Poor, but cozy – De Groene Amsterdammer

Nynke van Hichtum, 25 years old

I.H. Slaterus/National Archives/Spaarnestad Photo

At 27, Sjoukje preferred to be a ‘typical old person’, at least as a writer. The pseudonym he used referred to two mommy-like Nynkes he knew, both of whom had a great talent for storytelling. In the prologue to her debut feature, the old Frisian woman gives clear instructions to her readers: parents should not read the stories to their children, but rather tell them. If they change the story a bit, well† For that, of course, they first have to read their books.

Van Hichtum is critical of children’s literature: stories should be childish, but not childish (so ‘no cowards, sweet, sweet, nice talk about sweets, sweet doves and cute white lambs, etc., etc.’). They must have something ‘real’. , a core of love: ‘you must feel the warm and loving heart of the author beating in it’; the style should be fluid and loose, the choice of words simple and sober. The stories should not only be provocative (action books) and above all they should contain an educational message; pedagogical quality was paramount for Van Hichtum. According to her, children’s books should not contain political ideas or beliefs at all.

“As a ‘social democrat,’ he resented stories in which rich kids were uncompromisingly mocked,” writes his biographer Aukje Holtrop. A bit of a contradiction, because her own stories are always about working-class families that eventually get back on their feet because they work so hard. The personal is political with other writers, but not with herself.

In these working-class families, the leading role is usually reserved for mothers; a sweet, affectionate, selfless and hard-working woman who connects the family, who prevents the entire house of cards from falling apart. Everyone loves her. She seems a bit of a gangster to me.

Of course I have to see it in time: being a mother was still a woman’s destiny, and if as a woman you were interested in the world around you, you were mainly interested in raising your child: that was the place to influence society. At the same time, there was more to it than that at the time. Her friend Nellie van Kol, also one of the women on the street signs in my neighborhood, as a children’s book writer and social democrat, also addressed mothers who could raise their children the right way with the correct books. But Van Kol also spoke out on feminist issues. She defended contraception, she defended contraception, fair sex education, free love, abstinence, vegetarianism. Van Hichtum does not do all that: she only criticizes children’s literature.

Can I label her a ‘hypocrite’, or does her attitude really come down to mine: I get involved, but I don’t post anything online about solidarity with Ukraine? And what did he really expect: that he would love all the writers of the past?

in the novel A ghost in the throat (2021), also recently translated into Dutch, author Doireann Ní Ghríofa really praises her research subject: the Irish noblewoman and poet Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill who lived in the 18th century. Despite, or perhaps because of, only one of his poems remains, and nothing more. In all third party texts she is only mentioned as her wife, her sister, otherwise she has disappeared from history. Ní Ghríofa, who recently gave birth to her third child, describes in the novel her own slimy days filled with feeding, washing, cleaning, feeding, in the time she has left she eagerly seeks to find out something about the life of the poetess. .; as if she were also glorifying her own with her existence. One ‘feminine text’, finally concludes, it is not usually a text on paper, it is what remains unwritten, the milk that goes from one body to another, the oral story that is transmitted for centuries, the knitted pants, the children, their body. The sacrifices yes, but also the curiosity, the passion. Perhaps the resistance is not in a ‘post’, in an article about the benefits of contraception.

Sjoukje herself doesn’t really look like all those wonderful mothers she wrote about in her books. Due to her weak constitution, she is often bedridden, sometimes away from home for weeks to heal abroad, and sends her children to boarding school. However, she reads to them, also from her own work, and she has an intimate relationship with her son until her death, although she sometimes puts it in her favor, writes her biographer Holtrop.

The two French words courage Y pose Tineke Steenmeijer-Wielenga writes in an article about her when I want to get to the core of Nienke van Hichtum. She is heroic, brave, she works against the rocks. But ‘sometimes I also get the feeling that she’s not quite ‘real’, that she’s playing a role’ – not that Steenmeijer-Wielenga thinks she’s insincere, but she romanticized working-class life. She liked to work with the cliché: poor, but cozy.

Van Hichtum also thought that working-class women shouldn’t have to work, but she herself is shown as a woman who gets a lot of self-esteem from her work, who knows what she wants, loved one, is very concerned about her. she own interests, she has ambitions, not at all. she is so welcoming. Not necessarily the ‘feminine’ qualities that she praises in her stories. Characteristics that I recognize in myself and that I would not write so quickly. This is a feminine text.

Perhaps the question is not so much why Van Hichtum was not involved, but why Van Kol was.

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