As Long as the Tree Blooms: A Short History of Frisian Literature

By Baron, Henry J. | World Literature Today, Winter 2019 | Go to article overview

As Long as the Tree Blooms: A Short History of Frisian Literature


Baron, Henry J., World Literature Today


Joke Corporaal As Long as the Tree Blooms: A Short History of Frisian Literature Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Bornmeer. 2018. 143 pages.

In 2018 tens of thousands of tourists from near and faraway places visited Leeuwarden on the occasion of its designation as the 2018 Cultural Capital of Europe. They discovered the province that makes the Netherlands bilingual.

Visitors saw traffic signs in Frisian, heard the language spoken in stores and other public places, heard music and the news in Frisian if they tuned in to the Frisian broadcast station, and if they visited Tresoar, the provincial treasure house of Frisian literary history, they encountered a world of information: countless newspapers and magazines, hundreds of thousands of books including some books from the library of Erasmus, manuscripts and letters by famous Frisians, a manuscript of "Noctes Atticae" made by monks and dating back to 836 CE, the oldest and most recent Frisian literature, and much, much more. They learned that there are some one hundred books published each year, comprising all the literary genres; that Frisian music includes classical, pop, folk, opera, hard rock, ballads, hymns, and more; that the more universal poetry by Frisian poets like Obe Postma and Tsjebbe Hettinga has been translated into English; that best-selling prose authors like Rink van der Velde and Hylke Speerstra have been translated into English as well as Nynke van Hichtem's classic children's novel Afkes Ten; that classics like the Iliad and Odyssey and Ovid's Metamorphoses as well as works by Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Tolkien have been translated into Frisian. And much more.

They may have wondered, where did all this come from-the language, the culture, the literature? …

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