Historically, the Netherlands is known more for its painters than for its literary talent. Most tourists come to see works of the likes of Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Vermeer, Jan Steen and Van Gogh rather than to soak up the exploits of the Dutch literary elite. That makes the writers that you can discover into real gems that are equally worthwhile in their own right.
A recent addition to the list of the Netherlands’ most famous historic authors is Harry Mulisch, who you might know from the 2001 film ‘The Discovery of Heaven’. The famous writer died aged 83 in 2010, his oeuvre required reading for Dutch youngsters, even though I myself managed to by-pass him, judging by the back-covers of his works that he’d be ‘tricky’. God knows why I thought that and why I chose to focus instead on his peers Multatuli (a death trap, by comparison) and Willem Frederik Hermans.
Of course I have caught up with Mulisch now and I can also recommend the film made by one of the few Dutch actors having made it to Hollywood, Jeroen Krabbe in which Stephen Fry plays the protagonist. Truly ace film made with collaboration of Mulisch himself, who had already been compared in the foreign press with Homer and Dante after completing his novel.
Mulisch was a much-loved author in the Dutch press until he died in 2010 and recently, the buzz about the author has picked up again because the house where he worked, just a stone’s throw from the Leidseplein in the Leidsekade, has just opened for the public for the first time.
If you decide to visit the Mulisch House, you will be able to see the room where the writer used to work for the past 50 years. On display are manuscripts as well as a vast collection of art objects that are cited in his novels. Amsterdam Apartment has plenty of apartments in the centre of town where the museum is located, so chances are you will come past this museum whether you're planning a visit or not.
“It is a frozen projection of Mulisch’ life and work. Mulisch’ study is -up to and including the pipe rack- in its original state,” according to the website of Amsterdam’s newest museum. Apart from the study, there’s an exposition space on another floor which is going to be curated by the Letterkundig Museum (Museum of Letters) and shows will focus on the many sides of Mulisch and other writers or phenomena in Dutch literature. If Dutch or the Dutch mindset is your thing, try the museum or read a translation of Mulisch’ books, it’s worthwhile.