Florian Duijsens at The Quarterly Conversation:
Imagine a literary genre much like a diary but composed for immediate consumption. A genre part commonplace book, part Blue Octavo Notebooks, part Twitter stream. Imagine something like a blog but written by public intellectuals and printed in major newspapers, or read out on national radio or television. Imagine a column in a newspaper that is too short to make a rigorous political argument, but that isn’t necessarily aiming to either. Imagine its strong social-democratic values, often only implied and somehow still rooted in the country’s liberation from the Nazi occupation in 1945.
This kind of writing is observational, street sketching really, and even though it isn’t beholden to any significant journalistic accountability, it still affects through the instant recognizability of the moments it relates. It works cumulatively, layering these observations to create something more, something bigger. Reading these small pieces day in day out, they slowly give you a glimpse into the mind of the author, plus a better sense of just what your country is. Or rather, what it could be.
This is the best way I can describe the Dutch genre that has found a home for people like Simon Carmiggelt (man-on-the-street portraiture), Arnon Grunberg (political footnotes), and A.L. Snijders (autobiographical fables). The country has many more such writers, each with their own twist, some more comical (Sylvia Witteman), others provocatively philosophical (Maxime Februari).