priest’s fear that these will all be lost, play a key role in this work, the play also conveys a great sense of humour, treating human life and tragedy in a mildly satirical manner.
Jef Schillings, the main actor in Der brand va Bellent, was inspired by the possibilities and expressive power of his own language, and how this captivated the audience. As a result, he decided to act in plays that would connect to the character of the Limburgish people. Since there was no repertory of such plays, Mr Schillings contacted the Flemish writer Jac. Ballings and asked him whether he would allow one of his Dutch plays to be translated into Limburgish. The outcome was that Amor in de Pastorie of Bij Heernonkel (‘Amor in the Presbytery or With Reverend Uncle’) was translated as Bie Hieërnonk (‘With Reverend Uncle’). This play recounts the story of a cheerful parish priest who manages to prevent numerous events from taking a turn for the worse. Bie Hieërnonk had its premiere on August 11, 1935, performed by the Zuid-Limburgsch Toneel, and it enjoyed more than seventy performances. This success was followed in 1936 by the performance of ’t Pleegkeend, speul van plezeer en leid (‘The Foster Child, A Play of Joy and Suffering‘) in Echt, which was a Limburgish translation of Mr Ballings’ De Vrome Leugen (‘The Pious Lie’). The local newspaper Het Limburgs Dagblad wrote that Limburgers had become so accustomed to Dutch plays that they had almost forgotten that excellent performances in Limburgish were equally possible. The Limburgish language immediately enriched the play, making it sound noble and distinguished, with words containing a soft cadence not unlike that heard in harmonising notes. The Zuid-Limburgsch Toneel frequently performed Limburgish works, including original plays by the author Pierre Visschers from Valkenburg, in addition to pieces translated from other languages.
In 1936, the theatre company A.K.D.IJ. from Spaubeek gave several performances of De Sjuurkirk va Spaubeek in 1799 (‘The Barn Church of Spaubeek in 1799’), a play by Mathijs Reiniersz., the nom de plume of R. Ritzen. The play narrates the situation in which the priests and the Church found themselves during the French Revolution. One of the characters, a peddler named Nolke Bessems, was depicted as an archetypal Limburger: cheerful, honest, affectionate and unpretentious, with good common sense, and a great sense of humour, which enabled him to keep his wits about him in all situations.
In 1938, A.K.D.IJ. performed another play written by Reiniersz., entitled ’t Hagelkruus va d’n Braomelenhof (‘The Cross of Hail of Blackberry Farmstead’).
In the summer of 1939, shortly before World War II broke out, the Zuid-Limburgsch Toneel performed a play dealing with current events at the time. Another play written by Reiniersz. was entitled Ras, blood of bojem (‘Race, Blood or Soil) or De oerbattaviere van de Lommeleberg (‘The Primordial Batavians of Lommelenberg’). Apart from the parts of the professor and his wife, the whole piece is written in Limburgish. The play recounts how in 1810, a Dutch professor carried out research in relation to the race-blood-soil theory, selecting Lommelenberg as a test site. Nolke Bessems, a character from De sjuurkirk reappears in this play as the cheerful Edel-Battaovier (‘Noble Batavian’).
The third period of the New Limburgish era lasted from 1945 to 1960. During this difficult time of postwar reconstruction, not much attention was paid to Limburgish, although numerous members of the Vereniging Veldeke led the way and tried to convince others of the value of writing in Limburgish. Moreover, Limburg returned to a conservative form of Catholicism in this period, which amongst other things found an expression in the attempt to establish a connection to the pre-war plays of Frans Schleiden from Vijlen. These plays in particular gained more widespread popularity after World War II.
During the last years of the occupation in World War II, Mr Bèr Hollewijn (1907–1978) – a native of Maastricht – began to write plays which were performed by the theatre company De Kemediespeulers (‘The Comedy Actors’) in the same city. In line with the literature from this time, Mr Hollewijn’s work was clearly based on Catholic teachings. The author tried to present these teachings, which covered a wide range of topics, in a realistic and easy to understand manner, in order to challenge ways of thinking that were viewed as incorrect. However, Hollewijn was not always capable of writing drama; his work was frequently considered to be tendentious. Nevertheless, De Kemediespeulers continued to give performances of his works and other Limburgish plays until 1960.
After 1954, the Speelgroep Geleen (‘Geleen Theatre Company’) also began to perform Limburgish plays under the direction of Sjef Nijsten and Max de Bruin. Each year, the company gave an average of 20 performances of original plays written in Limburgish, including works by Hub Janssen and Sjef Nijsten. In addition, Max de Bruin provided translations of works by Wilfried Wroost, Frans Streicher and Erhard Asmus.
More original works were written during this postwar period by authors such as A. Ubaghs-Cobbenhagen, Leon Pluymaekers and R. Lambriks, Edgar Theunissen and Karel Matthijs. Mr Harie Loontjens, whose work will be discussed in more detail below, translated the Middle Dutch comedy Elckerlyc (‘Everyman’) into Spiegel vaan Zaolegheid van Ederein (‘Mirror of Everyman’s Salvation’), and Mr Jan van Makske (Jan Wouters) produced Limburgish renditions of Van de Vos Reinard and Elckerlyc (Ederein – ‘Everyman’). Furthermore, Frans Vossen translated Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream into Limburgish as Ein ongerstong vol touvering (‘A Magical Sunset’). De Kaptein vaan Köpenick en Trijn de Begijn were also performed frequently, giving these works an evergreen status within the world of Limburgish theatre and musicals.
In the 1950s, under the direction of Mr Hun Consten, who also translated other works by Mr Ballings into Limburgish, the Zuid-Limburgsch Toneel performed predominantly plays in the Limburgish language. Between 1934 and 1964, the Zuid-Limburgsch Toneel presented 26 Limburgish-language plays, delivering more than 650 shows.
Harie Loontjens (1902–1986) is another well-known author from this period. As a result of its Catholicism and rather virtuous tone, however, Mr Loontjens’ work is very much a product of its time and nowadays appears quite dated. Many of the central themes in the author’s work are clearly expressed in a short text, entitled Wat Limbörg heet en wèlt behawwe (‘What Limburg Has and Would Like To Keep’), which Mr Loontjes published in 1939. This publication involved several collaborators, such as Jac Schreurs from Thorn, Frans Schleiden from Vijlen and Dr Edmond Jaspar from Maastricht.
Riek bis te aon al die veursprekers!
Veurgegaange door eus veurawwers
Kaome aandere nao en wee wèt,
Of in de jachtenden tied vaan dit ougenblik
Neet bij us of oonder us leve
Heilege die veer neet kinne:
Simpel Mojerkes wèrkend in hun hoeshawwes;
Vajers ploeterend veur hun kinder
Geisteleke veurgengers vaan ’t volk
Die stèl eweg in deenende Leefde
Geve wat zie te geve höbbe.
Slivvenhierke bewaort ouch dao-in
’t Limbörg vaan vreuger!
Laot us hawwe wat veer höbbe!
Veer höbbe dat vaan Uuch gekrege
En veer zölle mètwèrke oonder Eure zege
Tot ’t blieve zal, zoe wie ’t waor:
(Harie Loontjens, Wat Limbörg heet en wèlt behawwe, Eindhoven, 1939, 16)
So richly endowed with all your advocates!
Preceded by our ancestors
Others will follow and who knows,
Whether in the hurried time of this moment,
Live with or among us:
Homely Mothers working in their households;
Fathers toiling away for their children
Spiritual leaders of the people
Who silently in servile Love
Give what they can give.
Lord also preserve in this
the Limburg of days bygone!
Let us keep what we have!
We received it from You
And we will collaborate under Your blessing
To keep things, as they were:
(English translation by Ron Peek, Peek Language Services Ltd, 2009)
The most well-known books by Harie Loontjens are Kribbelkes; gediechskes in 't Mastreechs (‘Scribblings: Poems in the Maastricht Vernacular’) from 1941, Vief Keersvertèllinge in 't Mastreechs (‘Five Christmas Stories in the Maastricht Vernacular’) from 1944 and Wiecker lui; Vertèlsels in 't Mastreechs (‘People from Wyck: Stories in the Maastricht Vernacular’) from 1946.
Loontjens’ exceptionally beautiful Limburgish translation of Elckerlyc, a Flemish-Brabantian allegorical or morality play from around 1480, perfectly reflects the spirit of the postwar period. Elckerlyc symbolically uses various characters to present archetypical figures. In less than 900 lines of verse, personifications such as Everyman, God, Death, Friendship, Virtue, Beauty and others make their entrance, with God as the first speaker, who sends Death to Elckerlyc, in order to have him account for his actions. Since Elckerlyc is based on very clear religious moral principles (everyone is summoned to account for their actions in front of God), the work is also referred to as a morality play.
The theme of Elckerlyc is simple. Everything turns around the inevitable and sometimes unpredictable coming of Death, who snatches people from life and brings them to judgement. In the Middle Ages, where never-ending political and military strife and disease made life uncertain, the state of one’s soul was a matter of compelling urgency, and the Church made every effort to deliver this message effectively.
The tragedy of Elckerlyc centres around the belief that human life is tragic. Humans are ‘the actors within this tragedy of life’, continuously moving towards their ending, i.e. God’s inevitable and eternal judgement. The relationship to virtue is crucial in this regard and humans are not alone. Assisted by the Church as an institution of salvation, people can confess, do penance, and cleanse their conscience through the sacrament provided by the priest, recovering their virtue.
Mr Felix Rutten (Sittard, 07-03-1882 – Rome, 12-22-1971) was a well-known and popular Catholic writer in Dutch between 1900 and 1940. Following World War II he moved to Rome and began to use Limburgish as the language of choice in his literary work. In a similar vein to Frans Schleiden and Harie Loontjens, Mr Rutten’s work shows a penchant for Catholicism and the good life of bygone times, which he mixes with numerous neo-Romantic elements.
The author studied Germanic philology in Leuven and won his doctoral degree with a thesis on Vondel in Liège in 1909. Meanwhile, Rutten had already gained some fame as a poet in the wake of the Tachtigers (‘Movement of (Eighteen-)Eighties’) movement within Dutch literature. In 1910, Dr Rutten made the first of several journeys through Europe and North Africa, which he recorded in Dutch in his literary travelogues. During World War I and the decade that followed, the author found himself back in the Netherlands, where he also became known as an orator (De Romantiek van Limburg (‘The Romanticism of Limburg’)) and playwright (Beatrijs (‘Beatrice’)). On February 22, 1919, he married Marie Koenen and the couple settled in Geulle. The marriage lasted ten years before ending in divorce. Following two periods of extensive travel, Rutten settled permanently in Rome at the age of 55. There he became known as the Limburgish Roman, who shared his love of Rome with many well-known, as well as lesser-known, Dutch nationals. In recognition of the way he promoted Rome, Dr. Rutten was awarded the Medal of Merit by the Eternal City on the Capitol in 1957.
Rutten’s journey to Limburg in 1938 proved to be his last and the author never again returned to the area. Nevertheless, Rutten wrote most of his poetry and stories in Limburgish from the age of seventy onwards. The poet celebrated the Limburg of his childhood, but some of his personal problems also found their way into the literature he was writing in Limburgish. On his eightieth birthday, Rutten was made an honorary citizen of Sittard. He died in Rome, aged 89, on December 22, 1971.
Publications of Rutten’s work written in Limburgish include the following: the Christmas story Daags veur Krismes (‘The Day Before Christmas’) and a small book of verse entitled Registro, both published in 1957; Novellen (‘Novellas’) from 1959; the nostalgic booklet Luuj en laeve: Oet awt Zitterd (‘People and Life: From Old Sittard’) from 1960; Et geheim van de Gröb (‘The Secret of the Ditch’) from 1971; and an anthology of the author’s work written in Limburgish, entitled Doe bleefs in mich (‘You Remained Within Me’), published after his death in 1971.
Mr Harie Eussen (1901-1954), sometimes also known as Hub Eussen, was a Limburgish poet who came from Ransdaal, near Klimmen. Mr Eussen is regarded as one of the few exceptions to the Catholic spirit of the postwar period and provides another, more down-to-earth voice within Limburgish literature. The author was a junior notary public by profession.
In addition to scholarly works on the dialect of Ransdaal, Eussen also wrote poetry and plays. Several editions of his poems have been preserved in some of the periodicals published by the Vereniging Veldeke, in Mosalect, and in other works. Eussen’s more famous poems include Perreplujekris (‘Umbrella Crisis’) and D’r käölderjong (‘The Miner Boy’), and two of his better-known plays are entitled Boereblood (‘Peasant’s Blood’) and Wie d'r Giëleshaof óngergóng (‘The Downfall of the Giëles Farmstead’).
The next period of New Limburgish literary history is known as that of the ’68-ers; this lasted from 1960 to 1985. This era was characterised by opposition to the conservative Roman Catholic tradition, leading to the rapid decline of this conservative Catholic influence. The topics covered became more diverse and themes less innocent. More books were published and increased attention was paid to the language itself. Nevertheless, the difference between good and evil was still an important theme. In 1976, on the occasion of the organisation’s 50th anniversary, the Vereniging Veldeke published an anthology entitled Mosalect. The book contained poetry and prose pieces by writers from all over Limburg, and although some of the texts were written prior to 1925, the majority were written after this time.
Paul van der Goor (Roermond, 11-09-1932 – 09-22-1983) was a poet and writer from Roermond. By 1952, Mr van der Goor had already published his poem Vrunj (‘Friends’) in Veldeke Magazine. Between 1952 and 1983, he published approximately 60 poems through the Vereniging Veldeke, including a collection of 16 poems in 1977, entitled Tösse vreug- en naojaor (‘Between Spring and Autumn’). The poet was one of the first Limburgish authors who did not produce inward-looking texts on Limburg. Instead, he wrote in Limburgish about topics extending beyond the borders of Limburg, such as his experience of a raid in Amsterdam during World War II. Although van der Goor’s poetry was written in Limburgish, the majority of his prose was written in Dutch. Two exceptions to this are the children’s story Wie Remunj óntsjtange is (‘The Origins of Roermond’), which relocated the legend of Saint Christopher to the Meuse in Roermond, and a partial translation into Limburgish of the Gospel of Luke. Several of Mr van der Goor’s pieces were also published in Mosalect. From 1976 until his death in 1983, van der Goor was also editor-in-chief of Veldeke Magazine.
Léon Veugen (Maastricht, 10-30-1919 – Narooma (Australia), 05-03-2001), was the author of the first fully-fledged New Limburgish novel. Mr Veugen was born into a butcher’s family and was the second eldest in a family of 9 children. The novelist’s father had wished to become a priest, but eventually became a butcher when he discovered that women had lovely legs. Probably due to his father’s influence, Léon would play at being a priest as a child, and had a small altar, a chasuble and other peripherals. At the grammar school of the Henric van Veldeke College in Maastricht, young Léon gained a deep appreciation for Homer’s Odyssey under the influence of his Greek teacher Dr Witlox. Following his religious beliefs, the author then entered the Mission College of Saint Francis Solanus in Sittard, in preparation for becoming a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. In Sittard, Veugen’s passion for the Odyssey can already be seen as an early inspiration for his subsequent work, in the author’s youthful attempts to translate the epic. However, just like his father before him, Veugen did not complete his studies at the seminary. Following his time in Sittard, Mr Veugen is believed to have travelled through Limburg for various years, as well as to have rented rooms in Rotterdam and The Hague, where he worked on a freelance basis for, amongst others, the Prinses Irene Fonds (the Princess Irene Foundation) on behalf of long-term patients. Veugen subsequently spent time as an office worker prior to the start of World War II.
In August 1940, the author was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was admitted to the Hornerheide sanatorium for the first time. This proved to be a time during which Veugen delved more deeply into literature, even though he was not very serious about this study at the time. Drawing was one of Veugen’s other passions and this emerged as a distraction from the illness which kept him bedridden. Nevertheless, the author’s first published poem in Dutch appeared several years later, in the fourth edition of Stijl (‘Style’) in December 1943, written under the pseudonym of Eugène v. Lon, which is an anagram of his name. This Dutch poem, entitled Overgave (‘Surrender’), describes a moment of mystical ecstasy.
Early in 1944, Veugen was able to leave Hornerheide and return to Maastricht. Here, the death of a former colleague a few days later, on Good Friday, provided the inspiration for a poem in Dutch, entitled Goede Vrijdag (‘Good Friday’).
Es God bleef (‘God Willing’), a highly autobiographical compilation, appeared in 1960. This work consisted of reflections on bygone times, memories of the author’s grandparents and parents, and portraits of working class life in Maastricht during the 1920s and 1930s, prior to the outbreak of World War II. The book depicted the world of a maturing child, growing up in the bosom of his family, being raised in the Roman Catholic faith, and who tried to find a way outside of this tradition, both at school and in his immediate environment.
All these individual memories are joined through an acrostic: the initial letters of each reminiscence spell Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune, the Debussy composition (which had been inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem) that inspired Veugen. In this way, Veugen aptly caught the mood of Debussy’s Prélude with his reflections, i.e. that of a languid summer’s day, where flashes of unrelated memories appear in a light, comfortable silence, merging into a string of pearls of bygone days.
Es God bleef enjoyed four reprints, demonstrating Veugen’s long-held belief that stories written in a language that people feel closer to, in this case Limburgish, would be read and appreciated.
Nevertheless, Veugen’s wife Mattie did not see a promising future in Maastricht. Her mother, as well as several relatives, had already emigrated to Australia and she was afraid of the communist threat that existed within Europe at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s. Ultimately, Veugen’s wife decided that the family must move to Australia, much to the distress of his relatives, as well as almost certainly to the author himself, who nevertheless found himself unable to say ‘no’. Mattie’s decision would have a major impact on Veugen’s life; his soul never stopped longing for Limburg, and the author took early retirement in the 1970s and returned to Limburg on his own in 1979, disillusioned with his marriage. Six months prior to his return to Maastricht, Veugen drove with his car through a winter landscape in Australia, which strongly reminded him of the cold carnival nights in Maastricht. At that very moment, Veugen knew that he would write a novel. The book’s title would be De lèste Carneval (‘The Last Carnival’), even though the story would actually be entirely unrelated to carnival. Since the title might be construed as misleading, Veugen changed it at the very last moment. After having worked on the text for nine months, Veugen’s novel, 'ne Zöch vaan de Iewegheid (‘A Sigh of Eternity’), written in Limburgish was officially launched in café ‘t Kelderke in Maastricht. The book was introduced by Mr They Bovens, on Saturday, March 15, 1980, and the first edition had a print run of 2,000. In addition to several newspaper articles, Veugen was interviewed by ROZ, the regional Limburgish radio station, on the programme De Ronde van Limburg (‘The Beat of Limburg’) on May 9, 1980.
Although much smaller in scope, ’ne Zöch vaan de Iewegheid, is – not unlike Homer’s Odyssey – an epic nostos story, a tale about a homecoming or return. Charles, the main character in ’ne Zöch vaan de Iewegheid, leaves his hometown and travels to the other side of the world. In a complex narrative structure with achronological flashbacks, Veugen’s protagonist reflects retrospectively on his life following his return.
During the course of an afternoon and an evening towards the end of his life, Charles lovingly recalls the memorable moments he has known, while at the same time kindling a small fire, prodding it, and putting more wood on it, to keep it burning. The fire is a metaphor for Charles’s life and passion. These often appear as one at various moment in his life: ‘Ze hadde weer gespäöld mèt ’t vuur vaan vreuger.’ (‘They had rekindled the fire of old.’), Veugen writes as Charles and Penny re-ignite their passion. After 15 years in Australia, Charles was met by Penny on his return to Europe. In her eyes, he still had the same face and ‘...al laoge de ouge get deper, ’t vuur waos neet geblös.’ (‘…although the eyes were more deeply set, the fire inside had not been extinguished.’). This fire had occupied Charles his entire life, and no matter how much sorrow this may have caused him at certain times in his life, it would probably not have been a life at all without this fire, or at least not his life.
Flames with grotesque shapes emerge from the fire, just as the vagaries of existence brought Charles into contact with various characters. In the first instance, these included women, who reinvigorated his life with the fire of passion, but who subjected him just as capriciously to the greatest suffering. Penny was the first to give him a real taste of the burning passion that can exists between a man and a woman. In effect, sexuality is something which keeps Charles enthralled, even after his marriage, as the nymph Calypso enchanted Ulysses in her cave of passion. Miep – Charles’s wife – takes him away from Maastricht and brings him to Australia, a land of Lotus eaters and Cyclopes, a land where the sorceress Circé turns Charles into a wild boar. However, Miep is no less a Calypso who enjoys Charles’s presence in Australia for a long period of time, but to whom Charles – also because of his passion for Penny – laments about missing his hometown of Maastricht. Erika, who, like Penny in Maastricht, shares a moment of flaming passion with Charles in Australia, is also very similar to Nausikaa of the Scheria; she desires Charles and wants to give herself over completely to him. In the end, Erika helps Charles to make his way home, and, on his journey, he encounters the indigenous people of Australia, people like ghosts and addicted to alcohol, spirits like those in the netherworld where Persephone was entrapped. Through a dark tunnel, as if finding a passage to the underworld, Charles is searching for his Teiresias in the form of an aboriginal fortune teller. Pleased by his blood sacrifice of red wine, she tells Charles that he is marked by a tiny feather, which designates him as someone who has no choice and who is continuously forced to return to his native land. In the end, Miep no longer keeps Charles captive in their marriage and agrees to a divorce. Charles’s decision has now been made and no siren song can change his course. He has to return to his home town, Maastricht. As Charles finally manages to disentangle himself from Miep, a third woman brings him back to Maastricht: Aunt Yvonne’s need for help in her old age and her arthritis provides Charles with an opportunity to return to his hometown. Upon his return, he is therefore still a prisoner. Penny does not let him go, but also refrains from giving herself completely to him. Does Charles, just as Odysseus with his Penelope, still have to deal with other suitors?
Veugen allows Charles’ passion for life to shine through, in stark contrast with the systematic, organised and obsessive style of his Dutch wife, Miep. As Charles has learned from Spinoza, the greatest pleasure is contained in knowing God. God and the whole of life are one and the same. All knowledge and sensation are the key to happiness. Incidentally, this is something that Charles had to master after his youth. His (Catholic) faith, in which he was brought up from childhood, led to much misery, given the Church’s attitudes toward experiencing life, and particularly sexuality. Charles first had to deal with these issues before finding his own way to God. Es ist Dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist... (‘You have been told, man, what is good…), recalls Charles from Bach’s cantata No. 45. People used to hear sermons about what was good, and so often that it would make Charles feel sick to the stomach.
When Charles had moved beyond the faith of his childhood, the way was open to his own discovery of God. He did not believe in fate, but from experience Charles knew everything had a meaning, a more profound sense, and that it was best for people to take notice of the signals that came their way. Dreams are clear signals for Charles, with which he tries to engage, as are thoughts that spontaneously arise within him during times of doubt.
Typical of such a fatalistic approach to life is an episode that Charles recalls , which took place during the time he lived in Sittard. Having a couple of free days, he decides to leave everything up to Fate, to let events run their course, as if happening by sheer accident, but predestined by God. Charles will pass these days – knowing only that he will end up in Maastricht – by taking a bus to Berg aan de Maas, which is waiting at the station and which he feels compelled to take. Sitting in the bus, the memory of his first sexual experience comes to the fore and he knows that he will have to end up with a woman that day. Charles then becomes fearful, because surely he is travelling in the wrong direction, to Berg aan de Maas? Will he be able to find a woman there? Then again, he reminds himself that he has decided to leave everything to Fate and he allows Fate to have its way. Fate then leads him to remember the ferry across the Meuse to Belgian Eijsden, the ‘Eldorado of libertines’. A small path on the other side of the Meuse, overgrown with increasingly dense rows of arching Canada poplars, leads him to this Eldorado. Charles wonders how he can meet a woman. He finds himself recalling a picture of a Guardian Angel that hung in his old room and at that very moment a small leaf falls on his head. Charles hesitates and wonders if he should continue. Was this a sign? But his lust takes over and he continues on his path.
It is this lust which leads him to an unknown building, the brothel where he finds Penny. This lust, as well as the thought of Penny, stays with him for the rest of his life, notwithstanding that Charles will meet Miep shortly afterwards, whom he will marry and with whom he will have two children. In fact, Charles does not have deep feelings for Miep. The couple often argued about nothing much at all. However, since the two of them had enough to buy a small house and given that his friends were also getting married, Charles decides to marry Miep.
Many years later, he returns to Belgian Eijsden to find out what has happened to Penny. In the meantime, Penny has found a rich man, had twins and now lives in Visé. Charles feels such pain in his soul that he is unable to do much at all. Miep decides that the family has to leave Maastricht and emigrate to Australia. Yet Charles himself wavers between being with Penny and leaving with his wife and children. Having already sent Miep and the children on their way, he finds himself getting drunk on the last day of carnival. At this moment, Fate brings Penny back into his life once again and he shares his whole life with her on the last day of carnival, as if tomorrow or a future do not exist. Is it any surprise that Fate allows all of this to happen on the day before Ash Wednesday? In his passionate ecstasy with Penny, Charles seems to experience the climax of his life. The next day, following this height, is when ‘... ’t kruus vaan stervend leve ’ (‘… the cross of dying alive’) is written ‘graw op edere mins...’ (‘ash-grey on every human being…’).
Finally, in the last chapter, Charles realises that the fire, which he has tended so carefully while reminiscing, has died out. There was no use, however, in keeping it aflame. In the end, all he wanted was to put on some music, Das musikalische Opfer (‘The Musical Sacrifice’) by Johann Sebastian Bach, and reflect. Charles’s private odyssey leads him to find his own way to God. Bach: Es ist Dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist und was der Herr von Dir fordert, nämlich Gottes Wort halten, und die Liebe üben und demütig sein vor Deinem Gott. (‘You have been told, man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to heed God’s word, to practise love and to be humble before Your God.’) The text used by Bach can be found in Chapter 6, verse 8, from the prophet Micah in the Old Testament: ER hat dir, o Mensch, gezeigt, was gut ist und was der Herr von dir wünscht (erwartet): gerecht zu sein, die Gnade zu lieben, und in Demut zu wandern mit deinem Gott. (‘HE has shown you, oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to be just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’) The most important part is to show loving mercy, which expresses a relationship between God and human beings, as well as a relationship between human beings. Charles’s final thoughts, as the time for sacrifice approaches, were a meditation on this cantata, as well as on this biblical fragment. His time to practise love, Liebe üben, without first doing what was required – nämlich Gottes Wort halten, namely to heed God’s word – was over. Now everything had to happen in the right order, whilst also not forgetting to be humble, demütig. To practise love, Liebe üben, had not been difficult for Charles. He loved life and lots of people. Charles' journey finally leads him to return – a return available to each and everyone of us – to God.
Notwithstanding his experiences, Charles – or perhaps Veugen as well – is not bitter about his life. In the beginning, he recites a quotation from Homer’s Odyssey. ‘Want ’ne maan dee door minneg bitter ervaring is gegaange en wied eweg gewees is, kint zelfs vaan zienen elend genete, nao verloup vaan tied.’ (‘Because a man who has lived through several bitter experiences and who has travelled far, can enjoy even his suffering after a while.’) Veugen’s work is very enjoyable, from the beauty of his narrative art to the manner in which he allows Charles – or even himself – to live the life that has been given to him. The fact that this life story does not descend into a lamentation and does not prove difficult to digest through melancholia is not just due to Veugen’s narrative mastery, but also to his freespirited view of life.
With ’ne Zöch vaan de Iewegheid, Veugen has written the first fully-fledged novel produced in Limburgish. The themes explored by Veugen are unique within Limburgish literature. The return motif, placed within a Homeric perspective, the experience of his sexuality and the decisive role it plays in his life, as well as his relationship to religion outside the context provided by the Catholic Church, are all innovative and nonconformist. Although Veugen reflects on his life, rich in love, and searches his memory in order to enjoy the pleasure and suffering he has experienced, the author never reverts to nostalgia. Dealing with the pull of the land of his birth and the clear affirmation of his Limburgish identity when set against his Dutch or Australian experiences, do not at any stage lead Veugen to disproportionate or chauvinistic descriptions. The most moving aspect of this book is the openness and honesty with which Veugen shares moments from his life, daring to reveal himself as an average human being, including everything that this entails, without reservation.
The ’68-ers generation in Limburg, to which Léon Veugen belonged, was a catalyst for the further development and ripening of Limburgish literature. Although home, history and the Catholic faith would not completely disappear as preferred topics, the way now seemed open for a wider range of literary motifs. Léon Veugen's work in particular opened the way for fully-fledged Limburgish novels, which would now be written by several Limburgish authors.
A novel published in 1996 by Mr Jac. Linssen (Maasbracht, 01-24-1922), entitled Leef en leid in vreuger-jaore (‘Love and Suffering in Bygone Times’), recounts the story of the people of Maasbracht in their epic struggle to survive the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918. In 2003, Mr Jo Cobben (Elsloo, 1938) wrote De drie èngele van Aelse (‘The Three Angels of Elsloo’), a novel in which he introduces his readers to three angels called Sjang, Lewie and Geel. In Heaven, these angels succeed in recounting so many good things about Elsloo to St. Peter, that he allows them to return to Elsloo, so as to compare contemporary Elsloo to past eras. Both writers are committed to recording their local language, as well as local customs and traditions, but they manage to do so in a much more sophisticated way than their predecessors. Even though religion still plays a role, the aspects of everyday life hold a much more prominent place, and this is within the context of a fully-fledged novel.
Mr Ger Bertholet (Klimmen, 1948) is an actor, writer, poet, singer and translator of plays, who often uses the pseudonym Zjèr Rapaille. Under this nom de plume, the author participated in the radio column ’t Verdreet van Limburg (‘The Sorrow of Limburg’) while working with Limburgish radio station Radio Omroep Limburg. Towards the end of the 1980s, Bertholet directed the Noorbeek theatre company De Bron (‘The Source’). Bertholet is a multitalented artist, who writes columns, presents radio shows and produces theatre. In order to find a suitable creative outlet for his alter ego, the performance artist Zjèr Bataille, Bertholet established the Stichting Theater- en Danswerkplaats KWANT (‘Theatre and Dance Workshop Foundation KWANT’) in Sittard.
In 1999, the author published Sjweitberg (‘Sjweitberg’), which contains a selection of his weekly columns for ’t Verdreet van Limburg. The book recounts the affairs of the inhabitants of a fictitious, but archetypical Limburgish town. Topics such as contraception, eroticism, the hardships of the working classes, and World War II all make an appearance. Bertholet is also known as the author of numerous poems published in various issues of Veldeke Magazine, as well as for the theatre monologue Knötsj, Puen d´r Vuurmond, sjat (‘Knötsj, Kiss The Fire Mouth, Darling’), for Mim (‘Mime’), and the libretto Marthe.
During the theatre season of 2006-2007, Mr Max de Bruin adapted a theatre monologue, entitled Pommere (‘Pommerania’), based on a German play by Felix Mitterer. In a captivating performance, Max de Bruin played an old man who leads a joyless life in an aged care facility. He has pleasant memories of days gone by, but also reminisces about all that is being taken away from him. The focus is on the old man’s feelings of impotence, following his forced admission to the aged care facility and his losing battle against the administrators who are now in charge of his life.
Wim Kuipers (Maasniel, 1939) writes poems and stories both in Dutch and in Limburgish. Mr Kuipers studied Dutch and worked for many years as a journalist in various cities outside of Limburg, as well as for Dagblad De Limburger (‘The Limburger Daily Newspaper’) in Maastricht. Along with Mr Paul Prikken and several others, Mr Kuipers is one of the proponents of Algemein Gesjreve Limbörgs (AGL – ‘General Written Limburgish’).
Lètterbak (‘Letter Box’), a collection of his language columns for Dagblad De Limburger, was published as a book in 1988. The following works written by Kuipers have appeared under the imprint of the publisher TIC: Moeles en sjaelevaeger (‘Chatterer and Squint-Eye Sweeper’) in 1999, Platlandj, gedichten uit Neel (‘Countryside, Poems from Maasniel) in 2000, and Kaoleries (‘Coal Twigs’) in 2002.
Mr Joep Leerssen describes Kuipers’ poetry as follows:
‘Internal monologues of quarrelling men with a guilty conscience or bitter memories, who rake up the past – how things were, or perhaps how they were not, what went wrong, and why the past continues to be alluring to them, rather like a femme fatale … monologues of people with a thousand voices in their heads, who are lost between their thoughts and memories, in a Limburg which is at once familiar and grotesque: this is the work of Wim Kuipers.’
(Leerssen, Joep, in: Kuipers, Wim, Kaoleries, TIC Mestreech, 2002, 76.)
In 2000, Wim Kuipers received the tri-annual award for Limburgish folk culture. In 2006, he translated the script for the Limburgish television soap De Hemelpaort (‘The Gate of Heaven’) from Dutch into AGL.
An increasing number of well-known and respected authors writing in Limburgish have emerged at the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century These include Joep Leerssen, Raymond Clement, Frits Criens, Jeanne Alsters–van der Hor, Colla Bemelmans and Toos Schoenmakers-Visschers. These are but a few of the writers who have covered a wide range of topics in the Limburgish language.
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